The old saying “being in the right place at the right time” pertains to a lot of fortunate events, but it rings especially true for catching a trophy bass.
But wouldn’t it be nice to stack the deck a little — to know the right time and place to catch that lifetime bass?
I can’t help you out on the right place, except to suggest concentrating your fishing on lakes that have big bass.
But some data from Texas might help you zero in on the right time and the right presentation.
The ShareLunker Program encourages anglers to donate live and healthy largemouth bass over 13 pounds caught in Texas to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for selective breeding. In exchange, anglers receive fiberglass replicas of their trophy catches.
Since 1986, 548 bass have been entered in the ShareLunker Program, and catch date and moon phase are available for each fish.
Last month I reported that, based on an analysis of the ShareLunker catch data, the best time of the year to hook up with a lunker bass is the three or four weeks after the last freeze day.
Based on average last-freeze dates, lunker time starts in late January in South Mississippi, late February in Central Mississippi and March in North Mississippi.
But I also cautioned it is better to be early than late.
I hear a lot of dock talk about the effect of moon phase on bass behavior, and a hot topic in these exchanges is thoughts on the best time to go lunker hunting.
Certainly, the full moon has a lot of fans; others swear by the dark or new moon. A good friend who specializes in night fishing for overgrown bass in Mississippi waters has caught four double-digit bass two nights after the full moon and none on other moon phases.
What do the ShareLunker records of 548 13- to 18-pound bass tell us about the best moon phase to catch a giant bass?
The number of trophy bass caught on any day of the lunar cycle varied without trend. In other words, there was no day in the lunar cycle that stands out as the best day to catch a trophy bass.
It is important to note that the ShareLunker database only provides information on the numbers of bass caught. Lacking any information about how many anglers were fishing on any given day, it is not possible to calculate the catch rate on any day of the lunar cycle.
If more anglers actually fished on and around full moon days than on other days, as the dock talk would lead you to believe, the lunker catch rate measured as fish per angler day would be lowest on the full moon.
As far as lunar effects on trophy bass, go with what you think works and fish your confidence lunar periods. If you don’t have confidence days, fish when you can and be confident that the catches of 548 ShareLunker bass are strong evidence that any moon phase is as good as any other.
The ShareLunker database also provided information about presentations that enticed the greatest number of lunker bass.
Soft plastic baits — a variety of lures including lizards, craws, and worms — caught the most 13-plus-pound bass.
Jig came in a distant second. Only a small fraction of the trophy bass were caught on live bait, and a couple of those fish were caught by anglers fishing for crappies — don’t you know that was quite a tussle.
Bass anglers have seen a lot of hot new lures since the 1980s, so I was curious if effective lures changed over time. Enough fish were caught only on jigs and soft plastic baits over the 28-year record to allow meaningful comparison.
Clearly, soft plastic baits are the best lure for trophy bass, but the venerable bass jig remains a consistent producer.
I hope everyone reading this finds themselves in the right place at the right time to catch a memory this year.