August 11, 2021
Late summer can often be a challenging time for bass anglers. Sweltering temperatures affect fish immensely, and they can similarly make days on the water a bit unpleasant for anglers as well.
One of the biggest obstacles for most anglers is the sheer diversity of places bass might inhabit at this time of year. Some fish are shallow. Others are deep and on the bottom. Even more frustrating are those that happen to be suspended out in deep water.
The individual conditions you're facing as an angler also vary markedly based on where in the country you're located. The deep-water smallmouth bite up north may be going strong. Meanwhile down south, fish might be incredibly lethargic or highly active only in limited windows in the morning and evening. It's all a bit different wherever you are.
Still, if you're a dedicated bass angler, you fish regardless of any challenges to your fishing. In fact, those difficulties can make it even more satisfying when you are able to find success and catch fish consistently. If you fall into this category, here are some presentations and hot new late summer and early fall bass baits to keep in mind.
This time of year, topwater lures can be quite effective on bass holding shallow around vegetation or structure and on fish in the open attacking schools of baitfish. Walking-style plugs, prop baits, buzzbaits, poppers and hollow-body frogs all deserve mention. Some of these are more suited to fishing around vegetation, while others prove more effective near light cover, bare shorelines or in open water.
The keys with a topwater approach are making long casts, covering lots of water and showing fish lots of options. Some bass may go for a buzzbait, while others thumb their nose at anything but a prop bait.
Keep throwing fish different looks until one pays off.
Ever Green Loudbuzz
A buzzbait is a great option for fishing around light cover, and the Loudbuzz from Japanese manufacturer Ever Green is a superb example. With its custom offset aluminum prop, the Loudbuzz tracks straight and true while causing a lot of commotion and sound—even at slower retrieve speeds—to bring bass out of nearby cover. The head on this lure features a more streamlined shape that allows it to come to plane on the surface quickly and keep it in the strike zone longer. ($16.99; americas.evergreen-fishing.com)
Strike King Skip'N Buzz
Designed with input from pro angler Andy Montgomery, a skipping and pitching enthusiast, the Skip’N Buzz is built out to be a great skipping bait for docks and low-hanging tree limbs. However, it’s equally great for casting. To help with skipping ability, it drops the traditional buzzbait skirt in favor of a plastic Strike King Toad or Rage Swimmer. The 3/8-ounce lure is available in four colors: white, green pumpkinseed, black and pink. White is a great color for mimicking baitfish like shad, while green pumpkin or black would be good for low light or when fish are keyed on bluegills. ($8.99; strikeking.com)
SPRO Limited Edition Bronzeye 65 15th Anniversary
A hollow-body frog is a great topwater option throughout the summer, and this includes its later portions, too. The patriotic paint job on top is a nice touch for anglers, but the frog itself is specifically weighted to land perfectly on its belly. It’s also designed to cast long distances, which is perfect for covering lots of water. The 15th Anniversary Bronzeye is available in black or white. ($11.13; spro.com)
Rebel Pop-R P71
Engineered for optimized casting, the Pop-R P71 is a large popper that can be used for precise presentations under docks and around cover or bombed long distances to cover water. The P71 has a proper buoyancy for spitting and popping and rests almost vertically in the water. With quick twitches, it walks and splashes from side to side without being pulled from cover, which can drive bass crazy. It also features a low-pitched rattle to attract fish. ($7.99; lurenet.com)
SPRO Cyclone Prop 80
This intriguing prop/plop bait design results from a collaboration with professional bass angler Shin Fukae. The bait has a unique head shake action as it moves through the water. Meanwhile, the lure’s rear blade disturbs the water and produces sound to call in fish. It also utilizes a SPRO swivel in line tie to keep the bait from rolling and offer anglers more leverage for hooksets. ($15.99; spro.com)
Heddon Super Spook Boyo
When bass are keying on small baits in late summer and early fall, Heddon’s new Super Spook Boyo is a great call. Like other Heddon Spook baits, this one casts very well for covering lots of water whether you’re fishing along the shore or throwing at bass crashing on bait in open water. The lure has a single rattle that, along with its walk-the-dog retrieve, draw in fish from afar. ($7.99; lurenet.com)
SPRO Fat Papa Walker 130
Designed by MLF pro angler Russ Lane, this versatile topwater bait is sure to tempt late-summer bass everywhere. With this lure, you can use the classic walk-the-dog style retrieve, or you can chug it or even dead stick it. The Fat Papa Walker 130 is available in eight excellent baitfish-imitating colors. ($15.50; spro.com)
While topwater lures take a sizable percentage of bass holding in shallow water, don’t overlook other tactics and baits that target these fish. Many pro anglers still pitch, flip and punch jigs and rigs into heavy cover in the shallows now.
Fishing crankbaits—squarebills, flat-sided and shallow divers—around shallow cover, like wood, also produces when bass are keyed on bait in the shallows, as often occurs in the late summer and early fall. And don’t forget things like a swim jig, Ned rig or a wacky worm, either, as those can be solid options, too.
War Eagle Jiu-Jigsu
A premier flipping jig option, the Jiu-Jigsu has a sturdy Owner Zo-Wire hook and a modified Arkie-style head to slide through cover. The head is powder coated to withstand abuse from rocks and other types of cover. Its precisely angled weed guard defends against snags, and a wire trailer keeper helps secure plastics to the hook. Pair with a favorite soft-plastic creature, craw, grub or chunk trailer. ($6.99; lurenet.com)
Gamakatsu G-Power Flip and Punch Hook
Designed for the heaviest of heavy cover, the G-Power Flip and Punch Hook uses a tournament grade wire hook that’s perfect for punching through mats or flipping into heavy timber and other vegetation. The hook has a shortened point length for less hook exposure heavy cover but leaves enough for proper setting. This comes in 2/0, 3/0, 4/0 and 5/0 and features a nano smooth coating finish. ($10.27/4-pack; gamakatsu.com)
Strike King Mid-Size Rage Bug
Strike King’s Rage Bug has been a proven and versatile soft plastic for many years now. The new mid-size version offers a 3.38-inch bait that is equally well suited to skipping, pitching or casting as its larger cousin. You can punch mats with it, pitch around shallow cover or even use it as a trailer on a swim jig. Tons of options with this adaptable plastic. ($6.99; strikeking.com)
Rapala BX Mid Brat
Squarebills are renowned for their ability to deflect off shallow cover and draw violent strikes because of it. Like other Rapala BX Brat squarebill crankbaits, the Mid features a balsa wood core and a durable hard-plastic shell. These baits have the nice action characteristics of balsa while having a beefier exterior to stand up to repeated knocks against cover. The Mid Brat dives down to a max of 5 feet deep. ($10.59; rapala.com)
Strike King Chick Magnet
The winner of ICAST’s Best Freshwater Hardbait award, Strike King’s Chick Magnet is an excellent new flat-sided crankbait. Designed in collaboration with pro angler Andy Morgan, the Chick Magnet’s thin body profile and circuit board lip result in a tight wiggle for an incredibly realistic action. It’s ideal for fishing shallow waters, running 3 to 6 feet deep. ($9.99; strikeking.com)
Booyah Mobster Swim Jig
The tapered head on this new swim jig allows it to come through and around cover easily while also imparting a slight wag on the retrieve. It features a heavy-duty black nickel hook, vibrant full skirts, a stout weed guard to prevent snags and a wire plastic keeper for retaining trailers. ($4.49; lurenet.com)
Z-Man OG Mushroom Head
The Ned Rig has become a bass-fishing staple at this point, and it has accounted for a lot of fish, including in the dog days of summer. Across the country, but especially up north, the Ned is a go-to setup for smallies. It produces in small streams, creeks, rivers and even on big water in the Great Lakes where anglers often use it to mimic gobies, which are a smallmouth favorite. Z-Man’s OG Mushroom Head jig resurrects the classic mushroom-style jig head that finesse fishing enthusiasts cherish. Pair it with a TRD, TRD BugZ or TRD TicklerZ, or another Ned-sized bait. ($4.99/4-pack; zmanfishing.com)
Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Lil’ General
A scaled-down 2.75-inch version of Berkley’s classic The General stick bait, the Lil’ General is perfect on a Half-Head or Ned-style jighead. MaxScent materials release a super-charged scent field that attracts fish in unparalleled fashion, and when bass bite lures with MaxScent they often don’t let go, which helps with bite detection and hooksets. As an aside, the larger MaxScent general is also great whether skipped under docks on a wacky rig or used as part of a drop-shot rig. ($6.99/8-pack; berkley-fishing.com)
Daiwa SC Shad
This shallow-diving crankbait is a dead ringer for adolescent shad, and it’s a great option for when shad are schooled up just beneath the surface. The SC Shad produces a fish-attracting wobble and runs 1 to 2 feet deep—perfect for bass actively feeding on these young shad. It also casts quite far courtesy of an internal counter buoyance sound weight, that also adds an alluring sonic rhythm in the water. VMC No. 12 treble hooks seal the deal. ($7.99; daiwa.com)
When they're not schooling or actively crashing bait at or near the surface, late-summer bass are often holding around deep breaklines, humps, brush piles, rock piles and other types of structures. With fish holding at depths sometimes in excess of 20 feet, it requires a change in tactics.
A very popular summer program, and one that extends into late summer is deep cranking. If fish have seen one or 10 too many deep-diving crankbaits by August, another deep approach is mining the depths with a big soft-plastic worm (over 10 inches in length) or a creature bait.
These can be fished on Texas rigs, Carolina rigs or on big and heavy jigs. If fish are particularly lethargic or picky, finesse strategies like a drop-shot are also key players this time of year. Meanwhile, if you’re a northern smallmouth angler, the offshore action can be very hot and heavy on drop-shots and tubes, among others.
Strike King 6XD Hard Knock
This year, Strike King took its excellent 6XD deep-diving crankbait and added the popular Hard Knock technology to it. Now, anglers have a crankbait that dives to around 19 or 20 feet and also makes a deep thumping sound to appeal to bass holding offshore. While it will achieve 18 to 20 feet depths on 12-pound line, according to Strike King, you can also get it a bit deeper with lighter line. ($7.99; strikeking.com)
Tackle HD Hawg Monster
Tackle HD's new Hawg Monster is a solid choice when bass are turning their nose at fast-moving deep-running crankbaits, and you need to slow things down. Set this guy up on a Carolina rig for dragging deep water and hang on, as the big worms can sometimes bring equally big bass. Indeed, the large length, slender profile and curled tail of this worm are ideal for just such applications. ($6.99/10-pack; tacklehd.com)
Berkley Powerbait Football Jig
Football jigs are perfect for targeting fish down deep, whether you’re slowly dragging them back across deep structure or hopping or twitching them along the bottom. This year, Berkley has introduced an entire line of jigs that feature industry-first Powerbait flavored soft-plastic skirts. This provides some added attraction to an already good-looking offering presented on or near the bottom. These jigs also use Berkley’s excellent Fusion19 hook. While there are a host of other jigs in this lineup ranging from swim jigs to flipping and heavy cover jigs, the football is the ideal deep-water specialist for late-summer bass. ($4.99; berkley-fishing.com)
Lazer Sharp Swing Head Jig
Like a football jig, swing heads do well on deep-water bass. Generally, this jig performs best in areas with hard bottom, and you usually want to maintain contact with the bottom while fishing a straight retrieve. Swing head jigs work with a variety of soft plastics, including worms, creatures and craws. Tubes can also be used with them for an excellent smallmouth presentation. This swing head jig from Lazer Sharp is available in green pumpkin and black, and it comes in various sizes and with either a 3/0 or 4/0 Magnum EWG Worm Hook. ($4.99; eagleclaw.com)
Zoom Mid-Size Brush Hog
Zoom’s Brush Hog in all its various iterations is probably one of the most popular (if not the most popular) creature baits out there. Last year, Zoom introduced a 4.5-inch mid-size offering to complement its Tiny, Baby and Standard sizes. It neatly splits the gap between the company’s Baby and Standard Brush Hogs. The Brush Hog is a solid choice for offshore dragging on a Carolina rig or a football or swing jig. As a side note, the smaller versions are also great options for stream and river smallmouth anglers. ($5.29; zoombait.com)
Berkley MaxScent Tube
Tubes have been crushing smallmouth bass for years. Add in Berkley’s proven PowerBait MaxScent formula, and you’ve got a truly deadly bronzeback bait. Available in 2 1/2- and 3 1/2-inch lengths and an assortment of colors, this one is a must-have for serious smallie anglers. ($6.99/6- or 8-pack; berkley-fishing.com)
Lazer Sharp Pro-Series Avid Kit – Drop Shot
The drop-shot rig is an exceptional late-summer bass presentation. It's great for fish holding on bottom that are lethargic or neutral as well as for those that are suspended a little bit off bottom. For a jump on drop-shot rigging, look no further than Lazer Sharp’s Pro-Series Avid drop-shot kit. It pairs YUM Sharpshooter and Warning Shots soft-plastics with Lazer Sharp drop-shot hooks and weights to give anglers everything they need to start drop-shotting, all in one place. ($15.99; eagleclaw.com)
SPRO Pintail Minnow
These baits from SPRO have a unique fluttering action that makes them perfectly suited for use on a drop-shot rig. The twin tails and tail section hole produce a tantalizing wiggle. The Pintail Minnows are infused with Amino Bite Scent to help attract fish, even when they might be stubborn or uninterested in more aggressive offerings. Available in 14 different colors. ($6.40/8-pack; spro.com)
Z-Man Long ShotZ
This 6-inch worm is tailor made for the drop-shot rig, featuring a tapered nose with a special hook exit spot for nose-hooking. The combination of its thin body, flat belly, wedge-shaped cross section and tiny spade tail create an incredibly enticing action. ($5.99/8-pack; zmanfishing.com)
Gamakatsu Gika Rig
Gika, jika, zeka—however you spell it, this relatively new rig is a transplant from Japan. It uses a split ring to connect the eyelet of a wide-gapped hook with a drop-shot weight. The result is a unique swim and dropping action near the bottom. Some have described its appearance as a combination of a Texas rig and a drop-shot rig. The result in practice is a more horizontal swimming motion as opposed to the T-rig’s snappier vertical drop after being lifted. Recently, Gamakatsu introduced their own version of this intriguing rig. It’s available in 2/0, 3/0 and 4/0 options with weights ranging from 1/8 to 3/8 ounce. ($5.82-$6.80/2-pack; gamakatsu.com)
Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm
A perfect drop-shot bait, this worm quivers and wiggles with even the slightest movement. It’s available in 14 different natural colors and 3.6- and 4 1/4-inch versions. The potent MaxScent material, meanwhile, draws in fish with its impressive scent field. ($6.99/10-pack; berkley-fishing.com)
PRESENTATIONS FOR SUSPENDED BASS
We’ve talked about how a drop-shot rig can garner bites from lethargic or finicky bass on the bottom, and we’ve also mentioned that it can prove effective on bass suspended off bottom as well. Along with vertical presentations with spoons, drop-shots are one of the most effective options for bass suspending closer to the bottom of the water column.
When they are suspended a little higher in the water, however, other tactics get the nod. Fish that are suspending fairly high in the water column—usually just beneath a ball of baitfish in the late summer and early fall—are susceptible to jerkbaits.
Meanwhile, swimbaits, spinnerbaits and underspins are useful for bass suspended in the mid-depth ranges. Fish these just above where bass are holding, as these fish tend to feed up rather than down.
If you're able to determine the sink rate for your lure—whether it’s a spinnerbait, jig, swimbait, etc.—you can cast it out and count it down to the target depth just above suspended bass.
Berkley Stunna 112 (112+1)
The Stunna jerkbait was one of several exciting new introductions from Berkley this year. Designed with input from pro angler Hank Cherry, the Stunna is available in a 3- to 6-foot swimming depth version (112) and a 6- to 10-foot swimming depth model (112+1). This durable and long-casting jerkbait has a natural slow sink when paused to trigger bites from neutral and inactive fish, as well as a potent darting action when worked aggressively. ($14.99; berkley-fishing.com)
Lazer Sharp Swimbait Head
For fish suspended in open water and targeting baitfish, you’ll generally want to opt for a swimbait head jig as opposed to a weighted swimbait hook, which are more suited to fishing around and through cover. In open water, and with fish that are slashing at baitfish, having the hook exposed is ideal for converting those strikes into hook-ups. Lazer Sharp’s Swimbait Head is available in 3/0, 4/0 and 5/0 hooks and in 1/8-, 1/4-, 3/8 and 1/2-ounce jigheads. ($4.49/4-pack; eagleclaw.com)
Strike King Tour Grade Spinnerbait
In 2020, Strike King introduced a reengineered Tour Grade spinnerbait with 3/8- and 1/2-ounce willowblade models. This year it’s offering four new versions: a 5/16-ounce size with Colorado and Turtleback blades; a 3/8-ounce size with Colorado and Willowleaf blades; a compact-frame, hidden-weight 1/2-ounce model with double Willowleaf blades; and a 3/4-ounce double Willowleaf blades model. ($7.99-$8.99; strikeking.com)
Big Bite Baits Hybrid Swimmer
Perfect for suspended fish that are finicky or have been pressured, the Hybrid Swimmer features a half paddle/half fork tail that produces a subtle swimming action. It’s available in eight colors and two sizes (3.3 inches and 3.8 inches). ($5.99; bigbitebaits.com)
Gamakatsu Under Spin Head
Gamakatsu’s Under Spin Head utilizes its Heavy Cover 60-degree hook, which has a heavy wire and wide gap design. The heavier hook offers an improved hook-up ratio and helps retain bulky swimbaits. It also incorporates a spring lock for holding swimbaits and other plastics to keep presentations straight on the hook. Meanwhile, recessed lifelike eyes on the head offer up a focal point for predators. At the bottom, a small chrome blade is attached to a quality ball-bearing swivel that allows it to spin freely, even at slower speeds. ($4.86; gamakatsu.com)