For humans, school is a place we go to get indoctrinated… er… to learn.
75% of my sons go, and we’ve played around with the idea of pulling them out more than once. When we move to Arkansas I’ll be running for school board. We have another year in Illinois at least, so for now… I’ll just keep a close eye on what they are being taught, and keep putting inspirational little notes in their lunchboxes…
But Largemouth Bass – Do They School?
For a long time, largemouth bass were thought to be solitary creatures. Buck Perry – the inventor of the Spoonplug – made the bold statement that they are in fact schooling fish.
Now, it’s one thing to make a statement. It’s another thing to prove it.
Buck was an explorer. Remember, that spoonplug he developed was as much a fish catcher as it was a bottom mapping device. The man wanted to learn as much as he could about the world around him – and the fish.
Tournament anglers often talk about finding the fish – locating schools of bass – and tracking them. “Staying on the school“, and adjusting presentation(s) to match the mood of the fish has led to many a paycheck.
There must be something to this theory… right?
Well yes, but it all comes down to how you define “school”.
For many, a school is a group of fish that live, feed and travel together. They move in unison. In lockstep. They don’t just pal around. Shad and minnows provide us with very clear (sometimes massive) examples:
On my last trip to Arkansas, we fished Bull Shoals effectively by targeting clouds on our electronics. These clouds were schools of shad – and I’m talking massive schools of shad. Walleye, drum, largemouth, smallmouth and “Kentucks” all hung around these clouds. They lurked off to the side, in the shadows, related to them. They’d hang back, then in an instant swoop in like sharks, causing the cloud to explode in different directions – the predators would blast holes holes that we could actually see – they’d pull apart, then quickly come back together like the T-1000.
The school presented the predators with a confusing target. This is one of the reasons our lures worked so well… they looked like sick baitfish. Stood out as something different. Like something was wrong with ’em, and they’d be easy pickins’. This caught the attention of several bass as they moved through the cloud.
Schooling provides safety for these small fish, and as a bonus, it also facilitates mating.
Bass swim and feed together.
In groups. Aggregations. Not necessarily “schools” in the manner we’ve described above. They don’t coordinate their movements, but they do prowl certain areas at the same time. Their feeding efforts don’t always sync with one another, and they may leave one group for another.
So is that schooling?
Not in the traditional sense.
But as bass fishermen, here’s the key point…
Bass that are actively feeding will often be found together, because they are drawn in by the same food source. If you catch an active bass, there is a good chance that there are others nearby.
Bass that are of similar size also seem to group up. Dinks don’t usually feed with 8-pounders… maybe because they know they’ll get the scraps… maybe because they know they could be dinner themselves? Bass of different sizes prefer different types of food as well, and small bass just seem to feed where they can.
Whatever the reason, the biggest bass command the most favorable feeding locations.
So seek these locations out. Do the work that other anglers won’t do. Look for cover and structure that is invisible to the naked eye. Those areas are far less likely to be hammered by the weekend warriors, because if you can see an object that looks like it holds fish… so can everyone else…
How Quickly do Schools of Bass Move?
Let’s say you contact several fish in 8 feet of water off of a point. Then later, you contact fish in 20 feet of water further out from that same spot.
Has the school moved?
Well it depends… in order for largemouth bass to change depth by that much, they need to inflate or deflate their swim bladder. This is a gradual process, so it’s likely that you contacted another school (or aggregation). This is another important concept to remember, as it will help you re-locate bass once you find them.
Bass feeding in open water seem to come the closest to true schooling behavior… but again… they don’t coordinate movements. These “schools” are likely bass feeding simultaneously on the surface.
So How do we Target Fish in Groups?
This is a start.
The presentation(s) though… that’s not the point.
The point is learning a bit more about how these creatures behave. So for now, focus on the concept of “school”, and keep this information in mind as you locate, and then re-locate bass.
Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.
My fishing slump has come to an end… I think… yesterday I was able to catch 4 (and missed a big) over the course of an hour using a few key baits, listed below. The Simple 4-Part Plan to get out of a Fishing Slump was put into action. Friday I’ll head out again to try the same baits on different gear on two different lakes, to see if we can replicate the results. Let’s keep grinding!
1 Moving Bait
1 Finesse Bait