Outdoors: Largemouth bass the first choice of fisherman - The Daily Progress: Sports

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Outdoors: Largemouth bass the first choice of fisherman

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Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 11:00 pm | Updated: 3:22 pm, Tue Jan 22, 2013.

What is it about largemouth bass?

Easily the most sought-after fish in the United States, old bucket mouth has the ability to transform grown men — and women — into trembling torsos of Jell-O when it goes airborne. Of the country’s 50 million anglers, nearly 40 percent target largemouth bass. It’s no different in Central Virginia, where bass reign supreme.

Actually, largemouth are sunfish, not members of the true bass family. As sunfish, bass are light sensitive and always seek the cover of low light conditions and overhead cover in the form of shade and structure, or depth. Largemouth often hang out in schools, where they are mutually drawn to a certain area to feed or rest. Tournament anglers will tell you that if you find one bass, stay there, because there are always more around. Sometimes, particularly in larger lakes, bass will school for the sole purpose of feeding on shad. When that happens, and an angler has a Zoom Fluke or similar bait rigged and ready, well, it doesn’t get a lot better than that.

Bass begin their calendar years in deep water, coming shallow at the warmest parts of the day to feed. In spring, male bass look for spawning territory and fan out beds along the shoreline at depths averaging 3 to 4 feet. The larger females then cruise the banks seeking what they feel is the ideal bed. There they drop their eggs to be fertilized by the male, who guards the nest with his life. To increase the odds of survival, females will distribute their eggs on various beds.

Following the spawn, the females move to deeper water to recuperate, then feed like hogs at the trough throughout the summer and into the fall. September and early October are one of the best times of all to catch largemouth bass, yet many anglers hang up their casting reels in September to concentrate on the upcoming hunting season or to switch to saltwater game fish. A positive about fall fishing is that the bass feed almost throughout the day and stay shallow — and vulnerable to a fishing lure — for longer periods of time. Autumn is also a great time to throw top water plugs and buzz baits. It’s always exciting to witness a big ol’ bass exploding on a top water lure.

Bass will a hit a variety of lures and live bait. Though many anglers today shudder at the thought of using a minnow to catch a bass, live bait is supremely effective in places like the Chickahominy Lake and, in years gone by, in Back Bay on Virginia’s coast. The natural food of bass is principally small baitfish and crawfish. But frogs, lizards, small snakes, eels, terrestrial insects, earthworms and most any bait that will fit in their oversized mouths are potential meals.

The tackle box of a bass fisherman will include plastic worms and grubs of every color, size and description, as well as spinner baits, buzz baits, and lures which run from the very top to the bottom of the water column. Pig ‘n jigs, a crawfish imitation, are perhaps the favorite bait for fall and winter fishing.

Here’s a tip for anglers who would like to try something different: Put a pork rind or plastic trailer on a weedless Johnson spoon and drag it through the thickest cover around. Obviously, this is not a new technique, but one that dates back to the turn of the 20th century. It’s just that most anglers don’t throw that bait anymore and bass still love the erratic action of the spoon/pork combination.

Public lakes that have excellent bass fishing in Central Virginia include Lake Orange, Fluvanna Ruritan, Chris Greene, Walnut Creek, the Rivanna Reservoir, Beaver Creek, Lake Albemarle and Totier. Three bodies of water worthy of a road trip for bass include Briery Creek Lake in Prince Edward County, Lake Anna in Spotsylvania and Buggs Island Lake near Clarksville.

A multi-million dollar industry, highlighted by Bass Pro Shops and other mega stores, has evolved around the many passionate fishermen who pursue largemouth bass — certainly the favorite fish in Central Virginia.

Contact Brewer at j44brewer@gmail.com