Bass fishing can be a bit daunting for those who aren’t familiar. For a first timer, the first cast can make or break their impression on what bass fishing is all about. I recently took my girlfriend out for her first time bass fishing and it was an absolute blast. Fishing can get so complicated and overwhelming to the novice angler and I wanted to be sure she had a good time. This got me thinking that I should probably put together an article about a few must-have bass fishing baits for novice bass anglers.
You’ll notice a running theme pretty quickly here that all five of the baits I’ve selected are a little smaller; that’s because of the gear that best suits beginners. Whether you yourself are new to bass fishing or you’re wanting to take a friend for the first time, it’s best to start off with either a spinning rod or an enclosed reel like a Zebco. Both of these setups are going to use lighter line and throw smaller baits well. And, smaller baits tend to get more bites so you have a better chance of the angler catching more fish and staying interested more easily.
The 1/4-ounce buzzbait in particular made the list for a few additional reasons. It’s an easy bait to fish, since you simply have to keep the bait on top of the water by reeling it at a steady pace. It’s a visual bait, so the angler will know without a doubt that he or she has had a bite. Since it’s a topwater, the bite will be very exciting when it does come. Making an early memory of a topwater explosion for an angler like this is a great way to fire them up and keep them coming back.
Another bait in the slightly undersized category compared to what most anglers fish, dropping down to a 1/4-ounce spinnerbait from a 3/8-or even 1/2-ounce again gives the angler a better opportunity to get more bites. And it’s another bait that gets bit on a steady retrieve, so it takes a lot of the guess work out for an angler who doesn’t know yet how to work a bait. At the same time though, a spinnerbait is a great lure to use to introduce someone to that concept.
When I say work a bait, I’m referring to adding a little erratic action to the presentation. So as the spinnerbait is coming to the boat, it’s a good idea sometimes to twitch your rod tip in a little burst, all while continuing to reel the bait. Twitching the rod tip like this pumps the spinnerbait and makes the blades skip a beat and flash differently compared to how they look on the steady retrieve. A lot of times, working a bait like this will be what triggers a bite from a fish that’s just followed the bait up to that point.
Again, a smaller bait suits an amateur angler well, so we go with a finesse popper here instead of a larger Chug Bug or big walking-style topwater like a Spook. And again, using a topwater to trigger a bite from a bass on the surface is always a good idea when trying to introduce someone to bass fishing. As an avid angler when I look back, most of the fish catches that stand out in my memory came on a topwater. There’s just so much excitement associated with a topwater bite.
In contrast, the finesse popper brings something different to the table versus the 1/4-ounce buzzbait and that is cadence. With a popper, the angler learns the importance of cadence and how to create it. Cadence simply refers to a pattern of action that creates a desired result. So if you hear about someone walking a topwater or working a jerkbait, they’ll typically use the word cadence. With a popper, you can’t really go wrong with cadence. Some days the fish like it a little faster; some days a little slower. But by simply twitching your rod tip until you find a consistent motion that creates a pattern of pops on the other end of the line, you can develop a cadence that will help you when trying out all sorts of other baits later.
A mid-range crankbait like the Strike King 3XD is great for a beginner. A crankbait this size again falls into the smaller bait category, so it’s easy to use on the lighter gear and this bait in particular will get a lot of bites.
What I’ve noticed when taking people fishing for the first time, is that as long as they’re doing something, it doesn’t really matter how often they get bit. Giving a beginner a bait that has to continuously be on the move like a buzzbait, spinnerbait or small crankbait helps keep their attention. And a little crankbait like this opens up a whole new depth range as well as different cover opportunities versus the other three baits we’ve mentioned so far. The 1/4-ounce spinnerbait being its closest comparison, the 3XD offers a bait that can be fished a little deeper around submerged grass, rock, wood and even in open water.
Small swimbait on a jighead
Here’s another bait that gets a lot of bites, should be fished at a constant retrieve and opens up a larger portion of the water column. A small finesse swimbait like the Missile Baits Shockwave is a great beginner bait for several reasons. It’s very easy to use and works well on the lighter gear once again. You’ll also notice with a Zebco-style reel in particular, the gear ratio is so slow that it’s hard for a novice angler at times to keep a lure like a buzzbait up on top of the water.
That slower gear ratio actually plays right into the pattern of throwing a little swimbait like this, especially in an offshore situation where the fish are suspended. Often those fish will be 15 feet or so beneath the surface and I myself have to be super-focused in order to slow my retrieve down enough to get the bait down with the higher geared fishing reels I use. With the low gear ratio reels, the natural reeling speed that many anglers start out with will let the bait get down better where he or she will get more bites.
Though there are several other baits that will work well for beginners as well, these five are a great place to start. They can all be fished on fairly light and inexpensive gear that’s easy to use. They are all a little undersized so that they’ll help the amateur angler get as many bites as possible to help keep their attention. And, most of these baits have to be on the move so again, the angler has something to constantly to do. And throwing a couple topwaters into the mix, there’s a chance that their first trip, or first trip in a while, will result in the memory of a topwater explosion that will last a lifetime.