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3 Ways to Catch Mid-Summer Bass, Walleyes & Muskies

Adapt to conditions for hot-weather action on these popular species.

3 Ways to Catch Mid-Summer Bass, Walleyes & Muskies

A hollow-bodied frog is capable of drawing strikes from fish in the nastiest of cover when bass push deep into the slop. (Photo courtesy of LiveTarget)

Summer has rolled into town, bringing heat and humidity, water-skiers and wakeboarders, family road trips and weekends at the lake. The boom-or-bust cycle of spring fishing is now in the rearview mirror as our favorite lakes, rivers and reservoirs settle into a months-long period of warm water, abundant forage and relatively active fish. No matter where you decide to cast a line, or which finned adversary you plan to target, this collection of species-specific tips will help you meet with success this summer.

1. FLOAT A FROG FOR BASS

Very few moments in fishing top the thrill of a bass smashing a surface lure. Indeed, watching a frog or other topwater bait during the retrieve floods an angler with the anticipation of a jarring hookset. While many anglers associate topwater lures with low-light conditions during summer’s heat, bass will attack surface lures even under the bright midday sun. If you’re new to summer topwater fishing, start your journey with a frog.

hollow-body frog lure sitting in lily pad
Use hollow-body frog lures in the middle of the thickest surface vegetation, wood and slop. (Photo courtesy of LiveTarget)

Hollow-bodied frogs excel where few other lures dare to swim: right in the middle of the thickest surface vegetation, wood and slop. With exceptional flotation and giant double hooks that ride above the lure, hollow-bodied frogs can extract bass from the heaviest cover. The best frogs expertly balance sufficient weight for long casts with optimum buoyancy to float with a lifelike profile at rest: head high and tail low, just like a living frog.

LiveTarget hollow-bodied baits—frogs, sunfish and even mice—are exceptional topwater lures and proven bass catchers. Featuring biomimetic colors, profiles and appearance details, LiveTarget frogs are excellent replicas of their living counterparts. They cast a mile, float perfectly at rest, and attract a bass’s attention when worked through cover.

Like when fishing any other topwater lure, pausing a moment after the strike—so the line comes tight and the bass can dive away from the boat—will help make your hooksets more effective. If you’re still missing strikes, give the rubber skirt a trim. Sometimes those long skirts can get wedged between the hook and the frog’s body, impeding a positive hookset.

2. TROLL UP WALLEYES

For decades, summer walleye fishing was relegated to the ultra-finesse realm: live bait—especially wiggly leeches and supple nightcrawlers—fished slow, on long, limp leaders, adjacent to deep structure. In recent years, however, summer walleye fishing has enjoyed something of a rebirth, as contemporary power-fishing techniques have entered our collective walleye angling consciousness.

Speed trolling with crankbaits is an excellent way to cover water and capture summer walleyes. A rapidly moving baitfish-profile lure that disperses both flash and vibration throughout the water column appeals directly to walleyes’ predatory nature and is effective across the range of waters where they swim.

In many natural lakes and reservoirs, summer walleyes slide into depths of 18 to 24 feet, where they spend much of the warm season as long as some sort of forage remains available. They can easily be reached by long-lining deep-diving crankbaits using braided lines. In this presentation, dedicated trolling tackle—8-foot, medium-power, moderate-action trolling rods, line-counter reels, and 10- to 15-pound-test braided line—is a real advantage. The braid’s thin diameter minimizes water resistance and allows lures to dive deeper with less line in the water.

walleye caught while trolling
Speed trolling with crankbaits for summer walleyes. (Photo courtesy of Powderhook)

Let sufficient line out to deliver the lures into the walleye strike zone—generally within 2 to 3 feet off the bottom. When in doubt, get the lure deep enough to deflect off the bottom occasionally, then reel up a few cranks. Now, the trap is set.




Summer walleye trolling is a game of speed. Fish will often respond favorably to lures pulled between 2.5 and 3.5 mph as measured by your GPS chartplotter. At speeds such as these, it’s important to have well-tuned crankbaits, as a lure that does not run true will invariably snarl itself and frequently other nearby lines or lures in the trolling spread.

Do yourself a favor and check each bait’s behavior boatside at or above your target speed, making any necessary adjustments or replacements before ever sending lures down to the walleye zone. An assortment of Rapala Tail Dancers and Scatter Minnows, as well as Northland Rumble Sticks and classic Acme Reef Runners, will transfer summer walleyes from the depths to your landing net.

3. BURN MUSKIE BUCKTAILS

musky released at the surface of the water
Monster muskies are prowling the thick cabbage and coontail now searching for easy meals. Big spinners, whether single or tandem, are the ticket for avid anglers on the hunt for these giants. (Photo by Dr. Jason A. Halfen)

Summer is the perfect time to churn the water with bucktails. Water temperatures are approaching their annual peaks, and muskies are on the chew, ready to chase down fast-moving presentations. Look no further than thick beds of cabbage and coontail to garner consistent summer musky action.

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Both weed varieties cast shade within the water column, reducing nearby water temperature and providing respite from the bright midday sun. Dense stands of cabbage and coontail provide ample cover for baitfish and small panfish, guaranteeing that resident muskies have an abundant food supply.

Contemporary bucktails fall into one of two broad categories: lures with a single spinner blade and those with tandem blades. Both styles can be fished slow or fast, but be prepared for the tandem-blade spinners to pull back hard as you crank them in. Spinner blade size and shape will determine the retrieve speed at which the lure performs best, as well as the amount of thump and vibration the rotating blade creates as it spins along the lure’s axis.

Long, slender willow-leaf blades function best at high speeds and displace the least amount of water, producing more flash but less thump. At the same time, Colorado blades are typically associated with slightly slower presentations: crank these too fast, and the spinner may “blow-out,” no longer rotating smoothly around the lure’s wire backbone. Big Colorado blades move a lot of water as they spin and distribute the most vibration into the water column. The amount of thump from a spinner blade increases as its size increases, as does the effort needed on the retrieve.

Which bucktails should you choose? Frequently, sparse cover, shallow water and extreme retrieve speeds call for lures with willow-leaf blades. Dense cover, a slower retrieve speed or fishing after dark calls for big Colorado single- or tandem-blade spinners. Keep your color selections simple: black tails with silver or gold blades are great for clear water. Brighter, more colorful combinations—like yellows, oranges or flashy mylar skirts—perform well in stained or turbid water during summer.

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