August 16, 2013
Permitted use provided by: MajorLeagueFishing.com
With the dog days of summertime upon most of the nation, these can be the weeks that try the souls of many bass anglers.
Because on most lakes, catching a summertime lunker or two when the temperatures are in the 90s - and in some cases, at or above the 100-degree mark - means going offshore.
While some anglers excel at the offshore game, others find it more difficult to master.
For those anglers - and I'm one of them - it pays to remember that not every bass caught in late July and August will be found sitting in 30 feet of water. Because on occasion, bass, even big ones, can be found lurking up close to the shoreline in shallow water.
I first learned that truth sitting in a boat as a media observer at the 2001 Bassmaster Classic held in New Orleans.
Held on the all but steaming waters of the Louisiana Delta during the late summer months, shallow water of one to three feet was where virtually every bass that was caught during that tournament was found lurking.
Watching Kevin VanDam's thrilling win - his first of four Classic triumphs - I learned once and for all that bass can be caught in shallow water even during the hottest days of summer.
Aside from the vegetation-choked waters of the Delta, one time that you'll find bass up shallow is when summer thunderstorms set up repeatedly over a geographical area, leading to big rainfall rates in a short period of time.
That scenario has played itself out in the state of Oklahoma several times in recent weeks, resulting in multi-inch summer rainfalls for some parts of the Sooner State.
"When you get real heavy rains with water running into the back of coves or ditches, the fishing there can be good no matter what time of the year it is," said Jimmy Houston, the Cookson, Okla., bass fishing legend who recently turned 69.
The 15-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier and two-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year says that anglers might want to file this nugget of wisdom away for future reference.
Because such a sudden inflow pattern pushing bass shallow can prove to be equally productive in the dead of winter as well as during the dog days of summer.
Houston, who will compete in his first ever Forrest Wood Cup FLW Championship event on Louisiana's Red River later this week, says that there is another thing that will cause hot-weather bass to move shallow during the summertime months.
And that's the migratory movements of threadfin and/or gizzard shad on deep-water reservoirs like Houston's home water of Lake Tenkiller.
"I've sometimes noticed that the shad will migrate into the end of the pockets late in the summertime," Houston said.
When that happens, America's favorite fisherman has occasionally caught bass in shallow water next to lay-down logs even during the sweltering days of late July and August.
But Houston isn't the only bass fishing pro who has found summertime success in the shallows.
Major League Fishing pro Timmy Horton, the 2000 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year (AOY) from Muscle Shoals, Ala., is known for his prowess fishing the deep stuff with a crankbait. After all, that's a summertime mainstay on his home water of Pickwick Lake.
But Horton, who likes to find good fishing holes somewhat off of other angler's radar screens, has found another situation that will sometimes force summertime bass to be in shallow water.
"If you're on a lake with a lot of stain to its water, then a lot of times the bass don't get out on the main lake structure," said Horton, who is the last rookie angler on the B.A.S.S. circuit to win the coveted AOY title.
"When that happens, bass can stay in (the shallower stuff), particularly if there is wind blowing," says the four-time B.A.S.S. winner who has pocketed $1.3 million in career earnings.
A final area to seek summertime bass in shallow water can be found by looking at the Outdoor Channel's footage of the Jack Link's Major League Fishing 2013 General Tire Summit Cup competition at Chautauqua Lake last September.
That was where MLF pro Denny Brauer targeted shadowy docks, in a heavily stained lake suffering from a significant late summer algae bloom, no less, to find plenty of bass willing to eat.
Even with the heat rising, the sun shining and the camera's whirring.
"(The) ideal scenario (for catching fish around docks) is the calm, sunny days," said Brauer, a 17-time winner on the B.A.S.S. circuits, a one-time FLW winner, and the 2013 MLF Summit Cup champ on Chautauqua.
"That makes it a lot tougher for a lot of the other techniques but it pushes more fish underneath boat docks," said Brauer, the semi-retired angler who now hails from Lake Amistad, Texas.
Brauer, who won both the Bassmaster Classic and the FLW Angler of the Year titles in 1998, has figured out over his career that the shallow dock bite typically gets better as the day goes along.
"Once you get that sun up at a higher angle and it gets up around 10 o'clock, then things will normally start happening," said Brauer.
If you watched the footage of Brauer repeatedly whacking two- to four-pound largemouth bass at Chautauqua as he flipped a tube into skinny water, then you know that's right. Things were certainly happening for Brauer in a Major League way.
But things can also happen for weekend warriors too. Even in shallow water during the dog days of summer. The red-hot days that can try an angler's soul.
Unless he or she knows where to look for shallow-water bass while the heat is on.
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