Bass fishing this time of year is wide open in many places across the country.
Bass are scattered and on many types of structure and cover as they leave spawning areas and head to deep summer holes. It can be confusing, but tying on one of the following four baits can cover all possibilities.
A topwater bait, spinnerbait, shaky head worm and jig and pig will allow you to fish all cover and structure where bass are holding and feeding. And used in combination, they catch fish at any depth you need to fish, depending on your choices in each.
Many bass fishermen agree that the most exciting way to catch bass is on top. Right now, bass are feeding from the very back ends of creeks and coves to main-lake open water and may be anywhere in between. A good tactic for patterning fish early is to go to the back of a short feeder creek and work out to the main lake, fishing all the cover along the bank, letting the fish tell you where they are.
A popper like a Rico or Pop-R, or walking bait like the Sammy, will find fish. Cast either past cover and fish as close as possible to bushes, logs, blowdowns and rocks in the water. Try different speeds, from a fast-twitching action (making the popper gurgle) to walking bait so it jerks from side to side, to using slow twitches to give the bait gentle movements.
If the fish seem scattered, tie on a buzzbait to cover water fast. Make long casts and run it over and beside any cover you see. When a bass hits, note its location and the type of cover to find a pattern. Then concentrate on that cover and depth combination in other similar places.
Bass hold on cover on main lake points and humps, and ambush baitfish as they move past. Some of the fastest action is when feeding bass churn the surface. Long casts to them with either the walking bait or popper, fished fast, can catch multiple fish. And you can draw bass up from deep, clear water by fishing those baits over brushand standing timber.
Clear water means working your topwater faster because bass can see and chase the bait over a longer distance. Stained water should make you slow down, work your topwater longer over cover, and keep it in one area to give the fish time to locate and hit it.
A walking bait works better when the water is dead calm (or close to it). With more surface waves, a popper creates more disturbance and is easier for the fish to find. The more wind, the bigger your bait should be. If waves are a half foot high or more, though, it is tough to catch fish on topwater lures.
Bright colors — chrome or bone for your plugs, white skirts for buzzbaits — work well for most water color. But in very clear water also try natural, muted colors. In stained water black baits are hard to beat, in both plugs or buzzbaits. And try different sizes, from 1/4-ounce to 3/4-ounce, to match the size bait the fish are eating.
Spinnerbaits are another versatile bait that allow you to cover water quickly. Some days bass just do not seem to want to hit on top but are still active and will chase a fast-moving bait. Spinnerbaits are great if the wind creates foot-high or bigger waves. And you can fish them from very thin water to any depth you need, depending on bait weight and blade type.
Again, start in the very back of coves and creeks and work to open water. Try buzzing a willowleaf spinnerbait just under the surface, making a bulging wake. Then slow it down. Slow-rolling a spinnerbait, keeping it just over the bottom, just fast enough to keep the blades revolving, will make it look like an easy meal.
If you see a log in the water running off the bank, then fish the spinnerbait along both sides of it. When you spot a stump or limb sticking out of the water, reel your spinnerbait to it then let if fall to the bottom before moving it again. Be ready with tight line to set the hook when a bass sucks it in.
Out on open water, if it is clear, try running the spinnerbait bait fast over points and brush piles that come within 10 feet of the surface. Slow roll the bait near the bottom where rocks are on the bottom. You can cast a 3/4- to 1-ounce spinnerbait and let it fall to the bottom as deep as you find fish holding, slow rolling it along deep ledges, humps and points.
Willowleaf blades are good for buzzing the bait or slow rolling it, especially in clear water. In stained water go to Colorado blades to make more sound, helping the fish locate it. Natural colors like translucent blues and grays with silver blades work well in clear water. Go to white, chartreuse, or a combination of the two skirt colors, with one gold blade and one silver blade, in stained water.
Wind blowing waves against rocky points and banks draw bass like a hungry man to a buffet, for the same reason. The churning water moves and confuses baitfish, offering bass easy meals. Cast a 1/2-ounce willow leaf spinnerbait right against the bank and reel it out to catch bass feeding there.
JIG AND PIG
A jig- and-pig combination is one of the best big-bass baits you can fish, and different weights can be fished from water inches deep to very deep. It can look like a bream or crawfish — both favorites of big fish — moving along the bottom and through cover.
A combination of browns works well in clear to stained water, and black and blue combinations are better in muddy water. Choose a 1/4- to 3/16-ounce bait for shallow water and go to a 1/2- to 1-ounce bait for deeper water.
Straight-tail chunks with little action are good if you want to fish deep water, but curly-tail trailers are better for a slow fall and more movement in shallow water. Dip the tails in JJs Magic chartreuse dye to imitate bream or orange or red to imitate crawfish. Both work well on rocks and around wood cover where those food sources live.
Any kind of wood cover holds bass that will eat a jig and pig. Brush piles, blow down trees, logs, stumps and single limbs running down into the water all offer ambush points for bass. Rocks, from gravel to boulders, also give them feeding places.
For shallow cover, cast your lighter jig past the wood and reel up to it, letting your bait fall beside it. Cover the outer edges first, then work your jig and pig through the thicker parts. Casting first to the middle of the thick brush is more likely to result in a hung bait, messing up further casts to it.
When limbs stick out from the bottom, drag your bait to them, raise it slowly to the limb then let if fall back to the bottom when the bait comes over it. Do the same for logs and stumps, fishing all sides of them.
Try dragging your bait slowly along the bottom, making the trailer tails wiggle. Also pop the bait off the bottom 6 inches and let if fall back, imitating a startled crayfish or bream darting away. Both actions are good on gravel and chunk rock bottom. For boulders, fish them like stumps, letting your bait fall from the top to the bottom all the way around it.
In deep water, drag a heavier jig on the bottom, feeling for cover and fishing it like shallow brush. Make a long cast and feed line to your bait as it falls so it goes straight down, allowing you to cover more water each cast.
Also try stroking the jig in deeper water, jerking it several feet off the bottom and letting it fall back. This fast action often draws a reaction strike from fish that really aren’t feeding but will strike out of instinct.
SHAKY HEAD WORM
A jig head with a worm on it will catch fish under all conditions, even when bass are not actively feeding. This subtle bait, which looks like a small baitfish feeding head down on the bottom, catches all sizes of bass.
A 3/16-ounce head with a straight-tail worm like the Zoom Trick Worm is hard to beat. But for deep water go to a heavier head, up to a half ounce. Lighter heads come through cover better but take a long time to fall to deep cover.
Green pumpkin worms on the jig head are standard in all water colors, but a lighter watermelon color sometimes is best in very clear water. Dipping the tails of either color worm in chartreuse dye helps draw bites.
Shaky heads, as their name says, were first used to fish deeper water, with the angler “shaking” the bait with little forward movement. Small twitches of the rod tip make the tail of the worm dance and it works well fished that way.
Cast to deeper cover, let the worm sink to the bottom, and twitch your rod tip. Move the bait forward slowly until you hit cover like rocks or wood and shake it in place as long as possible.
This bait also catches bass when fished vertically in water deep enough that the boat does not spook the bass. Drop straight down to fish or cover you see on your electronics and make the worm dance in one place.
As shaky heads got more popular, fishermen found they also work when slowly dragged along the bottom without twitching the rod. Drag the bait slowly until you contact cover then slide it over rocks and wood.
As the bait falls and hits the bottom, the jig will make the tail of the worm stand up, an enticing action for bass. But they fall to the side quickly. Try hopping the bait 6 inches off the bottom so when it falls back the worm stands tail-up again.
If the bass don’t seem to want a 6-inch worm, try a 4-inch straight-tail worm, short stick bait like the 3-inch Senko, or even a curly tail worm. The different look of those baits may make the difference between casting and catching. Fish them in the same ways as the straight-tail worms.
Tie on these four types of baits to cover all situations you might encounter this month. Find fish actively feeding this month and you can have excellent catches.