Tournament pros Randy Blaukat, Clark Reehm and Josh Bertrand can help you catch more summer bass.
By Peter Robbins
Today's bass anglers have access to better technology and more sources of information than any generation that preceded them, but many get locked into old habits.
Here are three anglers who buck conventional wisdom in order to consistently catch more fish.
SPECIES BEHAVIOR — SKINNY IN SUMMER
In the hottest part of the summer, many bass anglers fishing major impoundments turn their backs to the bank, looking offshore for the biggest schools of fish.
There's no doubt that can be productive, but veteran Missouri pro Randy Blaukat said it's not the exclusive domain of quality fish.
"Most people have this preconception that summertime only means deep fish," he said. "It's true, there's often a big population out there, but I've never been to a lake anywhere in the country where there's no shallow bite going on."
He'll look for summertime bass in two places on man-made reservoirs.
The first is in the lower to middle section of the lake, where bass key in on bedding bluegills. When the water temperature gets over 75 degrees, he'll look in the clearest sections he can find and cover water with a big walking bait like a Megabass Dog-X-Diamante.
If downlake doesn't produce, he looks for current. "I'll run to the headwaters, either of the main river or the upper reaches of the major creeks arms," he explained.
Unlike the clear-water bass that may be roaming or actively hunting, Blaukat says that these fish are related more tightly to cover. He'll look for stained, shallow cover — lay down logs, stumps, and other ambush points — and attack them with a hard-deflecting square bill crankbait, or flip a bulky jig at the meat of the target. There's nothing finesse-oriented about it — the dirty water allows for fishing's version of hand-to-hand combat.
"Don't feel like you have to be locked into any one pattern at any given time," he said.
SCOUTING — HIGH-TECH RECORD-KEEPING
FLW Tour angler Clark Reehm said that the old days of keeping paper notes about your fishing observations are over. They've been replaced by technology that does a much better job.
He has three Lowrance Carbon 12 units, and while they're great for navigation and finding fish, Reehm uses them as notebooks as well. "Paper notes get wet, and this is so much better than just marking a way point."
"They have a 'note' feature, just like your smart phone," he said. "When I fished the Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Ouachita, I sunk over 200 brush piles. There was no way I could remember them all, but I could add notes about each one. It could be where to set up the boat, casting angles, even who told me about the spot."
One example of a simple note he uses would be "BP20TOP12," which means a brush pile that sits in 20 feet of water but tops out in 12, which tells him what sort of crankbait will tick the top of it or how far to count down his swimbait before he starts retrieving.
Adrian Avena: Big Worms, Big Fish
STRATEGY/TECHNIQUES — DROP IT LIKE IT'S HOT
Arizona Elite Series pro Josh Bertrand, a three-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, employs the drop-shot skills that he's honed on the clear waters of the West, but instead of the skinny worms that tend to get the most play near home, he employs a trio of bait shapes to get the job done.
"The number one thing is the forage," he said. "There are goby lakes, perch lakes and other lakes that have baitfish like alewives. You need to figure out which one you're fishing and then try to match the forage."
On both baitfish and perch lakes, he relies on the Gulp Minnow, a 3-inch fork-tailed finesse lure in more natural "shad" colors on the former types of waters, and green hues when there are perch around. On goby lakes, his number one choice is the 3-inch Gulp Leech, a stubby piece of plastic that resembles its namesake creature. He prefers it in black, which is highly visible "from a long way away."
It's not just the bait itself that makes the difference, though. With a goby imitator it's imperative to keep the lure as close to the bottom as possible for as long as possible. Since perch often hang out atop short stalks of grass, he'll employ a longer leader and shake his bait more aggressively.