Bass Fishing: The Complete Guide

Jul 22, 2024 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Mention Bass to any two anglers and they’ll probably imagine two different fish. One may think of a beautiful Largemouth while another pictures a beefy Striper. After all, Bass come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes – all depending on which member of the family you’re fishing for. What’s certain though is that Bass fishing is an absolute blast, no matter which species you’re chasing.

An angler in sunglasses and a hat smiling while standing on a boat and holding a big Largemouth Bass he caught fishing on Lake Okeechobee while a woman fishes behind him, with the lake's waters visible around them
Photo courtesy of Bass Fishing Charters With Capt. George Mro.

In this article, we’ll provide you with a starting point for all things Bass related. We’ll go over the various species that fall under this umbrella term, mention a few common techniques, and get you familiar with the prime places to reel in Bass. So if you’re eager to learn more about the most coveted fish in North America, read on!

What are you interested in?

Reasons to Fish for Bass

An angler in a cap sitting on a boat, holding a big Striped Bass he caught while fishing in Chesapeake Bay with waters and the shore visible behind him.
Photo courtesy of Rock On Charter Fishing.

Bass have been charming and frustrating anglers since the inception of modern sportfishing. And even today, they remain as popular as ever. Casual anglers love fishing for them in their local waters, while pros will travel across the country to take part in prestigious tournaments. So what makes Bass so alluring? Here are a few reasons:

  • Game Quality. While there are numerous kinds of Bass, what ties them all together is that they’re exciting to fish for. Whether it’s Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotties, Stripers, or Hybrids, each and every one of them is fun to wrestle with. They possess great intelligence, elusiveness, and a fantastic fighting spirit, embodying just about every quality you’d like to see in a game fish.
  • Availability. Bass are ubiquitous in North America. You’ll find them throughout the US and southern Canada in rivers, lakes, ponds, and even in saltwater depending on the species. Because they’re so widespread, Bass make for top targets nearly everywhere in their range. That also goes for species you’ll find overseas, such as European Seabass.
  • Looks. Bass are prime photo material, especially when they grow to trophy sizes. Their striking looks, along with their terrific game qualities, are another piece to the puzzle of what makes Bass so beloved. From Largemouth to Peacock Bass, it’s safe to say they’re all beautiful in their own unique way.
  • Tradition. For many anglers, especially in the US, Bass fishing is simply a tradition. If you grew up close to waters where these fish live, it’s highly likely someone in your family has already developed a love for Bass and passed it on to you.
  • Flavor. While many practice catch-and-release when targeting Bass, they’re certainly edible! Some taste better than others, with Stripers and European Seabass topping the taste charts. Black Bass are usually targeted for sport and not food, so if you do decide you want to keep a fish or two, make sure the regulations allow it.

Bass Fishing Seasons

Figuring out all the different behavioral patterns is a large part of what makes fishing for Bass so fun. With each season, they change the spots and the depths they lurk in, presenting a challenging puzzle for prospective anglers to solve.

Two anglers standing side by side on a boat wearing hats and with visible tattoos, as they hold two Smallmouth Bass each that they caught fishing on Lake St. Clair.
Photo courtesy of Finn’s Sport Fishing.

By and large, Bass fishing is a warm-weather activity, which means most of the action takes place from spring through fall. Spring marks the spawning season for Bass. Before they begin to spawn, you’ll typically find them either in deep waters or around transitional points, ledges, and rocks. Then, they’ll move to shallow waters to spawn, and this is when you can expect them to strike your lures with ferocity.

After spawning, the fishing slows down for a brief time while the Bass recuperate. Once rested, they’ll feed aggressively as they fall into their summer patterns. With rising temperatures, Bass will aim to escape the summer heat, so you’ll often see them hide in deeper waters and near underwater structures.

As the dog days of summer pass, Bass will again begin migrating to coastal waters. In the fall, look for transitional areas and mid-depth ledges and humps. You might also spot them chasing for bait in the shallows, around creek mouths, and near flowing waters. Come wintertime, the Bass bite slows down, though you’ll occasionally have luck catching them in sheltered bays and pockets where the waters are the warmest.

Best Bass Fishing Spots

Depending on which species you’re itching to reel in, you’ll find Bass anywhere from small ponds to oceans. Of course, since Black Bass and their famous Striper cousins are native to North America, we’ll focus on covering the hottest fishing spots here. So check out a breakdown of the best Bass fishing states, followed by some more specific locations to explore.

Top Bass States

There’s good Bass fishing all over the United States and throughout a decent part of Canada. However, not all fisheries bring the same level of action or trophy-sized fish. Have a look at some of the best states to visit if you’re itching to catch some Bass.

Top Bass Locations

Since we’ve covered the top states, let’s delve into some of the specific Bass fishing destinations to explore. If you’re planning an angling vacation, consider one of these spots, as they all offer legendary Bass action.

Bass Fishing Tips

There are numerous ways to entice that Bass bite. It all depends on the species you’re fishing for, in which waters, and at which time. It may seem daunting to figure all this out, but with Bass fishing being so popular, the internet is filled with useful resources. We’ve written a few articles on the topic as well, so have a look:

If you’re a beginner, eager to start your Bass fishing journey, you’ll first need some equipment. For most applications, a 35-size spinning reel, paired with a 6–7′ rod and some monofilament line will serve you well.

After that, you’ll need to dive into the world of Bass fishing lures. The options are many, but you’ll generally want an arsenal of crankbaits, swimbaits, spinnerbaits, and topwater lures, as well as soft baits such as worms and stickbaits. Pay close attention to the colors you choose as natural ones (white, green, and brown) work best when fishing in shallow waters around vegetation. Conversely, you can opt for brighter colors such as bubblegum, blue, and chartreuse when targeting Bass in deeper or stained waters.

Finally, you’ll need to learn a few basic rigs. When Bass fishing, Texas and Carolina rigs are arguably the two most popular choices. Other setups include the Drop Shot rig, Wacky rig, Ned rig, and Neko rig, all of which you can figure out at your own pace. For tips regarding Striped Bass specifically, check out the dedicated article we’ve written on it.

Bass Varieties

We’ve already mentioned it throughout the article, but there’s a range of different fish that are called Bass. However, when talking about Bass fishing, anglers usually refer to fish belonging either to the Black or Temperate Bass family.

Black Bass encompass freshwater favorites such as Smallmouth, Largemouth, and Spotted Bass. Alongside them, there are some less-widespread species such as Guadalupe Bass, Redeye Bass, and Florida Bass that belong to the same family.

Meanwhile, Temperate Bass include Stripers, White Bass, White Perch, and various hybrids. The European Seabass that you’ll find swimming in the Mediterranean are also members of the same family. For more info on the various types of Bass and how to tell some of them apart, see the following articles:

Of course, the species we named above are not the only ones anglers call Bass. Peacock Bass is an excellent example of a fish that’s not related to either of the two families, but that we call Bass anyway. They’re abundant in Florida, with Miami being a particular hotspot.

The same applies to Sand Bass and Calico Bass found in California, both of which are more closely related to Grouper.

Bass Fishing Regulations

Like most fish out there, Bass are subject to seasonal regulations, as well as size and bag limits. The rules will differ between the states and even specific bodies of water where you decide to target them. Check out how they work in some of the top Bass fishing states.

Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass

Waters Season Bag Limit Min. Length
Alabama Year-round 10 No statewide minimum
Texas Year-round 5 14 inches
Michigan Varies per region* 5 14 inches
Florida Year-round 5 No statewide minimum
California Year-round Varies per body of water Varies per body of water
Georgia Year-round 10 12 inches
New York June 15 – Nov 30 5 12 inches
Minnesota Dates vary per region** 6 No statewide minimum
Tennessee Year-round 5 No statewide minimum
Wisconsin Dates change yearly*** 5 14 inches
Maryland June 16 – End of Feb 5 12 inches
Massachusetts Year-round 5 12 inches

*Michigan’s Bass season runs from the third Saturday in June to Dec 31 on Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair and Detroit River. The season opens on the Saturday before Memorial Day for all other waters, running to Dec 31.
**Catch-and-release season opens May 13 while retention season opens May 27. Smallmouth season closes Sept 10, Largemouth season closes Feb 25.
***Largemouth season begins first Saturday in May and runs through the first Sunday in March of the following year. Smallmouth season starts on the third Saturday in June.

Striped Bass

Waters Season Bag Limit Min Length
Alabama Year-round 15 No more than 5 over 22 inches
Texas Year-round 5 18 inches
Florida Year-round 20 No more than 6 over 20 inches
California Year-round 2 18 inches
Georgia Year-round 15 No more than 2 over 22 inches
New York Varies per location* 1 Varies per location
Tennessee Year-round 2 15 inches
Maryland May 1 – Dec 10** 1 Varies per season
Massachusetts Year-round 1 Between 28–31 inches

*New York Hudson River Striper season runs from Apr 1–Nov 30, slot size 18–28 inches. The marine season runs from Apr 15–Dec 15, slot size 28–31 inches.
**Maryland Striped Bass retention season opens May 16 and runs until December 10 with a seasonal closure from July 16 to July 31 (catch and release prohibited), but different areas have different regulations. Catch-and-release fishing is allowed outside retention season except from April to mid-May.

With these regulations in mind, you can actually fish for Bass throughout the year in most places – if you make sure to practice catch-and-release. Also, keep in mind that the regulations in the above tables are general and that specific bodies of water may enforce different rules. You can explore the following links for more information on Bass fishing regulations in various states:

Bass Fishing FAQs

If you want to discover more freshwater gamefish, visit our Fish Species guide and read about other underwater residents or your future sportfishing rivals.

Author profile picture

From a young age, Marko has been a nature buff. His first contact with fishing came through his dad who’d take him to the Danube River. It’s where Marko got his basic angling education, landed his first catch (an Ide), and learned how to cook a mean fish stew. Marko also enjoys hiking, running, traveling, and writing about it all.

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