The season for keeping largemouth and smallmouth bass opened this past Saturday across the majority of New York. This means the beginning of bass fishing tournaments because now anglers can keep fish in their live wells until weighing them at the end of the day. I had bought an old 16-foot Bass Tracker as a junior in high school and couldn’t wait every spring to break it out and go start catching largemouths. When I was in high school and college, I was as excited for opening day of bass season as much as I was for deer season.
In the years leading up to when I bought my boat, I had learned almost everything there was to learn about bass fishing from my classmate, Todd, and his two brothers. His older brother fished in multiple tournaments and often won a couple or them each summer. Among the things that I was how to match my rod, reel, and line to how I wanted to fish.
Until I went fishing with Todd, I had only ever used push button and spinning reels. I bought a baitcasting combination after seeing Todd and his younger brother Matt using them at the pond on their dairy farm. It took me an entire summer and a few spools of line to learn how to use the baitcaster correctly. However, having it as a tool in my toolbox opened a lot of opportunities. Baitcasting reels act like a winch, and don’t twist the line as it comes onto the reel.
In addition to the reel, I learned to pay attention to the action of the rod and weight of the lure I was using. Using a crankbait that has two treble hooks on it, you want your rod to have a good amount of flex and give so when a fish bites the hooks aren’t ripped through its mouth. However, fishing in heavy cover, you want a heavier action rod to account for the likelihood that a fish will get tangled up in weeds and add weight to the end of the line as you are reeling it in. Light lures don’t cast as far on stiff rods, so having a lighter action for when you want to use smaller/lighter lures will let you cover more water with longer casts.
The third aspect to the setup that you are using is the line itself. Monofilament is the cheapest option for fishing line. The saying “You get what you pay for” comes true for this. While it does a good job for the most part, monofilament easily gets cut and nicked. This is a problem if you are fishing in waters with pickerel or pike in addition to bass. Monofilament has a decent amount of stretch to it, which is beneficial for lures with trebles hooks. Fluorocarbon line is more expensive, but it resists getting nicked and cut more than monofilament. It also has less stretch than monofilament and disappears in the water quicker. Braided line is made to be the strongest option for line. It allows for greater test line at the same diameter of lower pound monofilament. Braided line has no stretch, so it is not ideal for treble hooked lures and is very visible. It also costs the most per spool, but it should last a long time because it doesn’t get nicked or cut easily. Because most braid has a coating to make it smooth, some fishing knots are not recommended because they could slip when a fish puts resistance on the line by biting.
When I did bass tournaments, I would have 5 rods in the front of the boat with me. Here is what they were:
6-foot, 6-inch medium heavy rod, baitcasting reel, 12-pound test fluorocarbon.Used for: Spinnerbaits, topwater, soft plastics
7-foot medium rod, baitcasting reel, 10-pound monofilament. Used for: Crankbaits, spinnerbaits
7-foot, 6-inch heavy action rod, baitcasting reel, 65-pound braided line. Used for: Rubber frogs, jig-and-pig, soft plastics in heavy weeds
6-foot medium action rod, spinning reel, 10-pound monofilament. Used for: Drop shot, weightless soft plastics
6-foot, 6-inch medium heavy rod, spinning reel, 12-pound fluorocarbon. Used for: Wacky worm, weightless soft plastics, some small crankbaits