Bed Fishing Breakdown
It’s that time of year again. The big mommas are moving up shallow and sitting their big butts on beds. Bed fishing is awesome but can also give you an enormous headache. Often times anglers will find themselves working a bed fish for an hour or even hours before they can entice a bite. Successful bed fishing will definitely push your patience to its limits but the rewards can be incredible.
Here’s how to give yourself the best chances of landing a bed fish.
Look For Beds In The Right Spots
Bass won’t just make a bed anywhere. Keep an eye out for hard bottom in both shallow and deeper waters. Most often bass will make beds in the back of creeks, next to docks, along tules and on rocky banks. Avoid muddy bottom as this makes it difficult for bass to make their beds.
Remember that beds aren’t always visible. There will always be plenty of beds positioned in deeper water that are more difficult to sight fish but definitely not impossible. Many anglers will only scout the 1-3 foot range of water, missing potential beds right below the boat.
You can easily identify a bed if you understand what they will look like. Most often you’ll see an indentation in the bottom that is clean of any debris or rock compared to the surrounding area. In certain cases the bed will contain small clam shells or other materials that will be easily visible from above. In this situation you’ll see a circle of these white shells (or other objects) and will be able to pinpoint the bed perfectly with your lure.
Stealth Is Key
This is one of the biggest factors when bed fishing. The quieter and more invisible you can be, the more you will be able to catch the bass off guard and have it focus on your bait instead of you. A great technique is to actually not sight fish at all. Position your boat out in deeper water and make a series of fan casts along the bank. This method of blind fishing will actually be more effective than it seems since the bass will direct all of its attention to the bait itself, resulting in a more responsive and more aggressive reaction.
If you do decide to get close enough to see the bed, do so in the stealthiest manner possible. Turn your trolling motor on a lower setting, stay as far from the bed as you can while still being able to see it, and bring a rope with you to tie onto any dock or tree branch that will help you stay off the trolling motor as much as possible. If thick vegetation is nearby you can also use it as a temporary anchor by getting your boat stuck in it. If necessary you can even crouch down so that you’re not towering over the fish or casting a large shadow. Whatever you can think of that will present both you and the boat in a quieter fashion will help the cause.
Every Bass Is Different
You always hear this from seasoned bed fish anglers. It’s important to understand that every fish has a different personality, and once you figure out the individual behavior of each bass you increase your chances greatly. Some bass will turn and flare right away, acting aggressive right off the bat. This is the best scenario as you won’t have to work as hard to anger them. Some fish might spook immediately and leave the bed, refusing to come back until you leave. Others will take your patience to a new level, slowly becoming more aggressive as you present your bait for the ten-thousandth time.
Pay attention to any signs of behavior change. If the bass suddenly turns and noses up to your bait, you’re working correctly. Keep an eye out for any gill or fins flaring out as this is also a sign of aggression. Once again, be patient. I’ve experienced a number of bed fish who have a complete 180-degree behavior change within a matter of minutes. At first they run from the bed, but after pushing them for awhile they become braver, constantly flashing on the bait and nosing right up to it at times. If you experience any change in aggressive behavior then continue your efforts.
Try Different, Shapes, Sizes And Colors
Changing up your bait selection is another key factor when bed fishing. When the bass become accustomed to the same lure for too long, they often lose interest and become less aggressive. This means that any progress you’ve made could be lost, but that’s where a bait change comes in handy.
Play around with different bait styles. This could be anything from a tube, creature bait, worm or even a large swimbait (both soft and hard-bodied). It doesn’t always have to be the bait style, however, and a simple color change will also do the trick. The most popular bed fishing color is plain white, but play around with other colors as well. Go from white to bright red or even a more natural green pumpkin, for example. If the new color or pattern invokes a behavior change, stick with it until another switch is necessary.
Topwater may be an option. Bed fishing is a perfect opportunity to throw something over their heads. A bait hanging out over the bed may be the perfect way to entice a strike. Try different topwater baits like frogs, poppers, wakebaits, etc. and see what works best for you.
Bed Fishing Techniques
Make sure the fish completely ate the lure. Don’t get too excited when you get bit, it’s important to wait a second or two before setting hook. Often times the fish will nip at the claws or other appendages of your bait, completely missing the hook itself. Wait for your rod to fully load up a before swinging.
Not many anglers may think about this, but when you’re scouting out beds it’s important to keep a rod in your hand. This is because it gives you the ability to throw your bait directly onto the bed if you accidentally spook a fish while looking around. Slowly back away from the bed and when the bass returns, it will be caught off-guard by an intruder on its territory. This could potentially give you an immediate strike.
Find other ways to catch the fish off-guard. Often times I’ll throw my bait on the bed, wait for the fish to swim over my line and then flick their tail with my line. This always helps piss them off and if done enough times, it can completely change their behavior. Another crucial tip is to cast when the fish aren’t looking directly at you. That way they’re not anticipating anything and won’t be spooked by your movements.
Cast past the bed. Casting directly on top of the bed while the fish is gone is fine, but aiming for the bed while they fish is planted on top might spook them. Instead, cast a few feet past the bed and slowly inch up to it. This will keep your bait in the strike zone longer and allow you to fully catch their attention before hitting the sweet spot.
Work your bait slowly. Many anglers make the mistake of working their baits too much. They cast and twitch their baits erratically, not giving the fish a chance to nose up to it. Usually I’ll cast and let the bait sit there for a few moments, allowing the fish to slowly realize that something is inching up to its bed. When I know that the fish is paying attention, I’ll move the bait once or twice and this will often result in a more aggressive reaction.
Keep an eye on the fish, not your lure. It’s extremely important to know where the bass is at all times. If you only focus on your bait, you’ll miss learning how the bass behaves and if it’s becoming more aggressive or not. There is a behavioral pattern to every individual fish and paying attention to the bass itself will help you pinpoint these changes. You know where you’ve casted so watching your bait isn’t important.
Use Fluorocarbon Line
Fluorocarbon line is virtually invisible underwater, allowing for a more stealthy approach. Fluorocarbon is also more abrasive-resistant than monofilament, making it the perfect choice for working around hard bottom and rough structure such as rocks, timber, etc. A few great fluorocarbon line choices include:
- Seaguar InvisX
- P-Line 100% Fluorocarbon
- Sunline Sniper FC
I hope this helped you gain a better understanding of bed fishing. Once again it’s important to be extremely patient with these fish – they don’t all give up easily. Bed fishing is an awesome way to see some of the biggest bass you’ll ever experience with your life whether you’re able to hook them or not. Play along with the personality of each fish and you’ll be sure to land a few.
If you have any other questions/comments please leave them in the comments below! We’ll be sure to respond as soon as we can. Tight lines!