Oak Duke: Basics for catching bass on foot

Oak Duke

Though fishing for bass with a boat has become somewhat the norm now, those techniques we learned on the lakes can still be used when we find ourselves on foot at the edge of a pond or on a dock.

We may not have access to our boat and yet find ourselves landside, with a new challenge; on a dock at a summer party, at a pond or a lake at a cookout.

And fishing with the kids might be all of a sudden be on the agenda.

We still have to catch bass.

But how do we do it without all our gear; no trolling motor, no depth finder, no boat?

Instead of a rod locker conveniently stuffed with rods and reels, rigged with different baits for specific applications, and tackle boxes that would give a weightlifter a hernia, we find ourselves having to scale back and down to the bare bones.

If there was only one rod and one bait to use, a 6- to 8-inch plastic worm is always a good bet. A plastic bag can easily carry a number of colors; the first choices being purple, black, blue, and motor oil green. (Make sure you don't leave various colored plastic worms in the bag long because they may discolor each other. The colors bleed.)

A good way to rig a worm is "Texas style," that is take the hook, (a sharp 4.0 works well,) and push the point down through the head of the worm, about a quarter inch, to one-half inch, and then push it out the side of the worm. Pull the hook through, so the head of the worm is covering the knot, at the hook's eye. Then stick the sharp part of the hook through the body of the worm so that the artifical worm hangs straight.

Two rods are better than one, and just as easy to carry. A good second choice is to tie on a white, three-eights ounce spinner bait. I like a heavy bass rod to toss a spinner bait, usually a "medium-heavy" or "heavy," in at least 6.5 feet in length.

When hiking back in to a pond, two rods are easy to carry, along with a little tackle box, full of an assortment of spinnerbaits, worms, extra hooks, line clippers, and extra worm hooks.

I like throwing a spinnerbait around the pond or off the dock first. The spinnerbait seems to pick up the active fish, and there are usually a few hungry bass around any pond that can't resist a spinnerbait fished just a few inches below the surface. Many pond bass have never seen a spinnerbait before and hit it without hesitation - sometimes rocketing out of a hideout in the bank, or weeds, making a V-shape in the shallow water.

Cast the spinnerbait out into clear water, next to weeds and reel it in at a slow, steady pace so that the spinners can work their magic and call up Mr. Bass.

After probing the available water with the spinnerbait, and the action cools down, pick up the worm rod with the Texas rig setup and fish slowly for the more inactive, stubborn bass. If one worm color is not working try a different color.

Try different techniques. Most of the time, bass like a slow presentation with a worm, so cast it out, then lift it, reel a couple times, let it sink, lift it off the bottom again, crank the reel a couple more turns, lift it again, and so on.

Once in awhile, bass seem to like a faster presentation, and the worm can be reeled in like a spinner. Other times, if there is surface vegetation like duckweed or lily-pads, bass may prefer to dine up on the surface. The Texas-rigged worm can be "swum" through the floating algae or duckweed and surface blowups make for an exciting time.

Speaking of topwater, a couple jitterbugs, or floating frogs are worth the extra space in the little tackle box if fish are in the mood, especially in the evening or early morning. Fish them on the same rod as the spinnerbait. Fish the jitterbug through clear water and the frog across the floating vegetation.

Bass fishing has evolved in the past few decades on the big water, but the techniques we refined on the lakes off the deck of a bass boat can be successfully applied back in the woods, or off a dock too.

And one tip: It doesn't cost any more money to set the hook on a pond than it does a lake. So set the hook when Mr. Bass runs with your worm like you mean it.

Catching bass is always fun, no matter where it is, even if you are standing on a dock, or back in the woods next to a campsite.

Oak Duke, publisher of the Wellsville Daily Reporter and the Sunday Spectator, writes a weekly column, appearing on The Outdoors Page. Email: