For many of Florida’s freshwater enthusiasts, largemouth bass tops the list of favorite species to target. The Sunshine State’s widespread lakes, rivers, ponds, canals and more are almost all home to largemouth, with some freshwater bodies holding impressive numbers of trophy bucketmouths. These fish are skilled predators that are capable of consuming a variety of prey items, and the variety of artificial enticements marketed to today’s anglers certainly reflects the extensive and wide-ranging largemouth menu. Though anglers like options, the amount of different lure, styles and colors can be dizzying. If you’re not sure how to stock your freshwater tackle box, fear not, as success can be attained in this fishery with a very simple approach.
Among all the intricate, lifelike artificial imitations out there, the worm is perhaps the simplest. However, don’t let its simplicity trick you into looking past its incredible versatility and effectiveness. In Florida and most places largemouth bass occur, worms make up a significant portion of this iconic predator’s diet. Though the different worm species eaten by bass occur on land, Florida’s abundant rain introduces them to bass habitat and these fish take advantage of the steady flow of easy forage. The idea is simple and choosing to fish an artificial worm is a no-brainer for many anglers, but there are different styles of worm to choose from and many ways to fish them.
Whether you fancy a short, stubby worm-like Gary Yamamoto’s iconic Senko or prefer a longer, skinnier worm imitation, your choice in rigging is important. The most popular option is a Texas rig, which simply requires a weedless worm hook and a small torpedo weight, if you so choose. The wacky rig has become popular in recent years and imparts an action on the worm that drives big bass crazy, though its exposed hook opens you up to snags and weeds. In deeper water, a drop shot rig where the worm sits above the weight is also a great option.
When it comes to largemouth bass, there is no one specific prey item that these fish set their sights on. Rather, they are opportunistic predators equipped to hunt a variety of different forage species. That said, small baitfish are likely the most common victims in the worldwide large-mouth diet, and that includes Florida. In the Sunshine State, shiner, shad, bluegill and more all get eaten by bucketmouths on a regular basis, so it’s only logical that anglers equip themselves with baits to mimic those species. Enter the crankbait.
The idea of a crankbait is very simple. It’s a baitfish imitation that anglers can simply cast and reel to entice savage strikes from lunker largemouth. However, these lures come in many different shapes and sizes and choosing the right offering for the situation at hand is an important step. The classic crank is a small, round-ed baitfish profile with a lip and two treble hooks. This classic bait is responsible for impressive bass catches all over their range and is a great option for finding fish and covering a lot of water. However, different situations warrant different styles. For example, in shallow water, a longer stick bait that doesn’t dive very deep is an excellent option. Conversely, in deeper water, a sinking, lipless crankbait like the classic Rattletrap allows anglers to cover the entire water column and present to fish lurking in the depths.
Though they’re not always the most practical choices, topwater lures are favorites among bass anglers. Not only are these offerings incredibly effective in certain scenarios, but they also provide perhaps the most exciting surface strikes you’ll ever see in freshwater venues. When targeting bass, there are topwater baits out there to mimic anything from injured baitfish to mice swimming along the surface. Included in this category is perhaps the most widely used topwater bait out there, the frog. Regardless of the actual animal you’re imitating, it’s important you understand when to break out the topwaters and when to leave them stowed away.
In most cases, topwater lures excel in low light conditions at dawn and dusk. Midday topwater strikes are certainly possible as well, though foggy or over – cast conditions would certainly stack the odds in your favor. When fishing near lily pads or dense vegetation, topwater frogs mimic a natural prey item of largemouth bass and their weedless rigging allows an – glers to fish them atop the thick vegeta – tion without snagging. If you come across submerged structure just beneath the surface, a classic topwater plug or pop – per like Rapala’s Skitter Walk or Skitter Pop will allow you to fish the structure without risk of sinking your hooks into it.
In the world of bass fishing, the fluke is an intriguing option because it closely resembles a baitfish in appearance, but can be rigged in a variety of ways, similar to a soft plastic worm. Soft plastics are integral to bass fishing, and no soft plas – tic collection is complete without a few flukes. The classic Zoom Super Fluke is our favorite, though there are many op – tions out there. Unlike a crankbait that also imitates a baitfish, the fluke does not have treble hooks and can be rigged weedless with a weighted worm hook.
Naturally, this is a perfect bait to fish around heavy structure or vegetation when the bass are keyed in on baitfish, but the area is too treacherous for a crankbait. Furthermore, another advantage a fluke boasts over a crankbait in many situations is its versatile action. Instead of casting and cranking, anglers can twitch the bait or bounce it slowly along the bottom. It can also be effectively rigged on a drop shot or Texas rig, giving anglers trust in this bait in a variety of situations. If the fish are finicky and you’re left wondering what the solution might be, don’t hesitate to tie on a fluke.
#5: Swimbat/Swim Jig
If you’re looking for a more specialized approach to target bass in certain situations, swimbaits and swim jigs are excellent options. While they won’t work for every scenario, these unique baits offer several advantages when baitfish are on the menu. Swimbaits come in many forms, from pre-rigged options that you simply need to tie on and start fishing, to plain bodies that you need to rig yourself. Whatever you prefer, know that simple swimbaits, particularly the larger varieties, give you better chances at landing larger fish. LIVETARGET has a knack for creating lifelike swimbaits, and that’s exactly what they’ve done with their sunfish pattern. For those who prefer to rig their baits themselves, Berkley’s PowerBait Gilly offers a variety of patterns that swim perfectly on a simple worm hook or jighead.
Swimbaits can also be enhanced with a simple football jig. Football jigs can be fished by themselves, but adding a swimbait to one of these offerings really ups the level of attractions and makes for one of the most effective big bass baits out there. These baits are heavy, so they can be fished effectively in deep water and anglers enjoy excellent casting distance. Additionally, with all the vegetation in Florida, weedless swim jigs allow anglers to punch through thick layers of grass to get to the fish.
With so many manufacturers out there all claiming their baits are the best, don’t be lured into confusion. Bass are skilled predators that feed on a variety of prey species, but that doesn’t mean you have to drive yourself crazy trying to stock your arsenal with every possible option. Instead, stick to the basics and have a few options for every scenario. Remember, lures don’t catch fish, but knowledgeable and observant anglers do.