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Joe Hackett with a bass.
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Although bass fishing has now become a major industry, with multimillion dollar tournaments and a host of professional, collegiate, high school and amateur competitions, the pursuit of bass is still practiced by kids using a cane pole, outfitted with just a hook, bobber and a minnow for the simple pleasure of angling.

Bass are pursued by professional anglers, decked out in outfits festooned with logos of their corporate sponsors while piloting a boat that bears a closer resemblance to a NASCAR car than a flat-bottom Jon-boat.

Bass anglers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, races and abilities, and it is considered a common man’s sport which can be pursued by anyone. Bass fishing remains an American tradition, as popular as apple pie and baseball, with the nostalgia of Andy of Mayberry and the thrill of an athletic competition.

Nearly half of all bass anglers are between 35 and 54 years of age and over half of them have attended college. Twenty-five percent of all bass anglers are women. Bass anglers outnumber trout fishermen nationwide by a margin of 3 to 1. 

In New York, bass anglers outnumber trout fishermen 43 percent to 36 percent, averaging 15 to 10 days on the water annually.

With an average household income of $64,000, nearly 80 percent are male and 70 percent are married. Nearly 65 percent of bass anglers own one or more boats.

However, bass anglers have a substantially higher average for equipment expenditures each year. They spend $342 annually, compared to $240 for trout anglers and $255 for all freshwater anglers.

Angling is a $70 billion a year industry in the United States, with anglers spending nearly $11 billion annually on equipment and outings.

As a result, bass anglers have become one of the most clearly defined demographic groups in the United States, with over 10.7 million dedicated anglers fishing for a combined 160 million days annually. Millions more fish occasionally.

The Bass Masters Classic is bass fishing’s version of the Super Bowl, featuring a  $500,000 first prize. Last year, the competition attracted over 9.5 million television viewers.


Bass remain America’s most prized game fish. While the species is often targeted by professionals, they remain a common man’s fish, the blue collar sporting equivalent of the whitetail deer.

Bass are the most widely distributed freshwater sport fish species in North America and they are the most commonly pursued of all freshwater species. One out of every three anglers in the country fishes for largemouth bass.

Smallmouth bass ranks as the third-most popular species to catch by US Freshwater fishermen. Yet, bass are possibly the Adirondack’s most underutilized natural resource.

Bass are a very athletic species, voracious feeders and tremendously acrobatic fighters. Smallmouth bass, which can be found in a majority of Adirondack ponds, lakes and rivers, often coexist quite well with trout in these colder waters.

Both species are ravenous feeders and each of them provides a fine fight. Smallmouth are best known for their leaping, head-shaking defense, while largemouth will often hunker down or sound to battle an angler.

Trophy size for smallmouth bass is in the 4-pound, 18-inch range, while largemouth trophies typically tip the scales at 6 pounds, 20 inches or more.

Although bass are more commonly sought for sport with the catch-and-release ethic now practiced by most anglers, they do provide a good meal (taking a few home will not negatively impact the resource). For many, bass have become “the other white meat.”

Many anglers prefer to fish for trout or salmon in the Adirondacks. Some even consider bass a “junk fish,” as low on the sporting scale as a yellow perch. But statistics paint a far different portrait.

Bass are abundant and there are a lot more bass waters available than trout waters.


There is never a bad day to fish for bass, some are just better than others. I find bass provide some of the most exciting angling opportunities available, especially in the heat of the summer when trout are finicky and slow to take.

In New York, anglers can fish for bass year ’round on a catch-and-release basis, utilizing artificial lures only. However, all bass taken must be safely returned to the waters and there are restrictions in several North Country counties, including Franklin, Clinton and St. Lawrence.

The regular bass season always begins on the third Saturday in June and runs through Nov. 30. Coincidentally, it opens Father’s Day weekend, which is also the annual free fishing weekend in New York. There is no better time to introduce newcomers to the sport.

The statewide size limit on bass is 12 inches in length, with a daily creel limit of five. Anglers age 16 and above must have a valid New York State fishing license.

Since bass are very susceptible to changes in barometric pressure, I have found the most success when fishing before an approaching low-pressure system. Extremely productive opportunities can be had when utilizing top-water offerings, especially when the surface is flat and calm.

Early morning and late afternoon outings are preferred, but bass also feed heavily after dark. 


Largemouth bass prefer warm, weedy waters that are rarely conducive for hosting trout. While many claim that “trout don’t live in no ugly places,” the same cannot be said for largemouth bass, which have a proven ability to exist in the most inhospitable of all aquatic environments — ranging from the alligator infested Everglades of Florida to swamps of Georgia and beyond to the reservoirs of Japan and Korea.

Largemouth prefer weeds and the thick cover of lillypads or heavy structures such as submerged trees, stumps and rocky shorelines.

Smallmouth bass inhabit lakes and ponds, as well as rivers and streams. They coexist with trout in many colder waters, and with pike, pickerel and largemouth in warmer conditions. Smallies prefer dropoffs and rocky shelves where they can ambush prey, yet easily escape from danger. 


President Hebert Hoover claimed, “Fishing is much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.”

Fishing provides a respite from the regular routine and offers us an opportunity to escape the numerous electronic gadgets and games that vie for our attention in this digital age. It is also a great way to spend quality time with family in a natural setting, with the prospect of an exciting episode around every bend.

Bass, as a food fish, are as palatable as any freshwater fish, with firm flesh and a white, flaky meat, which when properly cooked is nutty, tender and juicy. Easily filleted, they have few bones. As a pan fish, they are unmatched. Breaded, seasoned and fried, they are difficult to resist.


Bass respond well to a variety of baits, lures and jigs. They also provide extraordinary action on a fly rod — below the surface with streamer flies or on top water with poppers.

Commonly, bass are fished with rubber worms, jigs, spinners, crankbaits and spinner baits. However, most bass simply can’t resist a live minnow or a fresh crayfish or a night crawler fished on a bobber. When bass are prowling, they will attack almost anything in their path.

In recent years, I have had great success using Gary Yamamoto Senko soft baits, which are available in a variety of shapes and colors. They are manufactured from biodegradable gelatin, which comes from pig’s hooves. Fish can taste and smell them. Rigged on a No. 2 offset hook, they are easy to cast even without a weight, and bass love them.

They are easy to use. Simply toss them out and watch the line. As the line becomes taut, or begins to move sideways, reel in the slack and set the hook hard. Then hang on tight for a fight.

As a visiting bass pro once explained, “These things (Senkos) ought to be illegal, ’cuz with one of them any ol’ idiot can catch a big mess of bass.”

I thanked him and quickly tied one on and promptly boated a big bass on the first cast. Now I swear by them.

I prefer to use a fairly stiff, 6 1/2- to 7 1/2-foot rod, with an open-faced reel spooled with 12- to 14-pound test monofilament line. Bass anglers require an outfit with enough backbone to control the fish and to haul them out of the brush, weeds or rocks. It must be able to withstand the abuse of battle.