Tom Mann’s Methods For Catching Bass is a 1972 B.A.S.S. publication that is truly a product of its time. Mann, of course, is one of the most successful lure designers who’s ever lived, with a minnow bucket overflowing with bass catching baits that have become iconic. He was also a highly successful tournament angler, winning the 1971 Georgia Invitational on Lake Seminole and the 1972 Florida National on Lake Kissimmee. Mann qualified for 7 BassMaster Classics and placed 2nd in the very first one on Lake Mead in 1971. In this book he basically wears both hats, lure designer and successful bass angler, writing about a few of his best-known lures and how to fish them, as well as giving anglers solid advice on how to find and catch bass in multiple situations and conditions.
The book lists Mann as the author and Bob Cobb as the editor. But Cobb used a very light hand in editing. The grammar and spelling are occasionally suspect but the 112 page softcover is heavy on folksy charm and pre-modern-electronics bass fishing wisdom. This book is written in Mann’s own words, and it’s all the better for it. The first chapter is titled “Tom Mann’s Philosophy for Bass Fishing,” but there’s really very little bass fishing philosophy here. It’s more a story of Mann’s life growing up on a farm in rural Alabama, and how fishing fit into that life. To me, this story is much more interesting than his fishing philosophy, and really sets the tone for the rest of the book.
I don’t suppose you could expect a lure designer of Mann’s stature to put out a book on how to catch bass without him giving a heavy nod to a few of his own lures. The first half of Methods For Catching Bass spotlights probably his best known lures at the time of publication, each meriting a chapter of its own: the Jelly Worm, Little George, Wooly Bully spinnerbait, and the Mann-O-Lure. In each chapter, Mann discusses the virtues of the bait and how to fish it in various conditions. It’s a great general tutorial on fishing each lure style and the environments for which each one is best suited.
It’s also interesting to note that Mann favored spinning gear over baitcasting gear. He mentioned it more than once throughout the book, while almost ignoring baitcasting gear altogether. He gives his recommendations for the spinning gear set-up he feels is best, and says that, in his opinion, “heavy-duty open-face spinning tackle has the edge over other bass fishing outfits.” Mann’s preference for spinning rods and reels is manna to my ears, as I grew up fishing spinning gear and only came to baitcasting later in life. It’s reassuring to know that one of the world’s best bass anglers bucked the trend a bit by favoring it over the baitcasting gear preferred by most pro anglers.
In the succeeding chapter, “Learn to Think Like a Bass,” Mann discusses topics like bass vision and hearing, feeding habits, living areas, whether bass react to human odors, and even a couple paragraphs on keeping bass for eating. These are all potentially dry topics that have been covered by many other authors, but Mann addresses them with interesting anecdotes and an engaging style that makes for some good reading.
One interesting bit from this chapter comes when Mann talks about odors that repel or attract bass, or scents that serve to cover human odors. “At the 1972 Arkansas National BASS Tournament on Lake Ouachita, one contestant aroused considerable interest by juicing his artificial plastic worms with a well-known spray deodorant, Mennen. The angler swore it made the difference in the number of strikes. Asked about the effectiveness of such tricks, the pro’s fishing partner grinned, ‘I don’t know whether it really helps or not, but I’m afraid not to try it too.’”
This reminds me of a popular “scent” folks fishing for Lake Michigan salmon and trout used to apply to their lures back in the day: WD40. I don’t know who started it, but WD40 as a fishing scent took off like crazy along the lake shore, with everyone from charter captains to pier anglers having cans of it in their gear. You bet we used it too, although I can’t say with certainty whether it increased the hits we got or not. Like Mann alluded, we were afraid not to try it for fear of missing out on something hot.
In one of the editing quirks in the book, the next chapter is titled “How to Find Bass” in the table of contents and in the running head (or top) of each page of the chapter. But the big font title at the start of the chapter repeats the book title with “Tom Mann’s Methods for Catching Bass.” This slight confusion really means, I assume, that this is the “money chapter.” I think that would be a good bet, because Mann subscribes to the old adage that says finding a bass’ lair is job number one. This portion of the book covers where to look for bass and how to develop a pattern for catching them once they’re found. Pattern fishing and structure fishing are well-known tactics today, but in 1972 they were still fairly new to many anglers. Pro anglers like Tom Mann and Roland Martin, and magazines like Fishing Facts and, later, In-Fisherman, have made it the ubiquitous fishing method that every serious angler employs today.
So you might look at this section to be something of a primer on pattern and structure fishing, as well as presenting a way of fishing that has all but disappeared in modern tournament angling. Mann discusses using dry-land terrain to suss out the potential underwater features, using land markers (trees or houses, for example) to triangulate a hot spot on the water, along with a depth sounder and marker buoys to further pinpoint those spots. Of course Mann has high praise for his own Humminbird Depth Sounder in this pursuit. It’s really a great record of how bass fishing used to be before the advent of modern electronics, forward facing sonar, livescope and luxury bass boats equipped with everything but espresso machines. This is how the pros of old did it, and it’s still a highly effective method for non-pro anglers who aren’t blessed with truckloads of money or sponsorships. It’s also the real history of bass fishing that those of us who follow Bass Fishing Archives love, back when the tools and techniques of professional anglers were within easy reach of weekend anglers.
Mann concludes the book with a brief chapter called “Putting It All Together.” He provides a quick bullet list of “Deadly Dozen Tips for Catching Bass” that is, in my opinion, just fantastic common sense advice. And he tells a wonderful story of how he and friend David Lockhart did indeed put it all together one July day in 1972 and boated an unbelievable 25 bass weighing 155 pounds total. Mann continues, “The top 17 weighed 128 pounds; an amazing seven-plus pound average. David’s big bass was so fat it was shaped like a saucer. The fish was 26 inches long with a 25-inch girth.” The picture of Mann and Lockhart with this incredible catch is mind-blowing. In fact the photos alone in this great little book are worth the price of it, in my opinion.
So, notwithstanding the few editing miscues, this is a book every angler who enjoys bass fishing history and its colorful personalities should own. Tom Mann is a legitimate legend in the sport and “Methods For Catching Bass” is all the more engaging because it’s written in his own words. You can still find the book available in a few online sources for under $20.