Bruiser Bass in the Muck: A Mucky Muck Base Box for Fishing BIG Midwest Largemouth

bruiser bass in the muck illinois largemouth fishing

Have you ever set up a Base Box?

Good morning brothers. I’d like to share a few tips that have helped me minimize the pre-trip stress that comes from overthinking. You know what I’m talkin’ about: “welp, better take this, and this, and THIS, because they might bite that, or maybe this, so better grab all 87 colors because you never know what the sauciest little nugget will be, oh plus these 18 hard baits might get a bite or two…

Overthinking isn’t fun.

More importantly, it’s not productive.

I’ve tried to adjust things and reduce this overthinking the past few years. Change is good. Change is constant. Things are changing all around us all the time. Take the warmer weather for example:

The amount of time it takes to completely sweat through clothing? Decreased.

The time it takes to “enhance” a sunburn? Decreased.

The amount of time it takes to cook an egg on the sidewalk? Decreased.

The amount of big bass up shallow as the water gets up over 75°? You guessed it. Decreased…

That last one is causing me to lose sleep lately…

Illinois fishing has been GOOD so far.

We’ve had good luck fishing all sorts of different water so far this year. We started with little city ponds that warm up faster than deep pit lakes. This scratched the itch, but left something to be desired… I’m not fond of yappy dogs freaking out while I try to interact with largemouth bass:

“Yap! Yap! Yap! Yap!” *largemouth bass* “Yap! Yap! Yap! Yap!”

Just tossing a 4″ Strike King Ocho around on a weedless wacky hook is simple and effective. It’s also surprisingly easy, making it a great option for young anglers.

The dogs and spectators were annoying, so we traveled away from civilization. Explored. Found a new place and dubbed it Snapping Turtle Pond. Wakebaits were effective and a ton of fun to fish:

When the bass will hit a moving hard bait, it’s gonna be a good day!

I like to use a Strike Pro Humpback, and two great alternates are the Mann’s Baby 1-Minus, and the Strike King KVD 2.5 Wakebait, all paired with 8lb to 12lb Seaguar Invizx Fluorocarbon.

This was fun for a while, but big bass await beyond the bank. Hence, another change. To the kayak we went – to even more remote locations, starting with The Cheese Factory.

Can you say: “concussion”?

I was surprised to find myself surrounded by cheese, and without a topwater in my bag – but no worries! Did you know that a weightless, weedless Texas rigged Yum Dinger will stay up on the thick muck and attract strikes just fine? (Tuck that nugget away in case you find yourself in a pinch.)

But why probe the muck when big springtime bass are roaming the clear water shallows?! Go there! Catch more bass, faster, and with fewer snags and trouble! So, another change. More remote! More kayak! More basses! More exercise! More exploring!

You gotta love it when a plan comes together! Even though the weather was slightly stained in these borrow pit lakes (they would not hit my jerkbait – which is a visual presentation), a smoke / pearl laminate Dinger was plenty visible – and they wanted it.

Changes. Many changes. Changes in location, cover, clarity, depth, lure & line combos, rods & reels. This is what minimalist fishing is all about! Find out what works – dump what doesn’t!

Repeat this process again and again and again, and you will find yourself with the BEST possible techniques, the BEST boost to your confidence, and the BEST chance of catching more and bigger fish.

You gotta believe what you are doing will be productive.

Ultimately, you will end up with a collection of presentations that work, that you love – and this is what you need to add to your Base Boxes.

Let me show you one of mine.

What is a Bass Fishing Base Box?

A Base Box is a single Plano container, loaded with presentations that you have confidence in for a specific kind of fishing. This container is something that you can pick up with zero notice – it’s always ready to go. So when Billy Bob calls and says “BROTHER, LET’S FISH!”, you simply grab the correct Base Box along with the Terminal Tackle Base Box (which is always on hand no matter what), load the backpack and head out.

Fishing from the bank?
Just take that backpack.
Fishing from your friend’s boat?
Just take that backpack.
Fishing from your own boat?
Just take that backpack!

Today, we’ll be discussing my Muck Base Box, which is set up for targeting largemouth bass in thick cover.

While refining this the other day, I was surprised by its SIMPLICITY.

When it comes to working the muck, there are only 5 presentations that I absolutely need to have with me to fish with 100% confidence. This is very different from my Clear Water Base Box, and my Wisconsin Bass Base Box… which we will cover in another article…

Behold: The Muck Base Box

muck base box best baits for largemouth bass midwest mucky
Simple. Deadly.

My Muck Base Box is simple and deadly, full of must-have presentations for bass fishing in the Midwest. Start with these 5 items and you will be well on your way to hammering bass! Just remember: standard hooks, sinkers, bobber stops, small jigs… items that you always want to have on hand so you can create any rig you need – all of these items go in the Terminal Tackle Base Box.

Muck Base Box Item #1: Topwater Frogs

muck base box best baits for largemouth bass midwest mucky
Standard frogs and smaller options like the Booyah Pad Crasher Jr. can go just about anywhere.

Everyone loves a good topwater strike, but in the muck, exposed treble hooks are not an option. Poppers & walking baits are out of the question. Instead, keep a collection of weedless frogs on hand to work over thick sludge. Don’t be afraid to skip a frog up underneath overhanging brush and trees near the shoreline. Sometimes the biggest bass can sit back in inches of water!

Muck Base Box Item #2: Soft Plastic Toads & Poppers

muck base box best baits for largemouth bass midwest mucky
Add even more versatility with soft plastic topwaters.

If your frog keeps getting flung up in the air, or if you’d like to add some appendages, or work a buzzbait-style presentation without worrying about the blade getting hung up, reach for some soft plastic topwaters. I keep 3 with me at all times, and they are all ElaZtech: a Z-Man Hard Leg FrogZ, Pop ShadZ, and Pop FrogZ.

Each one brings a different look and action to the table. Just make sure you have some big EWG hooks in your Terminal Tackle Base Box. It’s best if they have a “bait lock” on them near the eye.

Muck Base Box Item #3: Heavy Cover Swim Jigs

muck base box best baits for largemouth bass midwest mucky
“Swim jig, swim jig everyone loves a swim jig!”

Swim jigs are a great way to present a swimming plastic while maintaining a bulky profile. This can work well in mucky water with low visibility, especially if you can identify some alleys and paths within the muck. Grab one of these killer swim jigs off of our top 10 list, pair it with your favorite thumpy plastic trailer, run it through paths and bump it off of stumps and logs – then hang on!

(We have an entire series on swim jig fishing too, if you’d like to learn more.)

Muck Base Box Item #4: Weedless Swimbait Jigs

muck base box best baits for largemouth bass midwest mucky
One of the only “terminal” items I’ll keep in my Muck Base Box.

If you need a moving bait that will slip around in the muck a bit easier, drop the skirt and bulky weed guard of the swim jig and reach for a Z-Man Weedless Eye Swimbait Jig. Pair it with your favorite thumpy plastic, and select the lightest weight you can work effectively.

Muck Base Box Item #5: Assorted (Floating & Sinking) Soft Plastics

muck base box best baits for largemouth bass midwest mucky
I always “juice my baits”, and keep both floating and sinking plastics on hand.

With topwater and mid-depth covered, we’ll round everything out with baits that can be fished shallow, fished deep, and fished weedless. I keep two bags – one is for normal plastics, and the other is for ElaZtech-type plastics. (ElaZtech must be stored separately because it will react and melt to other plastics and paint it comes into prolonged contact with. It will also melt / deform in direct sunlight.)

Here’s what I keep in each bag:

  1. Both bags are “juiced” (completely slathered with Dr. Juice Concentrated Bass Attractant) to mask human scent and give me more time to set the hook

    — Bag 1 / Floating / ElaZtech —
  2. Strike King KVD Finesse Worms
  3. Z-Man Finessse WormZ
  4. Z-Man Hula Sticks
  5. Z-Man Bang StickZ

    — Bag 2 / Sinking / Regular Plastic —
  6. Strike King Ochos
  7. Yum Dingers
  8. Yamamoto Senkos

I could write an entire article on each of these baits and why they’ve been selected over all other plastics. In fact… I probably have… but, you are very observant and you’re asking “AJ, why the heck do you have FINESSE plastics in a muck box?!”

Great question, my friend! Here’s why.

The 80/20 Base Box Rule

No matter what you decide to include in your personal Base Box, you must apply the 80/20 rule to make sure you never get caught with your pants down!

80% of the selected presentations are best suited for heavy muck.

20% can easily be used in clear water with sparse cover!

A green pumpkin Hula Stick is going to work much better for finicky bass in a clear water situation than a bright green Yum Dinger with a chartreuse tail. A smaller Strike King Finesse Worm is great to have on hand if you arrive at the lake and would prefer to throw a shaky head because the water is cleaner than what you expected. Want to rig up The Snakebite Rig to fish some tall grass below the muck!? You’re covered.

These added options give you versatility, a more natural look for spooky fish, and they help you avoid a bad situation when the conditions are not quite what you anticipated.

Example: I recently took my Clear Water Base Box to a lake and did not apply this rule… only to find the clear water completely cloudy from an unexpected algae bloom. There I was with a box full of natural, visual presentations, but nothing high contrast or high vibration in sight… still, the answer is not to “take everything,” the answer is to plan better.

Apply the 80/20 rule no matter what Base Box you are creating so you can always make the most of the day. Set one up. Let me know how it goes., and I promise you… you’re gonna catch more fish!

aj hauser midwest bass minimalist fishing muck bass largemouth
A big fat mucky muck largemouth from the day before this article was finished. These concepts WORK.

Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.

Thank you Readers!

Thanks for visiting! I’m going to keep doing everything possible to keep the helpful content coming, and FREE FOR EVERYONE… but I need your help. Please chip in by making a small monthly contribution to keep this site alive & growing. $4.96 will buy a sweet Pack ‘o Dingers, and with it, I promise to catch many bass in your honor. Thanks. You are a gentleman & a scholar! -AJ

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