If you’re on the water as much as I am, you notice trends. One of the trends I’ve seen over the past couple of years has been an increase in fishing pressure. It’s partly due to COVID, lots of people had more time to fish during the pandemic. But it’s also something we cope with every year when the weather warms and people get outside to enjoy the water with friends and family.
Not so many years ago, an increase in fishing pressure wasn’t such a big deal. There’s usually plenty of room to spread out and plenty of fish to catch. But with all the technological advancements we’ve seen recently, added fishing pressure can get very noticeable very fast.
When I was a kid – just getting started and getting serious about fishing – I read that 10% of the fishermen caught 90% of the fish. I wanted to be in that 10%!
I can’t say for sure that those numbers were ever accurate, but I can tell you they’re definitely not accurate anymore. With modern technology and all of the great teaching that’s available on YouTube and other platforms, anglers – even relatively new anglers – are a lot better than they used to be. That includes the pros. We’re watching some of the same stuff everyone else is watching in our effort to keep up with new developments. As a result, it can seem like we’re all fishing for the very same fish in the very same way.
Of course, that’s not all bad. I love that fishing license sales are up and that our boat ramps are staying busy. It means good things for our sport and our industry. It’s up to me and you to find ways to catch bass that other anglers aren’t catching. That’s always been a part of the sport. It’s just that it’s a bigger part of the sport today than it ever has been before.
When I know I’ll be fishing for highly-pressured bass, there are two main things I do to adjust my fishing and to catch the bass that other anglers don’t.
The first is to show the fish something different, something they probably haven’t seen before. Usually, that means a new (or very old) lure or an unusual color, but it can also mean a different rig or even a different angle of presentation.
The Berkley PowerBait Agent E is a bottom-crawling lure that I designed for Pure Fishing, and it’s really versatile. It’s part swimbait, part swim jig and all-around bass catcher. Because it’s still pretty new, the fish haven’t seen anything quite like it yet, and it appeals to their curiosity. Because it’s weedless and has a single hook, you can fish it anywhere and even skip it under docks and other cover, where bass seldom see a lure like it. It comes in sizes from 3/8- to 1-ounce to cover any depth, and I’ve had a ton of success just slow-rolling it on the bottom or speeding it up to cover the middle part of the water column.
Another go-to bait for me in heavy pressure situations is the Berkley PowerBait Gilly. Unlike Agent E, it does not come pre-rigged, so you can fish it Texas-style, on a Carolina rig, as a drop-shot bait, or just about any other way you can think of.
I like to fish the Gilly on a Tokyo rig around spawning bass. It keeps the bait near the bottom, where it represents a threat to a bass nest. I also like to use it around bluegill beds, where big bass often gather to eat bream. It works!
But a new look isn’t the only thing you can do to catch pressured fish. My other favorite tactic is to focus on nothing-looking areas that get little attention from other anglers. If I’m in a creek or pocket and one bank has a bunch of stumps or grass while the opposite bank looks barren, I’m going to give that ugly bank a closer look.
You can bet that every angler who’s ever gone into that area has cast to the stumps and grass — and they’ve probably caught quite a few fish, too, at least until it got pounded nearly to death.
Sometimes, if you focus your attention on the ugly spots, you can find something that other anglers have missed. When you do, the results can be special!
Modern electronics are a big help when fishing nothing-looking spots, but you can also do the job with search baits like the Agent E or a lipless crankbait like the Berkley Warpig. Make long casts and vary your retrieve until you find something the bass like. You’re probably presenting a bait to fish that don’t often see a lure.
Finding ways to catch pressured bass is becoming more and more important because sometimes that’s the only kind of bass we have.