Keep It Light For Outstanding, Exciting Bass Fishing

The following appears in the July issue of California Sportsman:

Fong uses a 7-foot, 2-inch ProLite Rod Technology rod and 2000-series reel spooled with 4-pound braid and an 8-foot topshot of 4-pound fluorocarbon. (MARK FONG)

By Mark Fong

I am sure I have said this before, but one of the things that I really enjoy about bass fishing is that there are so many different ways that you can fish for them. From big swimbaits and topwaters, to jigs and finesse plastics, the choice is up to you.

With that said, on any given day some options present a higher chance for success than others, but still you have the final say.

This nice smallmouth was tempted by author Mark Fong’s ultralight setup. Sometimes fishing for bass with tackle you’d normally associate with trout angling can make for a great day on the lake. (MARK FONG)


For many years I have employed standard finesse tactics and offerings to catch bass in the clear-water lakes and reservoirs in and around Northern and Central California. On a whim several years ago, I had the idea to put my ultralight trout rod to the test against the spotted bass at my local lake. That day was more fun than I could have imagined, and I now find myself reaching for my ultralight gear every opportunity I get.

Many anglers think that small baits only catch small bass, but that simply is not true. Small baits catch big bass, and in fact there are times when small baits are the only way to get bit. I find the allure of fishing with ultralight gear and light line to be exciting and very challenging. Simply put, ultralight fishing is just plain fun.

Small Shad Shape Worms, Ned Senkos and paddletail swimbaits cover the author’s needs. (MARK FONG)


There are lots of different ultralight baits on the market, but I really enjoy fishing soft plastics. I have experimented with many different soft plastic styles, including crappie tubes, trout worms and micro finesse bass baits. I have found that small 2- to 3-inch paddletail swimbaits, 3-inch Shad Shape Worms and 3-inch Ned Senkos allow me to cover the majority of situations that I encounter. All three baits are extremely effective and can be fished using a variety of different techniques. Natural colors in shades of smoke, green and brown get bit well.

Perhaps the simplest rigging method is to use a lead jighead. A 1/32-ounce to 1/8-ounce ballhead jig with a size No. 1 or 2 hook works great with the swimbait and Shad Shape worm; that allows me to cover the water column from top to bottom. For the Ned Senko, I prefer a similarly sized Ned-head jig. These baits fish well on a drop-shot rig, as well with a No. 2 DS hook and a 1/8-ounce tungsten DS sinker.

Bullards Bar Reservoir in Yuba County is a great place to target bass with ultralight gear. (MARK FONG)


It is important to keep in mind that as with any fishing technique, having the right combination of bait, rod, reel and line will maximize not only your chances of success, but also your overall fishing enjoyment.

With respect to ultralight fishing, many ultralight rods are geared more for trout or panfish and are too whippy and lack backbone. I experimented with a lot of different rods before I finally found one that allowed me to effectively fish soft plastics for bass in deeper water.

Pro Lite Rod Technology ( has a rod that works well for this. Measuring 7 feet, 2 inches and rated for 2- to 6-pound line and lure weights from 1/32 to 3/16 ounce, the fast-action SVX72UL-S is a great rod that has exceeded my expectations.

I prefer a 2000-series spinning reel over a 1000, as it is basically the same reel with a different spool and a higher rate of line retrieval, attributes that combine to be important for my style of fishing.

Back in the day, I used to spool up with monofilament, followed by fluorocarbon. But today it’s braid with a fluorocarbon leader. Braid is super sensitive, casts well and has little stretch. I really like FINS Windtamer 4-pound-test braid in high-vis yellow. Since I started using it, I am 100-percent all-in on braid for spinning applications, even ultralight fishing. Windtamer provides all the benefits of braid and minimizes the manageability issues like wind knots and tip wrap.

I’ll finish up by connecting an 8-foot length of 4-pound fluorocarbon to the braid with an Alberto knot. The leader allows for a bit of stretch, but, more importantly, adds a stealthy presentation. CS