“I’m just going to see if I catch anything with this”, I said half-kidding as I prepared to cast in a 6 inch golden shiner I had just caught with a little bit of worm.
“You’ll never catch anything with that!” my cousin said. “Maybe you would catch something in salt-water,” my aunt added, “but not in freshwater”. Less than a minute later I was reeling in the biggest smallmouth bass of my life, in a pond not known to hold anything but the occasional bass. This discovery led me to try all sorts of so-called trash fish. That summer I casted in tiny yellow perch, and sunfish as well, all with amazing results.
Tackle stores sell nightcrawlers and regular shiners, and these work great at times, sometimes out-producing all other baits. But, have you ever seen those same shiners swimming in the shallows, or found a nightcrawler in the sand in 4 feet of water? No, because these are not natural baits. So it is no surprise that baits that make up a bass’ diet in a particular pond work best there.
When a bass fisherman catches a sunfish, it is almost always thrown back with disgust, the smaller ones ever more so. However, this is a mistake, and I often try to catch the smallest possible sunfish. Why? Sunfish and tiny bluegill are a natural and common bait that swim in almost all bass waters. Hook them 18 inches under a bobber and you’ll have amazing luck. Not only do these catch bass, they catch the biggest in the area. No more dealing with catfish when fishing a nightcrawler, or yellow perch when shiner fishing. The smallest bass I’ve caught on a sunfish is two pounds!
Golden shiners are silvery gold fish. They have very small mouths, travel in schools, and can be very skittish. The most effective way of catching golden shiners is with a super small hook and a little piece of bread or worm. Golden shiners are usually anywhere from 3 inches to as much as a foot. There are many ponds with natural populations of these fish, which provide good forage for bass.