"Timely Tactics for 'Negative-Mood' Largemouth"

 By  Justin Hoffman

    Nothing can frustrate an angler more than targeting largemouth bass that are in a definite finicky mode. The more lures you throw at them, the more they seem to turn up their noses and silently mock your futile efforts. If fronts, dog days of summer or pressured fish are bringing you down, try these proven tactics in order to put more largemouth in the boat during these "tough times."
    There are a number of reasons why largemouth bass seemingly shut down and refuse to bite any offerings that you may send their way. The number one cause of negative-mood bass is fronts. This is a stable weather pattern that is interrupted by a sudden temperature and barometric change. (Think 80 degree F weather for a straight week ending with a dip into the low 60's.) Another reason may be severe heat that causes bass to seek cooler water and shade for comfort. Finally there is the case of pressured fish that have seen every conceivable lure thrown at them and become conditioned to let every single one of them pass it by. (This can often happen on "popular" lakes or during tournament days.) Recognizing the fact that one of these conditions is affecting the fish on your body of water will enable you to adjust your patterns and lures accordingly.

Rule #1: S-l-o-w D-o-w-n
    Fish that are in a negative mood are not willing to chase down a fast-moving presentation in order to feed. These fish are downright lazy, and can only be coaxed into hitting a bait that is fished ultra slow. A rule of thumb I use when facing these conditions is to at least double my retrieve time for each cast. This is at the bare minimum and may change to as much as quadruple the amount of time depending on how finicky the fish really are.
    Negative fish have an extremely small strike zone in comparison to actively feeding bass. Keeping your bait in this strike zone and for longer periods will be your key to increasing your hookups. Many times this zone may be only inches out from a fish, therefore, slowing down your bait will ensure that you remain in this small window of opportunity for the greatest amount of time.

Rule #2: Downsize Your Bait
Big crankbaits, large worms or bulky flipping jigs hold no interest for a negative-mood bass. They will continually turn their noses up at these offerings, but they can be coaxed by a smaller version of the same lure. Small tube jigs, mini cranks and light flipping jigs have all accounted for many finicky bass over the years, and continue to be my top three choices when it comes to "seducing" largemouth bass. A smaller offering will seem less threatening to a bass, and will appear much more natural and edible to these weary fish. (A well-presented "Itsy-Bitsy Bug" or a "Three-Inch Tube" represents an after dinner mint when slowly pulled by these sulking fish.)
 

    Colour also plays a factor in provoking strikes, and I have found it best to stick with the most life-like and natural colours you can find. Brown, silver, white and black are recognized favourites and will out-produce gaudy colours by a country mile. Making your presentation appear like something straight from nature will be the key to more and bigger fish under these conditions.
    Rods and line should also be downsized in order to handle these smaller baits. A medium action spinning rod with six to eight-pound test is my mainstay when fishing under these conditions and has helped to put many a bass in the boat over the years.

Rule #3: Apply a Scent Product
    Playing into a largemouth's superior sense of smell will be a step in the right direction for ultimate success. If your bait doesn't smell alive or edible a bass will surely pass it by - and in these tough conditions, you need everything to be right in order to up the odds in your favour. Smell and taste may be the last stimulus that causes a largemouth to strike, and it had better be favourable if you want your hook to connect.
    There are vast arrays of commercial scents on the market, and my best advice is to try a number of different kinds in order to see how the fish ultimately reacts. I have had great success with a product called "Real Craw" by Riverside that uses actual crawfish in its formula. Another product that looks promising is "Crackle." This interesting product not only emits a smell and taste, but also an attracting sound. Whichever your choice, applying a scent regularly and liberally will both mask and attract, and ultimately entice a largemouth to take a bite.

Rule #4: Stay Focused
    Targeting negative-mood largemouth can be a tough and tiring game, but they can be beat by changing your approach and tactics. Concentration is extremely important while out on the water, and the angler must be ready at all times for that strike to occur. Bites will be harder to come by in comparison to "normal" conditions, and watching for a slight bump of your line, or detecting a soft hit through your rod will be the keys to unlocking this mystery.
    Catching negative largemouth is a challenging and rewarding experience for anglers willing to give it a try. Breaking from the norm will reward you with lunker bass and make every day on the water a fulfilling one.

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