My fishing has always bordered on obsession, but since Iím consciously aware of it, it prevents me from being classified a madman. When Iím not fishing, Iím usually thinking about, or at least trying to plan my next escape from the real world.
New phases of my life have always corresponded with new fishing. Some, like chasing smallmouth on the Great Lakes, kept me settled in for a decade or two, but none has lasted forever. Iíve obsessed over casting techniques for walleyes, live-baiting for flatheads and ice fishing for perch. Once, I even burned up a winter chasing smelt.
But since the very beginning, Iíve been enamored with fishing for trophy largemouths in heavy cover. My childhood trips to Florida were probably what set the stage as, for the first time in my life, I witnessed grown men haunted with the pursuit of a fish, willing to go to any extreme to catch it. Years later, after moving to Florida and not growing tired of chasing big bass, Iíve come to recognize this quest as my most cherished.
Rarely do I present any of my personal fishing ideas here; a tips column this is not. However, on occasion, I find it necessary to share with you the results of my efforts.
Iíve researched all I could on the subject of trophy bass. Along the way, Iíve found some fascinating works by those also obsessed with the pursuit, and Iíve waded through volumes of text in search of a hidden gem. On occasion, Iíve been fortunate enough to meet, or fish with, a few of the greatest minds in big-bass fishing; men who have dedicated their lives to the sport.
Not unlike other hunts, nothing replaces time in the outdoors, often alone, learning about your quarry. While shortcuts exist for todayís popular tournament techniques, very little is currently offered on the subject of trophy bass fishing, despite the once-again increasing popularity of the subject. But thatís a story for another day; back to the point.
On occasion, Iíd like to let you in on the interesting details Iíve learned about big bass, their behaviors, and how to catch them. Part of it is knowledge Iíve discovered on my own, while some are the blended ideas of others applied to todayís changing fisheries.
Through hard work, stubbornness and our previously mentioned obsession, Iíve caught quite a few big bass since going all in. And, when I sit back and reflect on the characteristics of each day of fishing, the catch, or the fish itself, Iím often amazed at how drastically different they are from the common information weíre all presented on bass fishing. I thought you, too, might find such details interesting.
First, itís critical to understand the incredibly important underlying factor of trophy bass fishing: while a bass may be a bass, all big bass are not created equal. By that, I mean that, although they may possess a few similar traits, big bass are dictated almost exclusively by forage, and the forage bases of our fisheries are quite diverse. Therefore, so are the fish that chase them.
Big bass in California are nothing like those in Florida, which canít be compared to those in Tennessee. The only thing they have in common is their rarity, their propensity to live in areas rich in forage and their tendency to live closest to the code of all trophy animals.
Such a code really does biologically exist, and isnít overly complicated. To sum up: in order to succeed, a bass must use the least amount of energy for the greatest gain in calories, reproduce successfully, and avoid being killed by predators. The older (and likely larger) a bass gets, the more in tune it becomes with the code. It discovers where and how to effectively forage and how to avoid predators. As time goes on, the list of predators essentially dwindles down to only one: man.
Therefore, in order to make contact with the biggest fish in any given body of water, itís important to primarily consider maximum forage potential, the current influence of the spawn and fishing pressure. Every action of a big bass is dictated by one of those three variables or a combination of them.
Itís also important to recognize your approach and methods. Like anybody, I enjoy catching lots of bass; big, small and in between. However, as Iíve learned from the most accomplished trophy angler Iíve ever fished with Ė one of very few people who has caught bass over 15 pounds in both Florida and California Ė to truly trophy-fish, you must live and die by the sword.
Thereís no throwing a topwater because itís fun, or skipping docks with a Senko to get a few bites. There will be lots of days where you will catch very few bass; sometimes none at all. But youíll know that, if you get a bite, thereís the best chance possible that it could come from a giant fish.
In upcoming columns, when time exists and the big world of bass fishing allows, Iíd like to discuss this topic more with you. Iíd enjoy letting you in on a few of the amazing details Iíve found; donít be afraid to hit me up on social media to open the conversation even more. Iíll probably have time on my hands, anyway Ė out there, alone, wondering if sheís ever going to bite.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)