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Glossary of Bass Fishing Terms

Sources: I have made every effort not to turn this project into a research paper. I include only information that is widely accepted and published in numerous books and videos. When I gleam a valuable tidbit that I can not find in other sources, I have given the source within the text. At the end of the glossary, I have provided a bibliography listed by copyright year rather than alphabetical by author. This is the order that I have read these fine books beginning with Roland Martin’s book, 101 Bass-catching Secrets,
Copyrighted 1980.

Ambush Point:
Bass need cover to lie in wait for prey. They have great camouflage and easily go undetected.

Smallmouth Bass:
Smallmouth bass are identified by their darker, vertical rays along their sides, as well as a copper, brown coloration, although color varies based on the environment. As their name implies, the smallmouth’s jaw ends before the eye, whereas the largemouth bass’s jaw extends past the eye. The smallmouth bass thrives in cooler rivers and creeks and targets crayfish. Smallmouth like cool water and seldom go deeper than their primary quarry, the crawfish. The In-Fisherman Handbook notes that the smallmouth bass’s jaw is adept at prying food of the bottom, whereas the largemouth tends to feed upwards more than a smallmouth.

Largemouth Bass: In addition to the larger mouth where the jaw extends past the eye, the largemouth has a distinguishing dark streak along its side, hence the name black bass and linesides.

Bed Fishing: After the female lays her eggs, she sticks around guarding the bed for a couple of days and then moves into deeper water to recuperate. Some of the largest females are taken during this vulnerable time. Bed fishing does not seem to have much controversy surrounding it, but some anglers question the practice. The males guard the eggs and attempt to chase off intruders or kill them rather than feed on them. They are known to pick up a plastic worm and remove it from the bed. Persistent harassment generally is met with a hook-up.

“Bumping the Stump” (object): Here is another tip from Roland Martin. Bounce your lure off a stump or dock piling. The primary advantage is the lure drops vertically along the target, and the stump takes the shock of the impact allowing for a relatively quiet entry into the water.

Buzz Bait: Somewhat similar to a spinnerbait, the Buzz Bait stays on top of the water and clicks and clacks. Keep a steady retrieve right to the boat. The Buzz Bait is a great searching lure, especially on quiet water. Roland Martin recommends using the Buzz Bait during hot weather with high water temperatures.

Carolina Rig:
Attach a swivel and an egg-shaped slip sinker approximately two feet up from the worm. Often used in brushy cover, the worm is typically embedded with a Styrofoam device to keep the worm floating up from the bottom. Many anglers like to open their bail so that when a bass takes the worm the bass does not feel any resistance as the line glides through the sinker. This method has the advantage of not prematurely ripping the bait from the bass’s lips and missing a hook-up. Experiment with embedding the hook or leaving it exposed.

Catch and Release: To avoid higher rates of mortality, reel in a caught bass quickly before it is depleted of oxygen, which can cause a build up of lactic acid which can lead to death after the bass slips away from your hands.

Cold Fronts: Considered the bane of bass anglers everywhere, cold fronts push bass out of the shallows into deeper water requiring persistence and new strategies.

Counting Down: Many sinking plugs are designed to fish within a broad range of depth. The technique is to count down the rate of sink until the lure reaches the bottom. Use this knowledge to vary the depth of the retrieve after a pre-determined count.

Cover: Cover refers to anything that a bass can hide in or be protected. The cover can be man made such as a dock or a weed bed or fallen tree. Weed growth provides a natural safe haven or cover for bass. Never pass up a dock, and be sure to cast to the shady side of the dock. Better yet, skip a tube worm under the dock!

Crank Baits: Floating at rest, these bait imitations dive at various depths. Keep in mind, however, that there are sinking crankbaits and neutral buoyancy crankbaits. This is a broad category with a plethora of offerings in every shop and catalog. The advantage of the Crankbait is that the bulbous body and the large plastic lip deflect the lure from under water branches and impediments during the retrieve. Select color patterns and size based on the forage fish available. For example, if you are fishing a reservoir where threadfin shad exist, select an appropriate profile. During cold weather slow the retrieve down considerably from faster retrieval rates during late spring and summer. Bass rod manufacturers typically recommend 6.5 to 7 foot rods for both distance casting and less strain on the wrist and shoulder. Numerous authorities recommend fine tuning a crankbait so that it turns either left or right, which has a distinct advantage when fishing around docks. (As of yet I have not experimented with this. I would love for a reader to respond.)

Dead sticking:
This method allows the jig or bait to rest on the bottom. It is characterized by extremely long waits followed by a slight twitch or slow retrieval. It works great targeting neutral bass (inactive, non-responsive bass).


Fall Fishing for Bass:
Probe the backs of creeks and the channels leading to the mouth of creeks.

Feeding patterns: Cold water slows a bass’s metabolism to the point that they will dine once a week or every two weeks. Essentially, providing that the temperature is optimal, bass feed out of hunger, from reflex actions and from a competitive nature when a school locates large numbers of shad or other minnows and goes on a feeding frenzy. If you miss a strike, cast again because maybe another bass missed the initial grab.

Floating Buoys: Tossed overboard to mark fish or structure, these self-unwinding buoys are great when the wind is blowing and your boat is drifting.


See Tube Baits.


Inhaling their food
: Remember when your mother told you to slow down and stop inhaling your food? Not so for a bass. They open their mouth, flare their gills and suck in food. When they taste the morsel and find it hard, tasteless and unfit for bass consumption, they expel the object with the same basic process. Unless you are watching your line, you may be missing a fishing opportunity.

Jig and Eel (Jig and Pig):
When the water is cold, bass anglers often go to a lead-head jig with an attached pork rind. This method produces both in the spring and summer, but it requires patience and repetition as the angler slowly jigs over the side of the boat lifting the jig off the bottom over-and-over. Experiment with the lift and drop from six inches to two feet. The most popular color combination is brown and black with a pork trailer which imitates a crayfish.

Jigging with Grubs: Grubs are deep water lures using a plastic grub attached to a lead-head jig hook.
Jig Heads: Jig heads designs include a round head, banana head, a stand-up head, a football head, a keel-head and a slider head. Popular jig-hook sizes range from 3/0 to 5/0.

Jigging Spoons: Count down the fall of the spoon over ledges or structure. Vary the lift and fall pattern. The fluttering free-fall of the spoon attracts stationary bass in the near vicinity. A number of bass experts recommend jigging a spinnerbait as well.


Lateral Line:
Bass have a lateral line of nerve endings along each side of their flank which transmits water movement and pressure, which is why they can locate a prey in very muddy water.

Line Watching: Often a bass will suck in a plastic worm or jig and move slowly away before exhaling the foreign object. Watch for small line movement, especially when fishing a plastic worm.


Negative Bass:
This is a description characteristic of a bass in a non-feeding, unresponsive state. Quite simply it is a bass conserving its strength, a bass at rest as contrasted with an “active” bass searching for food.

Neutral Bass: A neutral bass is a non-feeding bass, but an angler may drop a lure or bait in very close proximity to the bass and trigger a reflex strike.



Pattern Fishing: Roland Martin in his book, 101 Bass Catching Secrets, defines “the word ‘pattern’ to mean the sum total of all the variables in the fishing situation….” For an excellent overview of pattern fishing read chapter 10 in Largemouth Bass an In-Fisherman Handbook of Strategies.

Pegged Sinker: If you are fishing in heavy cover with a Texas Rigged worm and a cone shaped slip sinker, jam a tooth pick into the sinker so it will not ride up or down the line, which makes it prone to hang-ups.

Poppers and Chuggers: These top water lures were traditionally used with a fly rod. Representing a wounded baitfish or a frog on top of the water, these balsa wood lures have a carved concaved mouth, which traps air and water on the retrieve. An alternative to a chugger is the Zara Spook, which has a smooth shaped head, which does not disturb the water and is an excellent choice on calm water.


Rapala Lures:
I was recently corrected on my pronunciation of Rapala. That evening I returned to Roland Martin’s book, and sure enough, it is pronounced “Rap-ah-la”. Since its introduction from Finland in the 1950’s Rapala lures have taken a dominant position in the tackle market. These minnow imitations work well on all fresh water fish. (Wal-Mart seems to have the best prices but their selection is limited.)

Reflex Strike: Bass are opportunistic feeders. Sometimes they will flee a lure dropped on top of them, and at other times they instinctively react and strike at the bait or lure. Spinnerbaits are one of the most popular lures to entice reflex strikes. Bass are more apt to quickly react to a lure dropped in front of them when the water temperature ranges from 50 to 65 degrees.

Shallow flats
: Shallow flats from ten feet to twenty-five feet allow good weed growth, cover and forage, a perfect post spawn retreat.

Smell: Bass have acute smelling senses for prey, vegetation and the smell of their local waters. One has only to look at the research some companies spend in developing their secret bass catching scents. The one scent that bass can detect and find to be a deterrent is human scent along with other man-made odors.

Size: Who are we kidding? Size does matter, and a baby largemouth has a big appetite reaching a length of 5 to 7 inches by late fall!

Sound: Bass have exceptional hearing for great distances. (Use carpet on the bottom of your boat. Shhh! Lower that anchor quietly!) They also use their lateral lines, an elongated series of nerves down each side, to feel water pressure and movement, which is especially helpful in the dark and off-colored water for locating prey. Many lures employ rattles and other noise making devices to attract bass.

Spawning Behavior and the Yearly Cycle- (Varies by regional norms)
Pre-spawn: Warmer temperatures during the spring wake up appetites. Bass begin to move into shallower water, particularly the male who scouts ahead for a bedding site. Bass moving into the shallow waters typically are more aggressive and opportunistic regarding top water presentations. During early spring look for the wind protected shallow coves. Northern bays warm up sooner than southern bays. John Fox in his video says that if you don’t see turtles sunning, the bass won’t be in that bay.
Spawn: The male clears an area for a spawning bed and lures the female to the bed. Reproductive urges take precedence over feeding. Spawning typically takes place when the temperatures are in the low 60’s and at depths under ten feet. After the eggs are fertilized the female stays on the bed for a short duration and then turns over the nursery to the male who guards the bed until the fry are hatched. It is not uncommon for the male to feast on his offspring, which scatters the survivors to cover. Both the male and female are vulnerable to predation at this time. The larger female moves to deeper water to recuperate.
Postspawn: Considered a slow fishing period, the postspawn is a transitional period of recovery and unstable spring time weather. Bass gradually move to comfortable zones to spend the summer.
Early summer: Plant growth, insect emergence and an abundance of newly hatched fish provides a spike in active bass feeding and a boom to anglers.
Summer and Autumn: The dog days of summer require new fishing strategies if the water temperature climbs. As summer temperatures wane, bass react indifferently until the water cools decidedly or the lake turns over. When the lake bottom waters rise to the top, the result is a mixing and leveling of temperatures and oxygen levels. During this fall period fishing can slow down for period of time until the temperature stabilizes, usually in the 50’s range. One benefit is that bass tend to move out of their old haunts, and this movement translates into an opportunity for some lunker bass.
Winter: Brrrr! Inactive fish and hardcore anglers.

Split shotting: As the name implies, add a split shot (non-retractable) about two feet from a Texas rigged 4-inch worm in shallow water. Retrieve the bait at a slow to moderate speed.

Structure: Think of the contour of the lake and the features such as depressions, mounds, flats, old river channels, points, islands etc. Look for clues along the shoreline for gradual bottoms and steep drop-offs.

Suspended Bass: During colder periods of the year, bass will locate a comfort zone and suspend themselves through the use of their air bladder. Small movements up or down do not affect the equilibrium of a suspended bass. When a bass moves up or down the water column, it requires new energy, while the fish adjusts to the new level. Sometimes this may take more than an hour of adjustment. During cold water periods bass typically stay at the same depth to conserve energy.


Texas Rigged Worm: One of the more popular rigging for soft plastic worms, the hook is embedded inside the worm, which both conceals the hook and allows the worm to be fished weedless. A hardy hook-set is required to drive the hook through the soft plastic and into the bass’s mouth. Texas Rigged worms typically have a bullet shaped slip sinker to both sink the worm and drag it along the bottom. (Work a worm slow!)

Tidewater Fishing for largemouth bass and stripped bass:
High tide: High tides can be tough to fish because the high tides flood tulles and shore cover offering both feeding and cover for larger fish.
Falling tide: The falling tide is excellent to fish as when the water drops, fish move to the drop offs and can be caught in the transitional zones. Keep in mind, however, that by the time you launch your boat and motor to your targeted area, you can miss this window of opportunity.
Slack tide: Tidal movement pauses creating little water movement. Fishing slows during this short period.
Spring tide: Spring tides are generated by the gravitational pull of the moon during the new and full moon cycles, or every two weeks. California delta anglers head out to their favorite sloughs during spring tides because a spring tide has the highest high tides and the lowest low tides. Bass are forced out of cover during the low tide. Most tackle shops sell tide booklets for their regions.

Topographical Maps and Contour Lines: Almost every expert espouses studying the contour lines of a lake’s depth. Drop-offs, points and ledges typically hold concentrations of bass. Locating channels and underwater humps are also targets to locate and mark on a GPS. John Fox in his video reminds anglers to stay with a pattern until it no longer works. If you catch bass off a point in 25 feet of water, then race to the next point and target that particular 25 foot depth.

Tube Bait: Designed and first produced by the Garland brothers, the tube bait is a soft plastic lure shaped as an elongated tube with tentacles at the bottom. Originally named Gitzits, tube baits are used with a jigging hook and are an excellent lure for both smallmouth bass and largemouth bass. (Read my critique on the video, Gitzits with the Garland Brothers. This is an exceptionally good instructive tape that I highly recommend. For a copy of this tape, look up Bazz Clazz Videos on the Internet.


Vision of Bass:
Larry Larsen in his book, Mastering Largemouth Bass, points out that bass are slow to adjust to a change of light. It takes upwards of two hours after dusk before a largemouth eyes are “programmed for night vision.” (p24) If you are going to hang around after sun down, you might as well go in for a bite to eat. Our own eyes adjust much faster. Suffice to say, however, that bass have excellent eye sight and gather in much more light than humans

Water Color:
Dirty water fish shallow; clear water fish deep.

Water Temperature: Temperatures from 65 to 70 are said to be prime feeding temperatures.

Weather to Fish or Stay Home: John Weiss’ in his book, The Bass Angler’s Almanac, states that fish like weather stability without interruption. After three days of a weather pattern, the fishing picks up. Overcast skies and light rain create cover for foraging bass. However, an approaching cold front de-stabilizes temperatures and barometric pressure resulting in moody, inactive bass. John Fox in his video reminds viewers that the benefit of an approaching cold front is that bass go on a feeding binge prior to the front’s arrival. The cold front brings low barometric pressure, which generally moves the bass to the bottom.

Weedlines: When I was a fly fishing guide, I would pick a target for a client if he or she had not looked down river. I would tell them, “Take your time. Make your first cast count.” The same would be true when we would get out of the boat to fish a riffle or a pool. Quite often an eager fly caster would charge through the shallows to reach deeper water. Nothing spooks fisher faster than watching a spooked fish scream by them. Before you ease your boat into a cove or large pocket of weed growth, fish close in on both sides of the extended weed points. Create as little disturbance as possible with your casts before moving in to fish openings in the weed cover. Remember too that active bass typically cruise parallel to cover.





Roland Martin’s one hundred and one Bass-catching Secrets by Roland Martin, Winchester Press Copyright 1980. ISBN: 0-8329-3095-4

Mastering Largemouth Bass, Complete Angler’s Library, North American Fishing Club, by Larry Larsen, Copyright 1989. ISBN: 0-914697-24-2

Largemouth Bass an In-Fisherman Handbook of Strategies by the In-Fisherman Staff and Staff Researchers, published by In-Fisherman, Copyright 1990. ISBN:0-929384-11-3 (Volume 7)

All-Color Bass Fishing Guide by Bill Herzog, Frank Amato Publications, Inc. Copyright 1995. ISBN: 1-57188-003-8

The Field and Stream Bass Fishing Handbook by Mark Sosin and Bill Dance and the Editors of Field & Stream, Copyright 1974, 1999. ISBN: 1-55821-895-5

The Bass Angler’s Almanac by John Weiss, The Lyons Press, Copyright 2001. ISBN: 1-58574-214-7

(Video) John Fox’s How, When & Where to Catch Bass, Outdoor Adventures Video Library

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