We’ve all been out on the water and seen bass schooling on fish. Sometimes these fish are incredibly easy to catch, and other times they are incredibly tough to catch. Either way, there are certain tactics that you can use to better assist you in getting bit in these situations.
As always, bait selection is key, but depending on where you are in the country will depend on what baits you should use. In many situations around me, using hard topwater baits do not produce great numbers when fishing for schooling bass, but in other places hard topwater baits can be vital.
I am going to talk to you about things you need to be doing in order to maximize your bites, and efficiency out on the water in these situations. I think this is vital around schooling fish because often once they stop schooling, the fishing can get very tough, so catching as many as you can when they are visibly active is Important.
Look around constantly
When the fish are schooling, you need to be on the lookout constantly. You need to be scanning all around you. Where the fish are actively schooling, is where you need to be. This will get you in the vicinity of the fish, and hopefully they will begin schooling within casting distance. Right now it’s the fall, and in the fall you have to be aware of what's going on around you because you may not realize the fish are schooling if you’re not looking for it. If you miss seeing them school, you may miss out on some epic fishing.
Listen for activity
This goes along with being aware of your surroundings. None of us have eyes in the back of our heads, so when we are out chasing schooling bass we need to use everything available to us to our advantage. I’ve caught a ton of fish due to hearing a bass break the surface and casting on top of the boil. If you’re fishing for schooling fish and have music playing either on the boat or in earphones or headphones, you’re probably missing out on fish caching opportunities.
Being quiet is another important factor when chasing schooling fish. A lot of the time we are literally chasing these fish down with our trolling motors. When we have our trolling motors on high we can get to the fish faster which is key, but at the same time we can spook the school of bait or the bass themselves and actually push the fish away. If you’re in an area where you know the fish are close, be as quiet as possible. I believe you’ll have a better opportunity to have the school around your boat if they aren't spooked by your noise. Obviously time is not on our side when chasing these fish, so if you need to get somewhere fast, put the motor on high and do what you gotta do to get there!
Casting accuracy is vitally important when fishing for these fish. There are times when these fish will chase the bait away from the boil, but there are times where the bait has to hit directly on the school or else you have virtually no chance at catching a fish. Working on your casting abilities will help you tremendously when chasing these fish. Getting better at casting will help in all of your fishing, but is even more important when chasing these fish.
Vary your retrieve
Not all breaking fish act the same. There’s times where a fast retrieve is key, and other times where something slower is key. There’s times where you need to make the bait act as erratic as possible. There’s times where each Individual fish wants something different. Overall you need to be continuously varying your retrieve to see what the fish actually want because it can be ever changing.
Don’t be afraid to finesse them
The baits you can use can vary tremendously, but one thing I want to cover in particular is don’t be afraid to finesse these fish. Often where I live, I’m using super light baits, super small baits, and very light line on spinning rods in order to get these schooling bass to bite. You may not need to do this at your lake, but if these fish are actively feeding around you and your typical topwater baits won't work, don’t be afraid to down size everything and use super small soft jerkbaits, and flat worms to get these fish to bite. It can be really fun to catch these fish on light tackle.
Patience is key when chasing these fish. Sometimes these fish will bust the surface on and off all day, but other times they will only do it for certain periods of time. Either way, my recommendation is to not fan cast around when the fish aren’t showing themselves. I’ve found that the number of fish I catch when blind casting or fan casting when the fish aren’t actively feeding is very sporadic, but when I wait for the fish to show themselves and I cast directly to them, I have a much better chance at catching them. More often than not when I’m blind casting in these situations, I end up missing a fish blow up and I have to reel in my bait and by the time I am able to get my bait over into the area I’m too late. If I would have waited till the fish showed themselves, I would have been able to cast more quickly to the spot and had a better chance at catching the fish.
As you can see there’s a ton of variables when chasing these fish, but the fish can be epic, and if you follow these principals mentioned, I know you’ll be able to catch a bunch more fish!
Want to watch the video version? Here's a link to this information over on YouTube: https://youtu.be/lA6uxlIo2EM