Bass Fishing Tips: How To Fool Finicky Schooling Fish

Frustration can set in when trying to catch finicky schooling bass focusing on live forage instead of your artificial bait. Try these secret tips for catching schooling bass from veteran pro angler Matt Arey.

Bass Fishing Tips: How To Fool Finicky Schooling Fish

Use small, white crappie lures on jigheads like pro angler Matt Arey when finicky schooling bass won't hit your bigger baits. (Photo: Alan McGuckin)

Few scenes in all of freshwater fishing spur a greater rush of adrenaline than the sight of bass schooling in a surface feeding frenzy. Except sometimes their appetites seem tougher to please than verbally abusive chef Gordon Ramsay in an episode of the television cooking show Hell’s Kitchen.

Fact is, the weather during practice at Eastern Oklahoma’s Lake Tenkiller, sight of 2019’s final regular season Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, served temperatures that felt like hell’s kitchen – which also seemed to send tons of bass to the surface to bust up shad.    

“It seems like there are schooling fish everywhere you look all day long here. But they’re super tough to catch because they’re feeding on tiny little threadfin shad, versus larger gizzard shad,” says Matt Arey, winner of more than $1 million in career prize money on the professional bass tournament circuits.  

Temperamental bass bring out Arey’s little bag of tricks. Actually it’s not a bag, but instead a single tackle tray stocked full of tiny grubs and jig heads meant for catching crappie. 

“It’s all about matching the hatch," he said. "If they’re gonna eat little threadfin shad like peanut M&M’s, then I’ll give ‘em what they want in the form of 2 ½ to 3 ½ crappie grubs."

Arey throws a variety of curly tail grubs and paddle tails. The 1/8- and 3/16-ounce leadheads he pairs them with come from a mold he inherited from Arnold Ledford, a treasured fishing buddy who died in 2018 in their hometown of Shelby, N.C. Arey uses 6-pound P Line Fluoroclear line on a long 7-foot 4-inch spinning rod to maximize casting distance. 

The greatest benefit to Arey’s use of small crappie lures is getting topwater schooling bass to bite when they seem to refuse more standard lures designed for largemouth and smallmouth.

Make your own box with these lures designed for crappie. Next time you're having trouble getting schooling bass to bite, give them a try.

Alan McGuckin is Director of PR for Dynamic Sponsorships, a Tulsa-based company with clients including Toyota, Carhartt, Quantum Fishing and others.


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