How to find the motherload

2011-12-31 00:00

AS promised, this week I will continue to share some of my secrets and advice when it comes to locating and catching schooling bass.

Don’t be misled: a school of bass does not always mean fish thrashing on the surface in a crazed mood. Read on, you will see what I mean.

Understanding the difference in your bite ratio and the tone of the bites you receive will help you recognise when you have found more than just one fish in an area. Let’s say you throw a weightless bait into a submerged brush pile and it is eaten on the sink. Chances are, the fact that a school of fish was present forced the bite to happen way off the bottom because the fish were competing for the bait. If you throw straight back and get another fish you have found a school of some size.

Your actions from this point will decide how many fish you catch of the school before they lose interest, which they will. They will not just continue to react to the same bait; you will have to change colour, profile and cadence to keep them excited. Another give-away is when a fish picks up your bait and immediately swims off with it at a rapid rate. I guarantee you he is swimming away from his cronies who are busy trying to relieve him of his meal.

Land the fish quickly and get to casting again to pick off the rest. Also pay attention when your topwater or crankbait is eaten as it hits the water — this reaction often signals that more fish are in the area, and the fish know if they don’t get there first they don’t get the meal.

Bass school for two main reasons: pre-spawn migrations and schooling to feed. The pre-spawn schoolers can be reasonably predictable to find, and once found can be even easier to catch. Areas to look for pre-spawn schooling fish are obviously break lines adjacent to spawning flats, as well as humps and depressions. Use search baits that not only help you to cover water, but baits that “ignite” the fish, such as crank baits and lipless baits. Once again, these fish may not be thinking about eating, but the simple fact that they are aware of how many fish are around them will create competition for any available food.

Finding schools of hunting bass is undoubtedly the epitome of adrenaline-pumping bass fishing, as illustrated in my last column’s anecdote. Time of day is probably the most important factor to consider when looking for feeding schools, with early morning being the standard.

Try this: get out on your favourite dam way before daybreak during the warmer months and start fishing a likely area with a selection of search baits. I am certain you will get on the fish straightaway and enjoy a constant bite until the sky starts to lighten. Like a light switch, they will turn off at this point and you will struggle to tempt many further commitments. This theory works, trust me.

I know anglers who have never found a school of fish, yet I know other anglers who repeatedly locate these schools. Adjust your thinking and look for the signs that separate the indications of one or two fish and a school of fish. You will know when you have found the motherload.

So get out on the lake and catch some bass, and remember to release your catch alive to prolong the sustainability of our resource. E-mail me with reports, pictures and questions at

Catch em’ up!

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