Presentation in bass fishing by Divan Coetzee
Understanding presentation in bass fishing: In last months issue we covered location, how to locate bass in different seasonal stages. Now we will cover presentation. Presentation has two aspects; what are you presenting? and where are you presenting it to? The “what” refers to bait selection and the “where” refers to structure or cover. Choosing the correct presentation to cover a specific structure type will improve success.
The right presentation will eventually lead to a good pattern, a good pattern allows you to catch lots of fish; it’s a beneficial skill to recognize the subtle hints from fish. The smallest adjustment can make a big difference. Let’s start by looking at structure and cover.
Bottom structure or contour lines are often the “go to” in the absence of cover. The Presentation will depend on what depth the fish are holding at. Multiple presentations could be effective on any given day. Lots of baits have limitations so always choose the most efficient tool for the job. In the absence of cover, it’s safe to assume that they are deep. Text book deep water presentations include, but are not limited to: dropshot, deep diving cranks, football jigs, Carolina rig, big swimbaits and jigging spoons. All of these presentations have solid reputations. It’s recommend to start with what you have most confidence in, for me, if for arguments sake I’m catching the same quality fish on a Carolina rig, that I am on a crank, I’m choosing the least labour intensive option. Single hooks have better conversion rates, are less inclined to foul, thus the Carolina rig becomes the smarter option. Unless the area is very rocky, getting your weight snagged every second cast, and having to re-tie constantly is an inconvenience, then the crank would be the smarter choice. It’s all about choosing the most correct option, as there are no wrong answers in bass fishing. Remember, fish will respond to multiple presentations on the same piece of structure or cover.
Whenever possible, always fish down hill – it reduces hang up’s. The only thing a fish has to relate to is the bottom, so ensure that’s where your bait spends most of its time.
Onto cover, this is a more diverse topic! Trees, brush, laydowns, jetties, surface grass, submerged grass, grass lines, reeds etc. Once again, numerous presentations will elicit a response from the same piece of cover. In other words, the same bass that ate your frog probably would have eaten a number of presentations due to its aggressiveness, but would you have been able to present another bait as effectively as you would a frog in thick matted grass for instance? Again it boils down to selecting a presentation that would be best suited to get the job done.
The lesson here is to select a bait at falls within the criteria of what the fish are responding to, and along with its unique benefits, maximize results. One has to be mindful of the fact that different class fish could respond to different presentations in the same area. For example in a grassy area, you could be catching a bunch on a weightless presentation, but the moment you start throwing a spinnerbait the quality of the fish improve, but the rate goes down. It’s a trade off for quality vs quantity, it depends on your objective. The same system can be used when selecting cover; if you get the same quality fish inside the grass, and on the rocks – choose the option that suits your style or preference, but not at the expense of results. If you are a tournament angler, you have to separate what you want to do, from what is needed in order to do well. What I throw when I’m out with my wife differs vastly from what I’ll throw when I’m tournament fishing with my regular partner.
Let’s look at how presentation in bass fishing and patterning come together. We recently fished a venue that we had last fished during the summer when the water temp was still in the high 20’s. We found the good ones along a very specific depth corridor; the margin for error being a foot either way in terms of depth. It’s a gradual sloping bank so the band was about 4 to 5 meters wide. As long as we hugged that line we got 2 kg plus fish. Little off to the side would result in undersize fish on both the deeper and shallow end. The bait didn’t seem to matter, the fall rate of a ½ oz tungsten on a Texas rig was the key. They would eat it on the drop before it even hit bottom. If there happened to be n bit of grass, you were pretty much guaranteed a good bite. it’s mid winter now and the water temperature was 14° in the morning. We found the fish again in the same area at the same depth, only this time they wanted a different presentation. The ½ oz was a bit aggressive on the fall, they would only eat it once the bait had sat still for a few seconds. So the pattern was the same, the better fish were still in 10ft relating to isolated grass patches but preferred a different presentation. Same area, same rig, different time of year – slight adjustment did the trick. The moral here is, if you are running a solid pattern; bait and color selection become less critical because all that is needed is to get a bait in the right area.
Bait and color selection is a contentious issue. Folks get emotional about it. It took some time for my thick head to come to terms with the fact that one actually fishes pattern by means of presentation, and not a bait persé. This has allowed me to streamline my tackle, which in turn makes bait and color selection easy. In terms of plastics, I have a maximum of 4 variants when it comes to color: black, brown, green and purple… with the odd white models mixed in here and there. These colors cover the entire spectrum. If you feel the need to have an entire box of Green pumpkin baits with so and so glitter then I suggest you reconsider your approach. The same goes for bait styles, no-one needs 7 different types of creature baits. I’ve recently committed to a specific brand and model in 2 different sizes and 4 color variants each. This is my “go to” bait for flipping and pitching, it’s literally the only creature/craw I own. It took me awhile to decide on it, but it came down to simple logic; the 3″ version sits perfectly on my preferred straight shank flipping hook. The shape of the bait allows it to penetrate the grass with ease. The size of the bait allows me to play around with rate of fall without changing the profile too much. The same goes for the 4″ version. My choice had nothing to do with available colors or the fact that it was designed by n prominent U.S. pro. It’s all about the fact that it does what I require it to do within a certain set of circumstances. Horses for courses if you will.
Long story short, if you have determined where they are, and found a presentation they respond to, you effectively have a pattern. Within that pattern, you can then fine tune bait type, size and color selection to maximize your results. I hope that the reader will see the bigger message in this article. No amount of tackle can improve your success unless you understand the basic principles. I’ll leave you with a quote from Gerald Swindle “ if you got 40 rods stacked up on the deck you ain’t versatile, you’re confused!”
See you on the water!
Post written by The Fishing Pro Shop‘s Pro Angler Divan Coetzee.
Post prepped by The Sardine News.