Must-know Early Summertime Secrets for Catching Bass
With the bass spawn complete and the heat of summer on the horizon, it's time for trophy bass anglers to grab their second wind for one of the best times of the year to hook a lunker; soak up these industry expert tips to up your odds for early-summer big
Ask most southern bass anglers about the year's easiest bass fishing and they'll most often tell you to fish the springtime spawn.
And for good reason; as anyone who has ventured onto a bona fide bucketmouth-rich environment like Lake Guntersville, Kentucky Lake, Lake Fork, Toledo Bend or Sam Rayburn can attest to as winter turns into spring.
But poll those same anglers at any lakeside café and the guess here is that few will pick the month of June as a prime-time to fish for southern largemouths. And according to anglers in the know, that's a shame.
"You can have some good to great fishing days in June," says my friend Rob Woodruff, an Orvis-endorsed fly fishing guide for Lake Fork's largemouth bass.
Featured in a variety of magazine articles and television programs since he began guiding in the mid-1990s, Woodruff has boated himself and has had client's boat bucketmouths in excess of 11 pounds on the long rod.
Drawing upon his conventional tackle days in years gone by and his current nation-wide reputation as one of the kings of bass fly fishing, Woodruff has plenty of insight into catching chunky bass in the days of early summertime. Regardless of what type of fishing rod you're toting.
"What you've got to remember is that they are not all concentrated in one area like they were in the spring," said Woodruff, a three-time finalist for the Orvis Guide of the Year award. "From three feet on down to greater depths, there is more variety now to the water that will hold bass. But the good thing about this time of the year is that if you figure things out, you can pick 'em apart and start trying to repeat that same pattern in other areas."
In other words, bass are certainly catchable during this time, but it's a little bit more complicated than just tossing a topwater or spinnerbait up into shallow water.
Whether with fly fishing equipment or conventional gear, a good place to look for summertime bass as the morning progresses is on major main-lake and secondary points situated around major creek channels. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
Retired Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist Dr. Bill Harvey knows full well about the cerebral approach to early-summer bass fishing that Woodruff is talking about.
From redfish along the Gulf Coast to largemouth lunkers on an inland reservoir, Harvey has observed most successful anglers simply use their noggin as much as they do their tackle box. And that's particularly useful as the spring spawn ends and summertime begins.
"I think when you actually talk to them (about their angling success), they're always really thinking about it," Harvey once explained to me. "When they catch that next fish, they always seem to be thinking about why that just happened right (there)."
Harvey, himself a highly successful angler, believes that finding fish, whether in saltwater or freshwater venues, really boils down to two basic principles: first, understanding the biology that drives the fish and second, understanding where the bulk of their daily and/or seasonal needs are going to be met in the most energy efficient manner.
And there may be no better example than an early summer largemouth bass in the South.
"Bass are ambush feeding fish," Harvey explained. "God just made them that way. They're perfectly designed for ambush feeding by sight, sound and by hiding. If I know that about them, I have to assume that they're going to do that -- ambush their food. Their biology drives them. They are where we catch them for a reason because they're biologically driven to be there."
One way to see this principle illustrated is to watch what early-summertime bass do on water bodies like Guntersville, Fork, T-Bend and Big Sam.
"They like to move up (early) in the shallows in the summer and you'll get that early bite in shallow water," Harvey indicated. "They'll move up there early in the morning because there is more structure there for a fish that's an ambush feeder (to hide in). They'll move up into that area where other fish will have more of a problem seeing them."
While the best summertime bass action may be found in deeper waters, there are still plenty of chunky shallow-water fish to be caught on most water bodies. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
That also helps to explain why a good place to target summertime bass early in the day is around shallow timber, the edge of grass beds and near docks
Later in the day however, those same bass will move out of the shallow water, and in the former TPWD biologist's experience, it's not simply because they need their Ray Bans or Costas.
"I always thought they were moving off because they were light sensitive," said Harvey. "If that was the case, then how would they stand being up in that shallow water all of the time while they're spawning. Nah, they're moving off because they have lost their light advantage."
The biologist also reminds anglers that finding fish also boils down to understanding what their basic daily needs are and where those needs are most easily met at any given time.
"It ain't rocket science," Harvey reminded me. "Good tournament anglers, they're always talking about fishing a pattern. What they're actually searching for is that optimal intersection of oxygen, temperature, food and light."
Find that seasonal spot where the four basic daily needs of fish are met in the most efficient and energy conserving manner and you've likely found bass to target.
"For fish, life is all about energy in and energy out, or finding the maximum amount of energy intake with the least amount of energy being expended," he said. "In other words, they must maintain a positive energy balance.
"If I'm not catching fish, I start thinking about that. That place where fish will have that positive energy balance will be at the intersection of those four variables of oxygen, temperature, food availability, and light."
It probably goes without saying, but one secret to summertime bass fishing success is to make sure you're out on the water at the crack of dawn. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
So where should you concentrate your efforts early in the summer?
"I'd say secondary points inside of major creeks and major main lake points will tend to hold fish," said Woodruff. "But I'd also remember that in (early summer) to look for bream beds (since they are spawning) and fish along the deep water edges of those."
What lures or flies should you throw?
Early and late, Woodruff says topwaters for conventional anglers and poppers for fly fishing enthusiasts.
"Look for points and humps that have hydrilla sticking up towards the surface, the fronts of lily pads, the front of cattails especially near deeper creeks," the East Texas guide said.
Once the sun is up good, say about 9 to 10 o'clock in the morning, Woodruff suggests switching gears and targeting bass hanging around the deeper water edges of bream beds.
For conventional anglers, bluegill-hued shallow running crankbaits and spinnerbaits are good choices. For fly anglers, try a sink-tip line and a bluegill-color fly like a Silly Shad or Lake Fork Leech pattern.
As the teeth of summer heat begins to bite, Woodruff says anglers will have to remember fish are transitioning to deeper water haunts – not to mention feeding on shad schools – around such features as roadbeds, pond dams, humps and the deeper ends of main lake points.
For conventional anglers, that will mean fishing a wide variety of baits from slow rolled spinnerbaits to soft-plastic jerkbaits to deep-diving crankbaits to Carolina rigs. For fly anglers, pull out the full sinking lines and flies that resemble threadfin shad.
The bottom line in early summer is this: It's still a fine time to wet a line for Southern largemouth bass, even if the so called best time of the year has come and gone.