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Differences & Similarities in US vs. Italian Bassin'
by Massimo Zanetti

Unfortunately, in my life, I haven't had yet the chance to fish waters outside of my native Italy. I hope in the near future to fish a couple of tournaments in the land of black bass, the USA. In my previous article, Italian Bass, you have surely noted how much alike fishing is for this little green game fish around the world and how much alike we are in pursuit of our passion. But there are always some differences, big or little, in the way we approach our fishing for largemouth and there are many things we can learn from each other. I'm a regular reader of BASSMASTER magazine and others publications (books and magazines) around the world and I've learned a lot of things about the sport of bass fishing in USA. For me, sharing our experience is the fastest and easy way to learn more about the sport. So, I'm here to tell you more about similarities and differences that I've encountered between what I've read in US magazines and what I've learned in years of bass fishing in Italian waters.


The first thing I've noted about Italian bass and US bass is that, no matter the water you fish, (USA, Italy, and from what I understand, South Africa, Japan and other countries), there is no difference at all in the behavior of bass. Cold fronts slow down the fish metabolism in Japan as well as in Italy. On hot sunny days, fish seems to bury in vegetation or in any piece of cover available in South Africa as well as in Spain. The examples I give you could be infinite but, in the end, the conclusion is that the bass around the world react in the same way to events like fishing pressure, high water, cold fronts etc. Applying fishing techniques I've previously read on the pages of US magazines, I understand that in Italy bass react in the same manner they react in USA. Interesting, isn't it?

Northern Strain. In Italy big mouths reach the ten-pound range only with great difficulty. This is due to the fact that the majority of bass population is represented by Northern strain, along with some spotted and redeye bass. The Florida strain, the kind of bass stocked in the western lakes and impoundments in US, are not stocked in Italy. I think that, thanks to the latitude of Italy, similar to other US states where this fish is present, the stocking of Florida strain, if ever done, will be a blessing for the anglers that enjoy bass fishing as much as I do. The first bass were stocked in Italy at the end of last century, in a northern Italian lake. By now the bass are present in almost every kind of Italian water. They are still mostly in the north and central part of the country, but also a few in the southern waters and in the islands (Sicilia and Sardegna).

Speaking about waters, I note a big difference between US and Italian body of waters. In Italy we haven't got the big impoundments that are present on the other end of the Atlantic Ocean. Waters like Sam Rayburn and similar, are not found in Italy. However we have lot of natural lakes, not as big as Lake Erie or Ontario but still big enough to host a good population of largemouths. Lake bass in Italy are not easy to catch, mostly because they are not as numerous as in other types of water. US magazine articles help Italian bassers to find and catch these lake fish but it's an hard job all the same. In ponds and rivers the population of bass grows dramatically. You can easily find largemouth all along Italian rivers. Ponds and small canals are, without doubt, the best place to look for big bass (6 - 8 pounders) because of the low fishing pressure and the difficulty of fishing these types of waters from a boat.


Even though bass are the same on both sides of the Atlantic, the Italian bass fisherman does not always fish the same was as an American angler. The lures are the same, but we use them differently in Italy.

Flipping: Because of the many obstacles in Italian waters and the love that Italian bassers always show for plastic lures, a short-line technique like flipping is perhaps the surest and fastest way to fill your live well. Similarities with US flipping are that the lures are the same American anglers like to use (plastic worms, lizards, grubs, plastic craws) with the difference that Italian anglers very often flip tube jigs. Whatever the lure they are fishing with, a remarkable difference between US and Italian flipping is the weight. In Italy, fisherman use 1/4 oz. as regular flipping weight, sometimes 3/8 oz. but rarely more. Plastics will be rigged with a 1 oz. bullet weight only when you fish tidal rivers and the current is very strong where keeping contact with the structure requires a lot of weight. A "jig 'n pig" in Italy is a less-considered lure to flip, but the few "lucky" fishermen who use it generally score big! The biggest differences between Italian and US flipping are the rod and the line. Italian bassers generally fish with heavy action 7 to 8 feet spinning outfits. Only rarely will they use a flipping stick with a baitcasting reel.. This is because, if you fish along a tree-lined bank (a common habitat for Italian largemouths), the spinning rod will easily present the lure in the roots of the tree with little effort. Mono line weights range from 12 to 20 pounds. To fish bulrushes and similar emergent grass, Italian anglers have developed a system to cover a lot of water quickly and effectively. They use a ten foot customized telescopic rod. This rod has a lot of backbone and heavy tip action.  This rod can be used with both spinning and baitcasting reels, loaded with 20 pound test mono or braided line. This rod is very light (4 - 5 oz.) and allows the bass man to fish a whole three day tournament with almost no effort. It's amazing how strong this rod is considering it's light weight. That's all about the differences in flipping techniques between our countries.

Finesse: Bass fishing with a light spinning outfit has a lot of similarities in the two countries. Most Italian fishermen will use a 5' to 6' spinning rod with a light reel. But there is a substantial difference in the way that Italian bassers will fish with little 4" worms, 3" grubs and other tiny plastic lures even in waters that are not properly clear, and they catch lot of fish! The fact is that the combination light line with a light weight is always deadly for the bass because the lure has a more natural movement. Some may think that in muddy waters bass aren't able to locate tiny prey, but we find the largemouth is well-equipped to find even a small plastic worm retrieved slowly in dark water. The common rig among Italian anglers is to use split shot. Jig heads from 1/16 oz. to 1/4 oz. are also used mostly to fish current waters where bass are more active in winter. We fish jig heads without weed guards because we find that we simply lose less fish with the exposed hook.

Spinnerbaits: There are not many anglers in Italy that fish this metal and plastic-skirted lure with confidence. But for those few, like me, who wind spinnerbaits from dawn to dusk, we know in Italy how productive this lure can be! In the last tournament held here in February, the biggest bass, a 4 pounder was caught with a spinnerbait. There are no substantial differences I can see between Italian and American spinnerbaits. But again, while the lures are the same as you US guys use, the tackle is sometimes different. To pitch the spinnerbait around heavy cover Italian anglers often use strong spinning tackle instead of baitcasting gear. The Italians believe by using spinning rods, they always obtain an accurate and silent presentation with underhand casts.

Crankbaits: Like spinnerbaits, crankbaits are not hit lures among Italian bassers either! They will use a crankbait, but not very often. Italian anglers rely mostly on shallow diver models because the majority of them are not deep water structure fishermen. They tend to fish emergent grass or shallow waters in the 6 foot depth range. US bassers, because they are more structure-oriented, they make more use of the deep and ultra-deep diver crankbaits.


As you have seen in this article, there are not so many differences between the way Italian and US anglers approach bass fishing, mostly because Italian fishermen have learned to fish for bass from US magazines, books and videos. Yes, some small differences in tackle or presentation do exist, but I'm not sure these affect big differences in catching bass or not. So, I hope reading this article about the Italian fisherman may have shown you something that could help you in the pursuit of your passion. Bass fishing is a wonderful sport for people who really care about fish and the environment. So, practice catch & release and don't litter. Respect other fishermen. And remember the future generations who will enjoy the sport as much as we do.

Hope they are all lunkers, Massimo.

Author Information.

Massimo Zanetti is 33 years old, Italian by birth and bassman by choice! Massimo is married to his wife Annalisa since 1992 and they have two daughters, Paola and Chiara. Fishing since he was a kid, now Massimo fishes almost exclusively for bass since 1988. He started bass fishing competitively in late 1992. Massimo writes articles for a few Italian fishing magazines, club newsletters, and websites. Massimo has been a featured speaker at several seminars.

Massimo considers himself a versatile bass fisherman who always tries to adapt techniques and lures to weather/water conditions and to the bass metabolism. He loves to fish around shallow cover and visible targets, and he's mostly a river fisherman. In his opinion, this is the way to go!

He is a field tester for Shimano Italia/Rapala and he's sponsored by KeepAlive Oxygen Infusors, S.O.B. Fishing Products, Snakebite Custom Fishing Tackle and Scientific Bass Products.

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