Big bass eat big baits.

Whether it’s grownup gizzard shad on TVA lakes, big bluegill all across the deep South or foot-long shiners in the Sunshine State, big baitfish – and swimbaits that imitate them – top the menu for quality bass.

At no time of year is this more true than late summer and into fall when bait as well as young of the year bream and even bass have grown from small fry snacks into full size meals.

A bass doesn’t have to be a trophy class fish in order to eat bream that would pass as table fare for humans. Think ‘three-pounds-and-up’. In fact, most days, a two-pounder will crush as big a lure as you dare to throw. This is especially true for Florida strain largemouth, which according to studies by fisheries biologists in numerous states, in conjunction with Auburn University, have historically been far more widespread across the South than previously believed.

Dan Dorosheff of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission once shed some light on this subject for me. “We did studies to determine the maximum size of prey a largemouth can safely consume. Shape has a lot to do with it. For round fish, such as bluegill, we found that a bass can eat one about a third the length of its body. For long, slender prey, such as shiners, they can eat one about half the length of their body.”

The above guidelines indicate the size of prey a bass can reasonably digest, but it’s worth noting that bass don’t have the ability to reason, nor to be reasonable. They often attack animals as big as themselves, bigger sometimes, simply to defend their territory.

We’ve all seen pictures of a bass with an almost equal sized bass stuffed mostly down its gullet, both floating dead.

The biggest bass this writer has caught this year, from my kayak, stretched to 26.75 inches. She ate a swimbait.

I’ve caught a few over 20 inches on the swimbait this year. I also lost a couple of giants because I didn’t hammer the hook home while fishing from a seated position.

Which brings me to this – use a stiff rod and braided line. Or really heavy fluorocarbon. I’ve got 30lb fluoro rigged up on one rod right now; 65lb braid on a few others.

I don’t play them either. I learned years ago, watching Preston Clark boat an 11-plus-pounder that still stands as the biggest bass in Bassmaster Classic history, shove the rod tip down and crank!

I was amazed at how fast Clark brought that giant to hand. Since adopting his method, my landing percentages on big fish have gone way up.

Note, I use almost exclusively weedless swimbaits that sport a big single hook. When fishing hard baits, glide baits and the like, which feature treble hooks, you may need to play the fish with a little more patience.

Long rods will help to launch magnum lures especially if you fish while seated in your ‘yak.

One trick that often helps seal the deal on a follower that won’t commit is to make a figure eight with your swimbait boat side. Give the fish plenty of time to decide to eat before lifting the lure out of the water. Just keep stirring the pot. Doesn’t always work. But when it does . . .

So, how big is too big when it comes to lure selection?

You decide.