Schooling Bass – Part 1

As summer rocks on, you will start to see more and more schooling activity on just about any lake or reservoir in Texas. 

For the most part, bass fisherman don’t get to see much feeding action, and when the water turns violent with bass smashing shad like water wolves, it just does something to us. 

Now, what body of water you live on will dictate a lot of variables when it comes to schooling bass.  But for the most part, the bass will be feeding on Threadfin Shad.  Why is that important?  Well, I want to imitate the forage that they are feeding on. 

Bass will typically appear out of nowhere blasting shad and be back out of sight in less than a minute. 

So, what do you do?  Wait for them to resurface and cast back at them?  Start graphing until you find the school?  Or, go back to the pattern you were fishing before the school came to the surface and hope they come up again close by?

These are all questions only YOU can answer.  If I am in a tournament and I need a keeper or 2, I will certainly try and stay on the school to pick up my limit.  If I am fun fishing with a friend, I will also try to fire up the school and pick off some of these aggressive bass.  BUT, if I am at Fork, Falcon or Toledo and I am trophy hunting, I could care less about catching a 12-18” bass. 

Remember what I said earlier, only YOU can answer that question if you want to go after them or not. 

Now, let’s gaze into the soul of a school of feeding bass and the best ways to catch them.  IMO there are very few to no big bass directly in the topwater feeding commotion.  There may be a few bigger fish relatively close by the school waiting for stragglers or even to pick off a small bass out of the school. 

I do not subscribe to the theory that there are always large bass directly under the school and if you cast under them you catch bigger fish. 

Most big bass are not out in open water chasing shad as big as your thumb.   They would rather exert their energy for a larger meal, such as a gizzard shad, bream or crappie. 

Now, I am not saying always, but most schools are smaller than you think.  There may be 6-12 bass in most.  Quite often the mega schools you see are white bass with a few blacks mixed in. 

Bass will push the shad to the surface where they are pinned and can’t get away from them.  But, bass feed primarily under the surface most of the time.  This is when knowing how to read your graph really pays off.  The shad will appear as a ball normally fairly close to the surface.  The bass will be the marks that are under the ball and usually in a horizontal line.  When you see the lines running at an angle up towards the school, these are bass that are feeding on the shad and your graph shows the bass moving rapidly through the water column. 

So, don’t think you have to wait for them to break the surface to be able to catch them.  Keep your eyes on the water as well as your graph and you will put the odds in your favor to catch more schoolers this summer. 

Next week we will go over baits and techniques to catch these little packs of water wolves. 

Story by Shane Smith

TF&G Staff:
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