The 1970s and 80s saw a proliferation of bass fishing publications, including a series of how-to books put out by the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. The BASSmasters Techniques That Catch Bass is one book from that series. First published in 1977, the book was edited and partly authored by former BASSMaster Magazine editor Bob Cobb. The book is a fascinating instructional volume featuring several of the era’s top professional bass anglers. Fascinating because you can really tell what these guys were thinking at the time, as you often get the “how-tos” directly from the anglers themselves, in their own words.
The book contains 14 chapters and is 176 pages in length. The chapters cover everything from shallow water fishing to targeting suspended bass, springtime to winter bass tactics, spinnerbaits to crankbaits, flippin’ to slider fishing, marking hot spots on big lakes to farm pond fishing, and more. It’s a great overview of the popular techniques and tactics of the era, featuring personalities such as Ricky Green, Jimmy Houston, Bob Cobb, Billy Westmorland, Buck Perry and Charlie Brewer, to name a few. Let’s take a brief look at a few of the chapters in this book.
The second chapter is titled “The New King of the Shallow-Water Pros?” highlighting Jimmy Houston and is, in my opinion, worth the price of the book alone. At the time of publication (1977) Houston, who’s pictured on the cover of the book, was a 31-year-old sensation who had won the “Bass Angler of the Year” one year earlier.
The chapter covers Houston’s speed fishing approach and his underhand casting method in some depth, as well as his preferred tournament winning baits (special attention to the spinnerbait). Much of it is in Houston’s own words, which makes for an engaging read. It’s interesting particularly given that at the time Houston was in the relatively early stages of his lengthy career. He had achieved national acclaim for his Bass Angler of the Year award and would go on to even more accolades for his success in professional bass fishing, book publication and his television show.
It’s fun to look at some of the photos of Houston fishing back then, looking trim and stylish at the front of his boat, wearing a short sleeve shirt adorned with fishing patches, stars on the wide collar and white bell-bottom pants.
“Right Rig For the Tough Times” takes a look at light tackle. Coming on the heels when power fishing with stout gear was pretty much the norm in bass fishing, light and ultra-light rods and reels, and small lures were becoming more popular thanks to its use by men like Charlie Brewer, Bill Dance and Billy Westmorland. Light gear became something of a craze back in the mid-1970s, with everyone seeming to grab hold of lighter tackle not only for its fish catching abilities but also because it was just a lot of fun fighting fish on the lighter stuff.
Nowadays light tackle is old hat, but back then it was still a little unusual in the bass fishing world. This chapter gives a general overview of the then-new approach, the rods, reels, line, lures and techniques to use when more bass anglers were adopting light tackle. It’s also interesting to note that a couple of the reels mentioned in this chapter, the old Zebco Cardinal 3 and Garcia Ambassadeur 2500C, both sell for hundreds of dollars now on eBay.
And how’s this for a segue? One of the anglers most important to the new light and ultra-light fishing trend was the aforementioned Charlie Brewer. It’s appropriate that the chapter “You Can Do Nothing, and Catch Bass,” featuring Brewer and his Slider Fishing “Do Nothing” approach, immediately follows the section on light tackle.
Utilizing a question-and-answer format, this chapter also presents Brewer discussing the subject directly. For example, when asked why his slower presentation works so well, Brewer answered in folksy style;
It seems that 90 percent of the time we go fishing fish aren’t real active. If on a wild feeding spree, nearly anyone can catch fish. Unfortunately, most fishing seems to be when they “ain’t biting.” Then, we have to grind ‘em out the hard way. When fish are idle or dormant, this method is one of “feed ‘em dessert” or “temp ‘em to bite.” To fool these not too active fish, we must be super-duper salesmen.
Brewer’s techniques don’t seem to be quite as ground-breaking or popular as they were in 1977, but the Slider Fishing Company is still in business and has a devoted following, especially among a growing number of anglers who enjoy a simpler, even retro approach. Other than his own book on the subject, Slider Fishin’ (also published by B.A.S.S. in 1978) this short chapter might be one of the most detailed looks at this approach you’ll find. I’ve never used the Slider method of fishing, but I’ve been intrigued by it ever since I watched a couple of videos on the Retro Bassin’ YouTube channel.
“Inches Can Indeed Make the Difference” covers a tried-and-true presentation: Flippin’. While just about everyone nowadays knows about flippin’, back in the mid-1970s it was kind of revolutionary in tournament bass fishing. Thanks to 1975 Arkansas Invitational winner Dee Thomas, flippin’ has become a staple in just about every pro angler’s box of tricks. It’s a quiet, soft presentation that allows an angler to get close to bass and drop a lure right into its living room.
Chapter author Bob Cobb covers the history, gear, techniques and philosophy of Thomas’ flippin’ method. It’s a wonderful peek into bass fishing’s history, when creative-minded anglers were coming up with unusual tactics to try to win tournaments. To read about a technique when it was fresh and new is pretty neat, as it captures some of the excitement and energy of the era.
While just about every chapter in Techniques That Catch Bass is a good one from both a historical and practical perspective, I’m going to touch on just one more. “How to Plow for Farm Pond Bass” is one that especially interested me. I’ve fished ponds quite a bit over the years, and have a fondness for those small, unnamed little bodies of water that generally see little, if any, action from other anglers.
Author Pete Elkins is a man after my own heart. “I continued the same pattern of short, accurate casts designed to cover every foot of the water,” Elkins recounts after one farm pond excursion. “When I finally called it quits two hours later, I had caught and released over 20 largemouths, including one bruiser just a shade over eight pounds!”
While I have yet to catch an 8-pounder, I have caught similar numbers from such hidden bodies of water. Focusing on murky water ponds, wading and throwing noisy lures like spinnerbaits, Elkins outlines an effective approach to making ponds pay dividends. He indicates that “plowing” the pond, that is, covering a lot of water in a systematic, thorough manner, is one of the keys to success. I agree.
I have to say that it’s kind of encouraging to see a chapter dedicated to fishing small farm ponds in a BASSMasters book highlighting professional tournament anglers and their techniques. This is the kind of thing that brings bass fishing back to the non-professional, weekend fisherman – the guy who may not own a big rig or have thousands of dollars’ worth of gear, but who nevertheless enjoys hitting the water with just as much passion and purpose as the guys who can afford all the flashy gear. Hats off to BASSMasters for reinforcing that bass fishing is for everyone, regardless of career or finances. The techniques discussed in Techniques That Catch Bass can be used by anyone to catch ol’ bucketmouth.
You can still find and purchase affordable copies of the book via the usual online sources. It’s an easy, enjoyable read and is worth adding to your bass fishing library.