How To Catch Largemouth Bass With Live Bait

Man holding a Largemouth Bass by the mouth and belly inside of a baot on the water.

There is a very specific reason why you cannot just go to any local bass tournament and use the real stuff without getting disqualified instantly. That is because it works. It produces huge fish and it works way to well to be considered fair in these tournaments. They often have huge monetary payoffs for the top angler who could successfully choose a lure, and catch the biggest fish of the competitors. If you want to learn how to catch Largemouth Bass with live bait for any other reason,  such as for the fight, for food, or even just because you want a skin mount, replica, or picture to hang on your wall, hooking up some of these and casting it out can produce some awesome specimens of these fish across the country in all weather conditions, any season of the year.

 

Understanding Forage

There are a few very basic meal choices for your common Largemouth no matter what part of the world you are located in. To make it very specific and simple, there are a few preferred meals that resemble a thick steak with a side of mashed potatoes to the fish. Those meal choices are baitfish like Shad, Herring, and Shiners, Bluegill, crayfish, leeches, worms, frogs, and insects. These are the foods that these fish will eat everywhere you go.  Once you have your bait container and confidence in hand, you are ready for some big mouthed action. You might not want to put away your baitcasting rod for this trip but it is recommended to do so. You might decide to bring out a good old faithful. The spinning rod. It will let you cast rigs the most efficiently and you will be more successful because of it. It will allow you to cast rigs very easily.

How To Rig and Hook

If you don’t understand how to hook Shad or other options properly, it will tend to die a lot quicker and not produce as many bites for you. There are some very specific ways to hook and present your offering to the fish. These methods are all effective and can be ambidextrous for most creatures and aquatic life that are commonly used. If it is legal in your area, I recommend giving these a try. Each and every single one can be used with much success. When you are hooking any type of animal, it is always beneficial to use a very thin wire hook. A hook that is made with wire that is too thick will put a bigger hole inside of it and it will die a lot quicker. Always try to avoid handling them too much or you could stress them out before they hit the water. It is important that your offering is always lively, full of energy, and moving around. Always ensure that before you start to fish.

How To Hook A Baitfish

Making sure to keep baitfish on hand is a great idea. They are the main forage of the species most of the time. The best one to use is always going to be the species the fish naturally eat. If the main forage is Shad, use Shad. If Sunfish, hook up Sunfish. If Herring, use herring on your hook.

  1. Through Both Lips – The most common way of hooking minnows or other baitfish like Bluegill and Shiners is to pass the hook through the bottom of the mouth under the chin and pass it through both of the lips. This will actually cause them to die quicker because it can not suck in water to blow out of its gill rakers. Even so, the time that the fish does last will be a time full of frantic swimming and wounded action. Your hookup percentage with this type of hook configuration is pretty high because the bass love to hit these head first.
  2. Behind The Dorsal Fin – If you miss the spine on purpose and you are careful. you can hook it right behind the dorsal fin. This will make the fish want to swim down. Using this hook setup is the recommended method for rigging your smaller ones because it can just as easily be used for Sunfish, Herring, Suckers, Shiners, and any other small fish. It keeps them lively the longest of all other methods and that is primarily because you are merely hooking flesh if you do it correctly. Mastering this one takes time. You have to know exactly where to put the hook. You want to miss the spinal cord or else you will paralyze the fish. It will end up being crippled and it will not move at all.
  3. Near The End of The Tail – Hooking one near the end of the tail will cause the fish to want to swim down.  If you let out enough line, it will want to swim down to the bottom surpassing any and all predators on the way down. This method does not wound the minnow to much and it will stay alive longer than hooking them in the lips but not as long as in the back. When you are fishing with this hookup method, remember to always give an extra second or two before you set the hook because predators love to attack little fish head first.

Three of the best ways to hook any small fish are through the lips, through the back behind the dorsal fin, and near the tail.



How To Hook A Crayfish

Crayfish are the mainstay of any kind of bucketmouth fishing. Much of the angling world believes that crayfish are exclusively Smallmouth attractors but this couldn’t be further from the truth. While Smallmouth will generally make sushi out of a crayfish faster and harder than their big mouthed cousins, a crayfish can still get some really nice fish when rigged and used correctly. Most tournaments for both species only allow artificial lures to be used. For many different anglers, you will see them throwing a jig with a craw trailer or some other lure that mimics crayfish. There is a reason why. You will even see many apply crayfish scent to their lures. The reason is simple. Big predators love them.

  1.  Through The Tail – Rigging a crayfish through the tail is the most common and often the most effective method of hooking one. Crayfish naturally swim backward kicking up water with their tails anyway. When you hook one, pass the hook through the bottom of the tail and out the top of the shell to where the hook point is exposed.
  2. On The Back With An O-Ring – A very popular way to prevent the crayfish from dying is to stick a hook on the back of the shell and put an O-ring between the legs of the crayfish and on top of the hook bend. This gives you a very secure meal to hook connection and it it does not hurt the crayfish at all. It is also extremely hard to lose your craw this way because it is affixed to the hook by a durable plastic, elastic, band. This method is helpful especially when you want to get a lot of fish off of the same one. It does not damage it at all but fish really have to work hard to remove it.
  3.  Through A Claw – Hooking a craw claw by itself is usually recognized as a catfish thing. You do not see many anglers hooking it through the claws at all especially when you are fishing them whole. This is because it is very easy to lose your mudbug this way. Fish tend to pick more at the body of the yabbie than the claws and this results in the fish pulling the yabbie’s body right out of the claw’s socket. This, however, is helpful when you are after very big fish. Smaller fish cannot take a very big mudbug and hooking a larger one in the claw will cause it to start trying to remove it with the other one. Big fish see that as a time to gorge themselves on crawfish meat. They see that both claws cannot be used for defense and as a result, they can render the creature defenseless if they rip off the other one. I have seen so many big fish do this on purpose.

Three popular ways to hook crayfish are through the tail, through the middle of a claw, and mounted on an O ring. It will work for all species of crayfish.



 

How To Hook A Frog

These amphibians are especially desirable when fish on the surface. Smallmouth will eat them occasionally but they rarely ever come across them in the wild. Smallmouth are usually lake oriented fish and frogs tend to inhabit ponds and local streams. The Spotted also loves to eat frogs, but they rarely have a mouth big enough to consume them. This is primarily why so many frog lures exist. Frogs are often plentiful in population in many geographical locations and for some places, it can even be beneficial to use them for fishing. In such places, the fish get a great meal and the damage caused by frog populations goes down.

  1. Through Both Lips – Hooking a frog through both lips gives a wounded and struggling action to the frog. This is especially helpful when you are after big fish that don’t like to bite lures. Smaller fish will also bite a struggling, dying, frog if it will go down easy enough.
  2. Through One Leg – Running a hook through one of the legs of the frog is targeted around making the frog look more natural and swim better. Frogs that are hooked through leg always tend to swim correctly and always seem to produce bites from bigger fish.

Two popular ways to hook a frog include through both lips from the bottom one first, and through one of the legs. Both methods will work for all species of frog.

 

Proper Ways To Fish The Rigs

A good thing about fishing with real food is that it is impossible to fish it wrong. You simply just cannot fish them incorrectly. Even so, there is always going to be a more effective technique depending on where you go. Once you learn these methods of fishing, your success will skyrocket. There are few very basic ways to fish absolutely any offering you decide to throw on and all of them can be used to target big fish as well as smaller fish.

  • Slow and Steady Straight Retrieve

The straight retrieve is a force to be reckoned with. You can catch a lot of fish just by doing this one technique. All you want to do is hook it up properly, let it sink down to the right level, and slowly start reeling it in. This method lets you cover more water and will appeal to just about every fish in the area. It is good for Shad, Bluegill, Suckers, Frogs, Crayfish, and just about everything else. It is a nice one to use when a fish or frog is hooked through the lips. It makes the fish appear as if they are swimming through the water.

  • Bottom Hopping

Bottom hopping (or bottom bouncing) is the method by which you let the crayfish (or another creature), fall to the bottom of the water column and hop it along while reeling up the slack every time it stops. While it is usually used on jigs and other crayfish lures instead of real ones, it will produce just as well if not better when a real one is hooked on also. Bottom hopping isn’t exclusive to crayfish either. You can also bottom bounce a Shad or other fish if you hook them through both lips. The technique makes the small fish look like it is eating debris and plankton off of rocks on the bottom. When they are doing this in the wild, they tend to get attacked because of how vulnerable they are. This rig does a good job of imitating natural feeding behaviors and the predators love to key in on that.

  •  Sit and Wait

The sit and wait technique is the tried and true fish catcher. Conventionally fished under a bobber, a split shot, and a hook, many fish cannot resist live prey that cannot move or defend itself. This is primarily what makes it so effective. It will work for pretty much everything and even better for things like baitfish and worms. You do not require a bobber and a split shot to use this technique. All you need is a hook and a secure knot connecting the hook to your main line. That’s it. All you have to do is cast it out to a place where you believe fish are hiding, reel up the slack in the line until you have a tight line, and wait. Take the time to have a bottle of water, a sandwich, or use your phone. Having other tackle like a bobber does help in the fact that you can detect when you have a bite. Another way to do it to attach a bell or other noise device on the rod tip. Another thing you could do is just wait and watch with the rod in your hand. All will work and it is really up to you to decide what your favorite way to fish it is.



Setting The Hook Properly

You never want to yank the rod to set the hook if you are fishing live. It will almost always rip the hook out of the fish’s mouth before it gets a chance to fully get all of it inside. The proper method for setting that hook properly is to let the fish take the offering on the end and mouth it. Let the fish play with it and chew it up first. You want the fish to get all of the meal inside of its mouth and then wait until your fishing rod bends down and stays down for at least three seconds. At this time, slowly reel the slack out of the line until you feel it go tight. Once it hits that point, set the hook with an aggressive, upward, sideways pull. If you are using a circle hook, you want to start reeling a little faster when it hits that point just to compensate if the fish manages to avoid the hook point. Reeling slightly faster will make the point of the circle hook find its proper placement. This is why it is always important to use a spinning rod. You will need to cast live bait rigs far enough and set the hook properly in every instance.

Don’t Fear Using Alive

For all the anglers who love to say that the real stuff is somehow, “cheating”, just know that many people are not looking to rival Kevin VanDam in the world’s most elite B.A.S.S master classics. Many people just want to catch them to have fun, to have fillets, or to have a fight worth remembering. That is fine. Many of us tend to not go after winning any tournaments here. Catching this species of fish is fun no matter how you do it. Sometimes, it never hurts to leave the lures in the box, and pull out a real, succulent, food source. It will never hurt if you know how to catch Largemouth Bass with live bait. It is fun, it can catch some very nice fish, and result in a nice picture. It isn’t a subject that is usually talked about and that is because it is so untraditional for fish of this species. That is not a problem either. I highly encourage many people to start catching these predators without using artificial lures. It is fun and can result in a very productive day of fishing.

 

What is your preferred method of targeting this species of fish? Leave a comment below so we can hear what you have to say!

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