What Triggers Bass to Bite – Two Proven Methods

If only bass were hungry all the time and willing to eat. That just isn’t the case, but don’t despair. These two proven methods trigger bass to bite even when they are not in an eating mood.

Savvy bass anglers can trigger bass into biting by using lures and presentations that elicit reaction strikes. Another key instinct anglers can use to trigger bass into biting involves fleeing baitfish or a wounded prey presentation. 

At first, these presentations sound challenging. Once the behavior of the bass is understood and how these presentations tap into that behavior, you will open up a whole new world of bass fishing. 

Reaction Strikes and How They Trigger Bass to Bite

This type of presentation is utilized by the best pro anglers almost on a daily basis. 

It can be thought of as forcing the bass to bite, even when they do not want to. It’s not that this is a simple presentation, but the idea behind it is. Once understood, there will be days on the water where you consistently are catching fish when others are not.

Think about it like this.

If someone came up to you and started to flick their hands at your face what would happen? First, your eyes will instinctively blink. Second, you are going to react somehow.

You may tell them to knock it off, push the person away, or even become quite irritated and do something harsh. 

Now apply that to bass fishing. 

Our favorite gamefish cannot swat away lures with their hands. They react by biting it. 

A tackle tray full of suspending jerkbaits will help you pick the right color for the conditions. Anglers want flash on sunny days and solid colors cloudy days.

Lures That Elicit Reaction Strikes and Trigger Bites

A good reaction bait has one of two characteristics – sometimes both. 

Sudden movements and speed.

A lure that is moving quickly then pauses, starts, stops, and then takes off quickly again is prone to cause bass to react to it. Likewise, lures that have very random and unpredictable sudden movements do the same thing. 

My favorite reaction lure is a suspending jerkbait. You may also hear these lures called slash baits, because when presented properly, that is exactly what they do under the water.

A good suspending jerkbait retrieve allows the lure to cut with a sudden movement from side-to-side. Pause. And then cut again. The lure should rip almost 180° from left-to-right. It will also cut up and down.

Suspending jerkbaits often get classified as only a cold water lure, but that is not true. These highly effective reaction lures catch bass in every month of the calendar. I use them most often in the summer. 

To present the jerkbait properly, it is critical that the ripping motion with the rod is done when the lure is sitting, or paused, on a slack line. This extra slack will impart the most side-to-side action. If the lure is ripped on a tight line, it is more likely to pull instead of cut. This type of tight-line ripping will also fatigue your arm at an incredible rate.

Other excellent reaction lures are square billed crankbaits, deep diving crankbaits, and Texas rigged plastics that utilize heavier weights – especially in clear water.

A jig or Texas-rigged plastic that falls quickly by the nose of a bass suspending under a dock or tree is apt to cause that bass to react. The lure flashing by can draw the reaction anglers are looking for. 

The Fleeing Baitfish or Wounded Prey Presentation for Bass

If bass are not biting using traditional reaction-type lures, then I will switch over to this presentation. 

It relies on the natural instincts of bass to not let an easy meal pass by. 

Think about human behavior. If we walk into a room and see someone else eating, we get the instinctual feeling we want to eat something as well. If there is a big bowl of chips in that room it is likely we cannot resist and will help ourselves. The meal was just too accessible.

Think about bass fishing the same way.

The Fleeing Baitfish Presentation

If you have spent much time near water you have probably witnessed a school of minnows, or baitfish, getting chased. 

When this happens other predators in the area are instinctively put on high alert. They want to participate in the feeding frenzy as well. They don’t want to miss out. Only seconds ago a five-pound largemouth could have been sitting around not doing anything but hanging under the shade of a laydown. 

Suddenly, another bass swims by chasing minnows. That neutral bass is going to want to get in on the hunt.

Figuring out how to trigger the feeding instinct is key on days when bass are just not interested in eating.

Best Lure for a Fleeing Baitfish Presentation

A soft plastic jerkbait is ideal for mimicking minnows getting chased. 

Texas rig the lure weightless and cast it out. Leave it sit a second and then raise the rod tip up and twitch the rod while reeling quickly. Then pause the lure and repeat. Make that soft jerkbait skip across the surface just like a fleeing minnow would.

This presentation is incredibly effective. I have watched big bass come flying out from cover thirty feet away to obliterate a lure presented in this manner. 

That bass most likely was in a neutral mood and not wanting to feed until that natural instinct was triggered.

Wounded Prey Presentation to Trigger Bass to Bite

This method harkens right back to the big bowl of chips sitting on the counter.

When a meal is too easy to capture, bass will once again engage that feeding instinct and respond. 

A sickly or wounded bluegill haphazardly swimming through open water is not going to make it through the day. Apply this same idea to your lures and presentation.

When triggering this type of bite, I most often tie on a ¼ oz swim jig with a Rage Menace Twin Tail Grub for a trailer. This combination allows me to swim the lure with a slow, pulsing motion that looks like a sunfish struggling to stay up in the water column.

Bringing the lure just above some weeds, along a dock or laydown, or across other high-percentage areas is inviting a vicious strike from a predator. The key is to fish the lure slowly and in a manner that makes it look wounded. 

Final Thoughts

Oh, how I wish bass were in a feeding mood all the time. When they are, the fishing is fun, fast, and furious.

Odds are, when you hit the water the bass will be in that neutral mood and we need to use either a reaction strike or a fleeing baitfish/wounded baitfish presentation to trigger those feeding instincts.

Enjoy experimenting with what works best for you on your body of water. Let me know how it goes.

Be safe. Tight lines. And make sure to encourage someone today. You never know how you might change their life forever.

Isaiah 6:8

Steve Rogers

Steve spends his time filming and writing about bass fishing. You may even see him in your area. If so, stop and say "hi."

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