Where to Find Them
Equipment
Baits & Lures
Angling Tips

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 establish and maintain quality largemouth bass fishing.



Where to Find Them

Iowa waters support largemouth bass, including man-made lakes, rivers, federal reservoirs and natural lakes.

In the spring, prior to spawning, largemouth bass stay in deeper water. 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. Deep water structure near spawning areas on the north side of a waterbody can be especially productive. Incoming creeks or tile flows entering a lake are usually warmer, perhaps only a few degrees than the lake temperature, but attract many fish species. Look for current seams or darker water meeting 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. Towards the end of the pre-spawn period, every bass in a body of water will be foraging in the shallows. Your chance of hooking a lunker is good since most trophy bass are females with eggs in the pre-spawn. Fish the structure along the shoreline. Females will sometimes cruise the shallow flats, often looking for males that have nests prepared. They often hit faster moving lures thrown in the path they are swimming.

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

Summer is the most difficult and challenging period for largemouth bass fishing. Beginning in late June and extending into late August or early September, the water temperature exceeds 75 degrees F. Largemouth bass will feed more actively in the early morning and late evening. Fish 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 in anticipation of winter when water temperatures fall from 60 to 50 degrees. They will often stage on the deeper ends of flats during evenings and early morning hours. Bass will move up onto the flats and begin to feed when the shallow waters begin to warm during mid-day.


Equipment

Almost every type of gear available is capable of catching bass. Bait-casting and spinning equipment are popular choices. Make sure the gear you select is comfortable to use and you are proficient using it.

Many anglers use spinning reels to cast lighter lures into or under habitat. Bait-casting reels are very effective for casting lures into precise locations or flipping, pitching and casting lures into tight spots in specific 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 of today’s bait-casters have braking systems that allow more room for error when stopping the spool. Several different fishing poles can be used with bait-casting or spinning reels, pick one that works best with the type of lures you will be fishing.

Baits & Lures
Bass are opportunistic foragers which prey upon 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.

Keep natural bait continually active and moving. Largemouth bass rarely scavenge dead food from the bottom like some fishes. They will readily 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. Crayfish, live minnows and frogs can be fished in a similar manner, preferably near structure and cover; constant movement is the key to success.

Artificial lures come in all different shapes, sizes and color combinations. Use natural color lures that match colors fish would normally see when fishing clear to lightly stained water. Pick lures with smaller and thinner blades when fishing with spinnerbaits, in-line spinners, buzz baits, umbrella rigs and spoon baits. When choosing a crankbait or jerk bait, select the lure with a smaller bill.

Brighter, more vibrant colored lures are needed to lure bass into biting when the water is stained or turbid. Select a lure with larger blades making more vibration under the water’s surface. If the water is extremely 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 create 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 lethargic, 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 feeding on. Male largemouth bass will begin to build nests for the spawn; many will 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 again 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 lethargic. The growing season for bass in Iowa ends. Consistent catches of bass will be more difficult.

Fishing success drops quickly in the actual spawning season. Male bass begin luring females to their nests. Bass are solitary, reclusive spawners, so don't expect to catch several at one location. Individual nests are usually at least 20 feet apart. Females approach the nest only to spawn. Males are extremely busy guarding the nest from intruders and keeping 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 forage during the entire spawning time. Males are still vulnerable since they protect the territory from all intruders, including lures or natural baits.

Female bass are somewhat inactive for about two weeks after spawning. Following this recuperation 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 target 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 forage during this warm water period, but become increasingly more difficult to locate. Most bass avoid water that exceeds 80 degrees and seek 77 to 80 degrees locations. Along with temperature, dissolved oxygen is a major factor determining where bass are found 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 feed 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.


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