The rock bass is a member of the bass family with a fairly widespread range in North America. Rock bass can be found from Canada all the way down to Alabama. They’ve even been found in Texas. The rock bass isn’t given much attention. That may be due in part to its diminutive size. But rock bass are a lot of fun to catch on light tackle. They don’t taste bad either.
According to the IGFA, two fish are tied for world record rock bass. Both weighed three pounds flat. The first was caught in Ontario, Canada in 1974. The other was caught in Lake Erie in Pennsylvania in 1998. There were fourteen years between those fish. And it’s been twenty two years since the last record was caught.
Where to catch rock bass
As the name would suggest, rock bass are often found among rocks and boulders. They can be caught in lakes and moving water. Look for rocky outcroppings, back eddies, and shady areas. Rock bass sometimes congregate with other panfish. They can become accustomed to human activity too. So you might walk right up to the shoreline or even a dock and find some rock bass right under your feet.
Most rock bass catches are probably incidental. Anglers catch them while fishing for other species. Or when they are fishing for nothing in particular by just throwing out a worm. Although rock bass are small members of the bass family, they do have rather large mouths. So it’s not uncommon to catch them on larger lures like crankbaits.
The following is the list of some of the best baits for rock bass. I don’t know if they will help you break the world record for this fish. But using them will definitely give you a good chance at catching rock bass of all sizes.
Plastic trout worms
Small plastic trout worms catch all kinds of fish. But they seem to work particularly well for rock bass. There are a few ways to fish trout worms for rock bass. Either slide one on a size 8 or 10 hook and put some split shot on your line or just use a 1/64 ounce jig head. Then all you have to do is drop the worm where you suspect the rock bass to be. You can put a little action on the worm by twitching your rod tip.
Rock bass takes are often quite light. So pay attention to your line. If you see any hesitation as the worm drops, you may have a fish. You can also fish on a tight line and feel for bites. Otherwise you may not even know you had a bite until it is too late.
Certain colors of trout worms do seem to work better than others for rock bass. The ubiquitous pink worm can definitely catch rock bass. But the species seems a little more eager to go after natural colored trout worms. Brown and red work well. For whatever reason, cheese yellow worms can also catch a lot of rock bass.
As mentioned above, rock bass will attack lures. It can be surprising to see a six inch fish hit a four inch floating Rapala but it happens with regularity. If you actually want to target rock bass though, you should use a lure of a more appropriate size.
The best crankbait I have found for catching rock bass is the 1/8 Ounce Tiny Trap. This is just a scaled down version of the original Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap that has long been popular with bass fisherman. There is also a 1/4 Ounce Mini Trap but the tiny version seems to be a lot more effective.
To fish a Rat-L-Trap for rock bass just cast it along rock piles, bolders, or rocky shores. Then retrieve it with a steady wind. You’ll know when you’re doing it right because the lure will vibrate in the water. In the clear waters that rock bass like best try natural colors. Silvers and greys are good. If you end up fishing turbid water with a lot of color you can go for a brighter color that will stand out. You don’t necessarily have to do that though. True to its name, the Rat-L Trap rattles in the water and makes a lot of racket that fish can home in on.
Red worms and nightcrawlers
Frankly speaking one of the best ways to catch rock bass is to use live bait. Rock bass will definitely hit minnows and things like jigs tipped with wax worms. But a plain old red worm or nightcrawler on a hook is maybe the best overall bait for catching rock bass.
Because rock bass have such large mouths you can get away with using a big hook. But if you’re targeting rock bass with worms something like these Mustad Classic Special Long Shank Beak Baitholder Hooks in size 6 or 8 will work best.
Depending on where you are fishing you might not even need any weight on your line. Just tie on a good and thread it through a worm. Then toss the worm to a likely location and wait. You don’t need to impart any action into the worm. The rock bass will find it and pick it up. Then all you need to do is set the hook and reel in the fish.