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Italian Bass
by Massimo Zanetti

The sun is just breaking the darkness when the big surface plug hits the water near one of the thousands of trees in the river. After twenty seconds, the time to let the ripples disappear, I twitch the Zara Spook slightly, then let it sit. Another twitch and the "walkin' the dog" retrieve begins. A little pause between two limbs of the tree: WHAM! A big bass tries to kill the intruder. The hook set is almost immediate, just time enough to let the fish take the lure in her mouth. After a hard fight the bass is in the boat. Time for a nice picture, then she slips back in the water and returns to her tree.

Another six keepers are landed and released in the next hour. My buddy decide to tie on a buzzbait. On the first cast a bass lunges at the bait and misses. A second later, she strikes again, another miss. On the third strike the fish is hooked, a beautiful 3-pounder that is released immediately.

Now the sun is high in the sky and the topwater bite slows down drastically. We think the fish have buried themselves in the vegetation along the shore. It's time for the flipping stick and a bag of plastic worms. The boat parallels the shoreline, at the distance of about six feet and we start to flip a motor oil colored worm in the heart of the trees. Five minutes later the first bass bites my bait and in the same moment my buddy has a vicious strike, we pull our rods high and together we fight a bass who has taken both worms at the same time. After a brief fight, we land and release the fish with double smiles.

By evening, we have caught about fifty largemouth bass ranging from one to four pounds, on different techniques and lures.

We are not in the U.S.A., nor at Cuba or Mexico, we are in Europe. More precisely, in a northern Italian river filled with aggressive bass.

Bass fishing in Italy has grown tremendously in the last ten years. The number of anglers is increasing day by day. Even though professional bass fishing is not yet possible, largely because of a lack of sponsors, tournaments are organized very often by the Italian bass clubs. The number of participants is a testimony to the growing popularity of this sport in Italy. Catch and Release is a common procedure among tournament anglers but there are a lot of other fishermen that still keep all the fish they catch. And with live bait, they catch a lot of little bass and a few huge ones.

Italian bassers love to use plastics. Worms, grubs, crawfish and other kinds of plastic fill their huge tackle boxes. Hard baits like spinner baits, crank baits, buzz baits and surface plugs are used less. The jig-and-pig, a well known big bass bait, is fished only by a handful of fishermen. But don't think Italian anglers are at the stone age about bass fishing! We also have our specialists. Some anglers are skilled in flipping and pitching, others are wizards with spinnerbaits or crankbaits. Experienced anglers are generally those who fish regularly in the tournaments. English language magazines and books are read with relish by the small core of serious fishermen. The largemouth bass has invaded Italy and won the hearts of Italian fishermen.

Bass fishing in Italy is good all year long. The key to bass fishing success is to match the right techniques to the time of year, just as in everywhere else in it's range.

Early Spring. Springtime, just before the spawn (in Italy, this generally occurs from April to June, depending on the weather and location), is great bass action. I fish mostly with spinnerbaits or crankbaits in spring because bass are often hard to locate and catch with other methods. I like bass fishing in rivers in spring because I think big fish are easier to find and catch then and there. My first choice is a spinnerbait. A 1/4 oz. model with single gold Colorado blade and fire tiger or white skirts. The slender profile of this spinnerbait, along with its slow fall, seems irresistible to Italian bass, especially the big ones. Crankbaits are another lure I love to use in early spring because, like spinnerbait, it is a reflex bait and allows me to fish more water. I like the plastic cramkbait models with built-in rattlers in spring, with chartreuse/blue or a fire tiger color pattern. Plastic crankbaits are louder than wooden ones and I think they draw more strikes when bass not relating to a specific kind of structure or cover.

Late Spring/Summer. Since in Italy fishing for spawning bass is not allowed, we must wait until the middle of June to begin to fish. Late spring and summer can be fished in the same way because bass, during the hot, shiny days tend to bury themselves in every piece of cover available in the water. For this reason, flipping is the best technique. In warm water, I prefer to flip vegetation like bulrushes and cat tails. I think these are the best summer cover available for the biggest bass because of plenty of oxygen and baitfish. Even the jig-and-frog represent a good choice for summer bassing. You don't have a lot of strikes as you could have with the plastic worm but you will catch quality fish. In Italy, bass don't reach huge size like in the U.S.A. but a four or five-pounder it's not too hard to catch, especially with the jig-and-frog.

At dawn, sunset, or under cloudy skies, topwater fishing with hard baits can be the most fun way to catch bass in summer. But I prefer to use a big willow leaf spinnerbait in the fire tiger color pattern or 3/8 oz. black buzz bait to catch the big fish of summer.

Fall and Winter. During the fall period in Italy, the majority of bass anglers try to catch some fish throwing spinnerbaits or crankbaits to visible targets. But I usually flip 1/4 oz. tube jigs and grubs and I generally score big! This technique pays off well for me until the middle of December. When the air begin to freeze and snow appears I pitch my tube jigs and jig & pig in water ranging from four to six feet deep, always around some cover. My favorite colors for plastic baits in this period are chartreuse/pepper and pearl/silver glitter and my jig 'n pigs are black/blue tinsel and brown/copper flash. In winter, bass remain around cover and you need an accurate presentation to get bites.

I hope you have enjoyed this article, and maybe learned how bass fishing is done in Italy.

Your Friend, 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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