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The sun is just breaking the darkness when the big surface plug hits the water near one of the thousands of trees in the river. After twenty seconds, the time to let the ripples disappear, I twitch slightly the Zara Spook then let it sit. Another twitch and the "walkin' the dog" retrieve begins. A little pause between two limbs of the tree: WHAM! A big bass tries to kill the intruder. The hook set is almost immediate, just time enough to let the fish take the lure in her mouth. After an hard fight the bass is in the boat. Time for a nice picture, then she slips back in the water and returns to her tree.
Another six keepers are landed and released in the next hour. My buddy decide to tie on a buzz bait. On the first cast a bass lunges at the bait and misses. A second later, she strikes again, another miss. On the third strike the fish is hooked, a beautiful 3-pounder that is released immediately.
Now the sun is high in the sky and the top water bite slows down drastically. We think the fish have buried themselves in the vegetation along the shore. It's time for the flipping stick and a bag of plastic worms. The boat parallels the shoreline, at the distance of about six feet and we start to flip a motor oil colored worm in the heart of the trees. Five minutes later the first bass bites my bait and in the same moment my buddy has a vicious strike, we pull our rods high and fight together a bass who has taken both worms at the same time. After a brief fight we land and release the fish with a smile.
By seven p.m. we have caught about fifty largemouth bass ranging from one to four pounds, on different techniques and lures. We are not in U.S.A., nor at Cuba or Mexico, we are in Europe. More precisely, in a northern Italian river filled with aggressive bass.
In the last ten years bass fishing in Italy has grown tremendously. The number of anglers is increasing day by day. Even though professional bass fishing is not yet possible, largely because a lack of sponsors, tournaments are organized very often by the Italian bass clubs. The number of participants is a testimony to the growing popularity of this sport in Italy. Catch and Release is a common procedure among tournament anglers but there are a lot of other fishermen that still keep all the fish they catch. And with live bait, they catch a lot of little bass and a few huge ones.
Italian bassers love to use plastics. Worms, grubs, crawfish and other kinds of plastic fill their huge tackle boxes. Hard baits like spinner baits, crank baits, buzz baits and surface plugs are used less. The jig-and-pig, a well known big bass bait, is fished only by a handful of fishermen. But don't think Italian anglers are at the stone age about bass fishing! We also have our specialists. Some anglers are skilled in flipping and pitching, others are wizards with spinner baits or crank baits. Experienced anglers are generally those who fish regularly in the tournaments. English language magazines and books are read with relish by the small core of serious fishermen. The largemouth bass has invaded Italy and won the hearts of Italian fishermen.
Bass fishing in Italy is good all year long. The key to bass fishing success is to match the right techniques to the time of year, just as in everywhere else in it's range.
EARLY SPRING - Springtime, just before the spawn (in Italy, this generally occurs from April to June, depending on the weather and location), is great bass action. I fish mostly with spinner baits or crank baits in spring because bass are often hard to locate and catch with other methods. I like bass fishing in rivers in spring because I think big fish are easier to find and catch. My first choice is a spinner bait. A 1/4 oz. model with single gold Colorado blade and fire tiger or white skirts. The slender profile of this spinner bait, along with its slow fall, is irresistible to bass, especially the big ones. Crank baits are another lure I love to use in early spring because, like spinner bait, is a reflex bait and allows me to fish more water. I like the plastic models with built-in rattlers in spring, with chartreuse/blue or a fire tiger color pattern. Plastic crank baits are louder than wooden ones and I think they draw more strikes when bass not relating to a specifi! c kind of structure or cover.
LATE SPRING/SUMMER - Since in Italy fishing for spawning bass is not allowed, we must wait until the half of June to return to fish. Late spring and summer can be fished in the same way because bass, during the hot, shiny days tend to bury in every piece of cover available in the water. For this reason, flipping is the best technique. In warm water, I prefer to flip vegetation like bulrushes and cat tails. I think these are the best summer cover available for the biggest bass because of plenty of oxygen and bait fish. Even the jig-and-frog represent a good choice for summer bassing. You don't have a lot of strikes as you could have with the plastic worm but you will catch quality fish. In Italy, bass don't reach huge size like in the U.S.A. but a four or five-pounder it's not too hard to catch, especially with the jig-and-frog.
In certain situations, like dawn, sunset or cloudy sky, top water fishing is most fun way to catch bass in summer. But I prefer to use a big willow leaf spinner bait in the fire tiger color pattern or 3/8 oz. black buzz bait to catch the big fish.
FALL AND WINTER - During the fall period the majority of bass anglers try to catch some fish throwing spinner baits or crank baits to visible targets. But I usually flip 1/4 oz. tube jigs and grubs and I generally score big! This technique pays off well for me until the middle of December. When the air begin to freeze and snow appears I pitch my tube jigs and jig & pig in water ranging from four to six feet deep, always around some cover. My favorite colors for plastic baits in this period are chartreuse/pepper and pearl/silver glitter and my jigs & pigs are black/blue tinsel and brown/copper flash. In winter bass remain around cover and you need an accurate presentation to get bites.
I hope you have enjoyed this article, and maybe learned how bass fishing is done in Italy.
Your Friend, Massimo
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