Understand the Fish
While they don't have to be fisheries biologists, the anglers who are most successful at consistently finding and catching bass are those who have an understanding of why fish do what they do. Those fishermen who know, for example, that bass spawn when the water temperature climbs into the low to mid-60s know they should target shallow, protected areas when the water temperature is in that range. Bass exhibit predictable behavior throughout the year, and anglers who strive to understand that behavior--and therefore fish in areas where bass are most likely to be--will be more successful than those who take a scatter-shot approach to finding bass.
Small Means More
Those fishermen who specifically target big fish generally use large lures, believing--correctly--that bigger bass prefer to eat bigger meals. Large baits, however, generally mean fishermen will catch few smaller fish. The net result: fewer bass in the boat. Anglers who want to catch a number of bass while also preserving their shot at catching a trophy should tie on a smaller lure. A 1/8- to 1/4-oz. jigworm is one of the best. The lure consists of a mushroom head jig and a four- to seven-inch worm threaded onto it. The best areas to fish jigworms are around weed edges and drop-offs. Start by bumping the jigworm along the bottom. If the fish won't bite, vary your retrieval by letting the lure sink to the bottom and then retrieving it steadily about a foot above the bottom.
Boat Docks can be a Gold Mine
Boat docks are a common sight along the shorelines of many of the lakes, rivers and reservoirs that bass anglers target. Luckily for them, boat docks can provide fantastic cover for bass. Target boat docks that are near deep water and that have a complex structure. Bass will roam around the edges of boat docks to feed, especially on overcast days. When the sun is high in the sky, they will move further underneath docks, where they can sit in the shade. One of the best lures for fishing under boat docks is a tube jig. Rig it on a spinning rod and reel and skip it under the dock as far as you can. Bass are most likely to hit the lure as it falls toward the bottom.
Hit the Shallows First
The bass located in the shallows are the ones most likely to be actively feeding. Additionally, shallow-water bass are likely to be around cover--vegetation, docks, fallen trees or timber that hangs over the shoreline, so it is easy for anglers to determine the key places to fish. Start out by casting fast-moving lures like spinnerbaits and buzzbaits in the shallows. If you are not getting many bites, tie on a plastic worm or tube jig and pitch the lure into the shallow cover.
Pay Attention to Water Clarity
In clear water, light line and small lures are your best bet for catching bass. The opposite is true in murky or stained water, where anglers can get by with using thick line, and where fish are more easily able to find large lures. Natural-colored baits (greens and browns, for example) are best in clear water, since they resemble natural food items, while solid, bright colors are better in dirty water because bass have an easier time seeing them.
Change It Up
Too often anglers settle into a cast-retrieve, cast-retrieve routine. Better to change the cadence of the retrieve, which results in a bait that travels erratically and makes a bass believe one of two things--that a meal is getting away or that the potential meal is injured, which makes it easy to eat. The easiest way to vary the retrieval is to reel quickly, then stop for a second or two, then reel again. You can also impart action on the lure by jerking your rod tip from time to time.