As regular readers might imagine, bass fishing is one of my very favorite pastimes and largemouth and particularly smallmouth, are my personal favorite species to fish for. I've been in pursuit of freshwater bass for many years and consequently have learned to increase my chances of success by matching my gear to the conditions I'm faced with at any given time and the type of lure I feel will most effectively deal with whatever environment I find myself faced with at any given time.
Among the variables always under consideration: weather, cover, depth, speed of retrieve, time of year, bait utilized, specific species and time of day.
As an example of how I've personally fine-tuned and narrowed down my choices over the years, here are the combos that I use when bass fishing at any given time (though they certainly do occasional double or even triple-duty in pursuit of other species as well):
n 51⁄2-foot composite light-action rod paired with a matching open-face spinning reel loaded with 6-pound clear monofilament line: this is my lower-end knockabout outfit I use when walking a stream or pond, particularly for smallies. My only two-piece rod (why buy a rod for sensitivity and then break it in two?) can be broken down for portability. Stout enough to fish soft plastics like grubs or tubes yet flexible enough to facilitate the efficient casting of smaller in-line spinners and plugs.
n 61⁄2-foot graphite medium-light action spinning rod matched to appropriate sized open-face reel loaded with 8-pound clear mono. My primary smallmouth combo for crankbaits and/or topwaters. A spare spool for the reel will be filled 8-pound fluorescent mono to better line watch for soft plastics.
n 61⁄2-foot graphite medium-heavy spinning rod matched to larger capacity spinning reel loaded with 10-pound fluorescent mono. This is my primary worming rod for smaller or lighter presentations that can be cast more efficiently than with a baitcaster. While featuring graphite-sensitivity, has a heavy enough blank to horse bass out of heavier cover.
n 6-foot baitcasting rod with low-ratio (4:1) baitcasting reel filled with 12-pound fluorescent mono line. short, stout rod provides ease of vertical hookset. Line color makes it easier by far to observe pickups. Lower ratio reel provided needed hook-setting torque rather than high-speed reels that lack such power in favor of a quicker retrieve. Primary worming rod.
n 6-foot, 6-inch baitcasting medium-heavy graphite rod matchd to low-ratio levelwind reel filled with 14-pound fluorescent mono. Much as above but added 6-inches plus for longer casts or pitching and flipping such lures. Many anglers opt for a rod a foot or more longer for such applications.
n 6-foot medium action composite pistol-grip rod matched to medium-ratio (5:1) levelwind reel filled with clear 10-pound mono. Rod configuration makes it a primo choice for skipping under docks and overhanging tree limbs, etc. Nice for jerkbaits, whether they be soft or hard.
n 7-foot medium-light fiberglass baitcasting outfit with medium retrieve ratio and 10-pound clear mono for use of smaller-to medium sized (1/8-1⁄4 ounce) crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
n 7-foot medium action fiberglass baitcasting outfit loaded with 10-pound clear mono for medium-sized crankbaits and spinners. Parabolic action of the fiberglass facilitates longer casts and relatively light line enables cranks staying deeper longer.
n 7-foot medium-heavy fiberglass levelwind combo with high capacity, high-speed (7:1-plus retrieve ratio) reel loaded with 30-pound strength braid. Best for topwaters of all kinds, including frogs, prop-baits and buzzbaits.
n 7-foot heavy-action fiberglass casting rod and high capacity, high-speed levelwind reel filled with 40-pound-plus strength braid. As above, but for exceptionally weedy, dense cover conditions.
Well, that's my projected bass arsenal for this year. I know many of you have even more numerous arrays to hope to cover even more varied situations and conditions. I just feel it is particularly instructive for we hard-core bassers to explain to at least some degree why so many different outfits are desirable for so many of us.
Jack Kiser is the host of both "Buckeye Angler" TV and "The Hunting & Fishing Show" with Steve Jones, heard on radio station WAKR 1590 AM every Sunday evening at 7 p.m. You may contact him at either program's Facebook site.