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Does Bait Size Matter In Bass Fishing?

Choose The Right Size Bait In Bass Fishing


Jack Schmitt with a smallmouth taken on Center Hill on a drop shot rig

Jack Schmitt with a smallmouth taken on Center Hill on a drop shot rig

2008 Jack Schmitt licensed to About.com
When you are bass fishing, bait size does matter. Throw the wrong size bait and you will often spend the day getting casting practice and fishing, not catching. The right size bait will draw bites when other sizes fail. But how do you choose the right size bait?

We have a bewildering array of kinds of baits to choose from when we bass fish, from spinnerbaits and crankbaits to plastics that are true-to-life or wildly different from anything that ever lived on earth. And each kind comes in so many sizes it is hard to tell where to start.

How To Choose Size Of Bait

A good clue is to find out what the bass are eating. If threadfin shad are schooling up in shallow water and the bass are holding on cover, ambushing them as they pass, use something very close to the size of the shad. Threadfin shad seldom get more than three inches long and often are much smaller, so look at them and choose your bait.

A #5 Shadrap will be much closer to the size of a threadfin shad than a #9 Shadrap will be and you will be more likely to get a strike on the bait that matches the baitfish. Choose a spinnerbait with willowleaf blades the same size as the shad to give the bass a familar target to hit.

Plastic worms range in size from short to long and fat to thin. Choosing the right size makes a big difference and it can change every day, or even during the same day. There are many times a four inch finesse type worm on a Carolina rig will get hit when a six inch worm is ignored.

Cold Fronts and Size

Cold fronts turn bass off but they can still be caught, and one key is to go small. Go to a three inch worm on your jig head, a thin four inch worm on your Carolina rig or even a small finesse Texas rigged worm.

I saw this in action in a club tournament several years ago. We were fishing a point and my partner had already put three bass in the live well. I had not had a bite. I finally got a clue and looked at what he was using. While I was fishing a Carolina rigged Baby Brush Hog, he was using a Finesse worm.

Although both of us were fishing green pumpkin baits with tips of the tails dyed chartreuse, he was getting all the bites. I changed to match his bait and started catching fish, too. We both limited out on that one point but he culled twice before I finally got my limit.

When Is Bigger Better

The opposite can be true, too, especially in the fall of year. Baitfish have grown during the summer and they are bigger in the fall. And the bass seem to want something filling in the fall before the water temperature gets below 50 degrees. This is a good time to go to a big crankbait, throw a spinnerbait with a #7 blade or cast a 10 or 11 inch worm.

It is also true most of the time that bigger bass will hit bigger baits. You can catch a wall-hanger on a finesse worm but grown bass are more likely to eat a big bait. So choose bigger baits if you want to raise your odds of catching bigger fish.

A big bulky jig and pig won't get the number of bites a four inch worm will get most days, but you better set the hook hard and hang on when you do get a hit on the big bait.

Trout fishermen are famous for "matching the hatch," meaning they try to use a fly that looks exactly like whatever kind of bug the trout are eating. Bass fishermen need to do the same thing and match the hatch, using a bait that is similar in size to what the bass are eating. It will improve your catch rate.

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