Where to Find Them
Equipment
Baits & Lures
Angling Tips
Largemouth Bass Fact Sheet
 
Fishing for Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass are one of the most sought after Iowa fish. Iowa lake restoration projects, habitat improvements and fishing regulations help make and keep quality largemouth bass fishing opportunities.  
 

Where to Find Them
Largemouth bass like standing or impounded waters and avoid strong water currents. Many Iowa waters support largemouth bass, including man-made lakes, rivers, federal reservoirs and natural lakes. 

Largemouth bass stay in deeper water in the spring, before spawning. They move closer to spawning areas as the water warms to about 55 degrees. Look for submerged structure, like sunken roadbeds, submerged islands, secondary points and flooded creek channels. Try deep water structure near spawning areas on the north side of a waterbody. Incoming creeks or tile flows that enter a lake are usually warmer, maybe only a few degrees than the lake temperature, but attract many fish species. Look for current seams or darker water that meets clear water.

Largemouth bass move into shallow water to actively feed when the water temperature is 55 to 62 degrees F and become more aggressive. Near the end of the pre-spawn period, every bass in a body of water is foraging in the shallows. You have a good  chance of hooking a lunker since most trophy bass are females with eggs in the pre-spawn. Fish the structure along the shoreline. Females sometimes cruise the shallow flats, often looking for males that have nests ready. They often hit faster moving lures thrown in the path they are swimming.

After spawning, females move into deeper water. Males stay on the nests to guard the fertilized eggs, but move to deeper pools after they hatch. Males are hard to catch in this period. Females are more likely to bite since they are feeding to recover from laying eggs.

Summer is the most difficult and challenging time to fish for largemouth bass. Beginning in late June through late August or early September, the water temperature tops 75 degrees F. Largemouth bass feed more actively in the early morning and late evening. Try around structure or nears breaks in weed lines.

After mid-September, when the water cools below 70 degrees F, bass move back into shallow waters. Largemouth bass feed aggressively to prepare for winter when water temperatures fall from 60 to 50 degrees. They are often found on the deeper ends of flats in the evenings and early mornings. Bass move up onto the flats and start to eat when the shallow waters begin to warm during mid-day.


Equipment

Almost every type of gear available can catch bass. Bait-casting and spinning equipment are popular choices. Make sure the gear you choose is easy to use and you are comfortable using it. 

Many anglers use spinning reels to cast lighter lures into or under habitat. Bait-casting reels work well to cast lures into precise locations or flip, pitch and cast lures into tight spots in exact habitats. Bait-casters can cast long distances, but it takes some practice to perfect the landing of a lure or bait to avoid getting a backlash. Many bait-casters have braking systems to help stop the spool. You can use several different fishing poles with bait-casting or spinning reels; pick one that works best with the type of lures you will be fishing.

Monofilament line has several uses, but it can stretch. Braided line is a great choice for top water, spinner baits and jigs. It doesn’t stretch and has great scratch resistance. Fluorocarbon line works well in clear water along with deep diving crankbait fishing since it sinks and doesn’t float like monofilament and braided line. 

Baits & Lures
Bass are opportunistic foragers which prey on the most abundant and vulnerable food. Fish, crayfish, large aquatic and terrestrial insects, frogs, worms and even small mammals and birds have been found in bass stomachs.

Always keep natural bait active and moving. Largemouth bass rarely search for dead food from the bottom like some fishes. They glady take night crawlers throughout the year. Use only enough weight on the line to sink the crawler to the bottom then move it with very slow and easy jerks. Try fishing crayfish, live minnows and frogs in a similar manner near structure and cover; constant movement is the key to success.

Artificial lures come in many shapes, sizes and color combinations. Use natural color lures that match colors fish usually see when fishing clear to lightly stained water. Pick lures with smaller and thinner blades when using spinner baits, in-line spinners, buzz baits, umbrella rigs and spoon baits. Choose a crankbait or jerk bait with a smaller bill. 

Brighter, more vibrant colored lures are needed to lure bass to bite when the water is stained or turbid. Select a lure with larger blades that make more vibration under the water’s surface. If the water is very turbid, bass must use the vibration and noise a lure makes to find it. The wider the bill, the more vibration crankbaits or jerk baits will make while traveling through the water.

Many different set ups such as the Carolina rig, Texas rig, Florida rig, wacky style and drop shots can be rigged with any soft plastic bait. Soft plastic baits can slow down and catch fish that short strike a crankbait, spinnerbait or other type of “hard bait.” If the fish are tired, use very subtle baits. Baits can have lots of motion and noise when fish are active.

Angling Tips
Start with slower bait presentation during early spring fishing, and then increase the speed of retrieve if bass are aggressively feeding. Match the size of natural baitfish or crayfish the bass are eating. Male largemouth bass will start to build nests for the spawn; many stay near the nest until spawning is done.

The fall bite can be the most enjoyable and easiest to find success. As fall progresses and water temperature cools to the low to mid-50's, bass will return to deep waters. Largemouth bass aggressively feed well into the fall months.

Bass feeding is greatly reduced below 50 degrees F as they become tired. The growing season for bass in Iowa ends. Consistent catches of bass will be more difficult.

Fishing success drops quickly in the spawning season. Male bass start to lure females to their nests. Bass are solitary, lonely spawners, so don't expect to catch several at one place. Individual nests are usually at least 20 feet apart. Females go to the nest only to spawn. Males guard the nest from intruders and keep the eggs free of silt. They guard the nest for 10 to 14 days while the eggs incubate and hatch. Males continue to protect the larvae for an additional 1 to 2 weeks as the fry eat plankton in shallow waters. The male does not feed during the whole spawning time. Males are still vulnerable since they guard the territory from all intruders, including lures or natural baits.

Female bass are a bit lazy for about two weeks after spawning. Following this recovery period until summer, females sometimes move out on the deeper edges and secondary points. Use slower moving lures that can suspend and be paused for long periods of time to catch larger females on the outer edges of flats. Female largemouth bass will feed but won’t aggressively go after a lure or bait.

Summer is the most difficult and challenging time to fish for bass. Bass continue to eat during this warm water period, but become harder to find. Most bass avoid water that exceeds 80 degrees and seek 77 to 80 degrees places. Along with temperature, dissolved oxygen is a major factor determining where to find bass during summer. Many Iowa lakes stratify at depths from 6 to 20 feet. There is no oxygen or fish below the stratification level. Bass move into shallow water near shore to eat in the early morning, late evening and night-time. Rip-rap along the dam, pockets and edges of aquatic vegetation beds, and other shoreline near deep water will hold actively feeding bass.