While there are many reasons why bass will suspend in open water and some still unknown as studies continue. As for the angler it doesn’t matter why it only matters that you found them. Knowing the whys, can certainly help you locate the bass, but as some scientist has alluded to, it might not be the reason that you suspected and again, as an angler I say, who cares the school of suspended bass are below and it is now time to figure out how to catch them.
There are as many ways to catch suspended bass as there are reasons for bass to suspend in the water column. There are jerkbaits, spoons and crankbaits to name a few. A bait that gets overlooked as a suspended bass bait is the soft stick bait or plastic worm. These baits can be worked efficiently and effectively throughout the water column and help you get more bites from suspended bass that aren’t real active. Suspended bass aren’t always hard to catch. Sometimes there is a feeding frenzy happening below the surface as bass ambush schools of suspended baitfish as they travel to and from wherever they are going. Learning the baitfish habits will help you, as a bass angler, locate more suspended bass and take advantage of these windows of opportunity when they happen. That would be another article.
These soft baits are realistic and subtle and with a little practice can be fine-tuned for effectively fishing for and catching suspended bass. Here are a few tips on catching more suspended bass on your next trip.
When bass suspends over deep water, soft baits like the Lunker City Slug-Go , Yamamoto Senko or theYum Dinger can be deadly and will often trigger bites when nothing else will. Sometimes bass will suspend in the water column and refuse to bite. However, there is a technique that will produce in these situations and that is the soft stick bait. With the soft stick bait, the rate of fall can be managed with a couple of tricks to slow or speed up the fall depending on the situation and what the suspended bass prefer that day.
The best way to control the rate of fall is with the hook of your suspended bass bait. With a big heavy wire hook the soft bait will fall fast while a small fine wire hook will cause the bait to fall slower. I prefer a heavy wire hook when casting into open water because the heavy hook helps get the bait down to the desired depth. When the bass are located, drop a marker. Casting past where the bass are suspended will ensure that your suspended bass bait ends up where the bass are when it hits the magic depth where the bass are suspending. Making your cast to the exact spot will cause the bait to pendulum away from the strike zone. This technique works equally well whether you rig the bait Texas style or wacky rig style. I prefer wacky rigged Senko when in open water. The Texas rig is better when fishing water with a lot of cover where hang-ups can be a problem, like standing timber.
It’s important to know the sink rate of your suspended bass bait and develop a countdown for your bait. This allows you to work the bait once it’s in the strike zone instead working it in non-productive water where there are no suspended bass. You can test the sink rate of your rig by letting the bait sink for ten seconds and measuring the distance from the water's surface to the bait, then divide by ten so if your bait sinks five feet then your bait is sinking at a rate of one foot every two seconds. The time spent acquiring this sink rate will allow you to consistently put the bait in the strike zone and more suspended bass in the boat.
The line will also make a big difference in the rate of fall. Monofilament and most braided lines will slow the rate of fall as they tend to float. On the other hand, fluorocarbon sinks and allows the bait to fall at a faster rate getting your bait down to bass suspended in deeper water and it will get there faster. Keep in mind that resistance increases as the bait reaches deeper water, slowing the sink rate so anything deeper than, say 15 feet usually needs a small split shot above the stick bait to overcome that resistance and continue on down to the suspended bass, unless you don’t mind the wait.
When you feel confident that your suspended bass bait is in the strike zone, then you can work it to entice the bass into striking. I like to twitch the end of my rod to give the bait a very subtle undulating action. It is important to barely twitch the rod tip for that subtle action suspended bass like. After twitching the rod tip several times it's time to be patient. Let your bait sit still for several seconds as it slowly falls through the school of suspended bass. The bass saw the bait falling and they know it’s there and dead-sticking the bait will often trigger a strike when movement of the bait might turn a potential strike into a turn and run and leaving your bait, dead in the water.
I believe it’s worth mentioning a new line for your spinning rigs.Berkley NanoFil Nanofil is made of gel-spun polyethylene consisting of hundreds of Dyneema nano-filaments molecularly creating a unified filament fishing line. I'm not sure what all that means but the line is great and will increase your casting distance dramatically. I am very pleased with Nanofil's performance and intend to use it exclusively this year on my spinning reels. Nanofil is white and provides great visibility and the fish do not seem to notice, however; I have not used it in clear water, but a fluorocarbon leader would help that if it proved to be a problem. Initially I used a fluorocarbon leader, but broke it off in a tournament and needed two more fish to fill my limit. With only a half hour before heading in I decided to save time and tie directly to the Nanofil line. I have never used a leader since that day as I filled my limit and actually culled. I caught not only more fish, but bigger fish. This could have been a coincidence. However, if you fish tournaments you tend to file away little things like that, coincidence or not.
The next time you are on the water and you just can't get a strike pounding the bank move out and use your sonar to locate suspended fish and throw a soft stick bait into the school and see what happens. However, keep in mind that bass usually suspend for a reason and more often than not that reason has also suspended feeding as well. Experimenting with this technique and fine tuning your soft stick bait arsenal will help you catch more suspended bass when the bite gets tough.