September 23, 2021
Largemouth bass fishing as summer turns into fall can be challenging for a number of reasons. Forage is on the move. There's too much rain…or not enough. The water is gin clear. But the biggest culprit is usually the fact that water and air temperatures are still high.
Fish seek comfort in late-summer when the heat is on, but not all bass do so in the same way. It never hurts to give the fish a variety of options until they tell you where they are and what they want.
Having a general plan for doing so as efficiently as possible will save time on good days and cut down on the number of slow days on the water this time of year.
Ask anglers about the most challenging situations for catching bass, and often they'll cite two in particular: cold, muddy water in spring and deep, clear water in summer. Both are problematic, though the latter is arguably the tougher of the two.
When holding deep, bass often suspend over some kind of cover or structure. It could be a channel bend or hump, a rockpile, stumps, a sunken boat or whatever else is lying on the bottom. Isolated cover or structure is especially worth your attention.
In desert lakes it could be one boulder that attracts one or more bass. Sunken brush piles or an isolated tree could be the key to catching multiple fish. A piece of structure separated from the others could be the gold mine.
INTO THE WIND
Suspended bass on bright, hot days are often unwilling to move much. However, if there is enough wind to ripple the surface, bass can become much more active, even rising through the water column to feed on forage fish that look like they are “in trouble” on the surface.
Take advantage of the situation by picking up a topwater walking bait such as a Super Spook, Lucky Craft Gunfish or Evergreen SB. As with any topwater, you'll have to vary the retrieve to see what triggers bites, but start with a slow, methodical retrieve. If you find aggressive bass or see them chasing bait, perhaps in the back of a big cove, consider a River2Sea 130 Whopper Plopper. For something more subtle, switch to a Bagley's BangOLure TwinSpin or another similar dual-prop topwater.
The slender body offers a thinner profile that, combined with the breezy ripples, can get a bass’s attention.
If suspended bass get a glimpse of a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce spinnerbait, they’ll often rise to crush it. A breeze helps with surface ripples, but don’t be afraid to throw the blade in calm conditions. Stick with basic skirts—white, white-chartreuse and shad—and nickel willow-leaf blades. Do not limit yourself, however. Gold or dull nickel, such as a hammered blade, may be more attractive on cloudy days.
The key is to be flexible. Sometimes it can be hard to believe that if your favorite spinnerbait isn’t working another one will. Keep an open mind. One option is to try a different profile, such as an underspin bait with a Zoom Fluke or similar bait. For a bigger profile, throw a swimbait.
If the wind doesn't cooperate or fish are simply not coming up in the water column to chase, choose a subtler option. A long, slender offering, such as the Keitech Swing Impact, on a jig head might work. If it doesn't, or you're only catching smaller fish, try a Swing Impact Fat or Megabass MagDraft for a meatier profile. Start with colors and sizes that match the forage in the lake and adjust from there.
A now-classic option for suspended bass is the drop shot rig, and it should be part of your arsenal any time you fish deep, clear lakes. Usually, fishing a drop shot is less exciting than a topwater bite, but if there is no topwater bite, catching bass on a drop shot is more exciting than not catching any bass at all.
A drop shot rig is an extremely efficient way to fish vertically over structure and cover for finicky bass. Again, start with natural colors. Consider something like the RoboWorm Alive Shad in Morning Dawn and Prizm Shad colorations, or the Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm in Natural Shad or Blue Pearl with large silver flake. Have a good selection of colors in your tackle bag, though, should the bass want something different. With today’s impressive sonar units, you can locate structure or cover and the fish they hold, then watch your bait fall and see the fish bite.
Sometimes you can figure out why bass are hitting a specific lure, but it’s not absolutely necessary if you are willing to offer the fish multiple options until they see what they like.
If you are lucky enough to fish a lake with green, healthy summer vegetation, you have even more options, including some in shallow water. Flipping and pitching big baits on braided line in thick vegetation can be incredibly effective, but first consider throwing a frog on top.
While fishing in open water can be a good strategy, throwing big frogs on matted vegetation is about as exciting as it gets. Bass use thick cover throughout the year; in winter it holds the heat, and in summer it provides shade from the harsh sun. Vegetation also attracts everything in the food chain, from microscopic plankton to grass shrimp to panfish. Anything on top—ducks, small animals, frogs, lizards, birds—also are at risk of being inhaled by a big bass. They don’t discriminate.
For thick vegetation, color doesn’t matter much since bass holding under a mat of weeds are reacting to the movement and sound of the bait on top, which they often can’t see until they’re committed to the strike. As long as the bait is big enough to make some noise or movement like a flopping frog, bluegill or shad, it’s a good bait. A Spro Bronzeye King Daddy in Midnight Walker, Killer Gill or Albino helps keep things simple. They work in scattered vegetation, too, such as around reeds, pads or submerged grass.
When going subsurface in vegetation, think big—big line, big weight, big hooks and big bait. Largemouths are opportunistic, though they may not eat as aggressively in summer. Their metabolism, thanks to the warmer conditions, isn’t as supercharged as it is in spring and autumn.
Conventional wisdom says they’d rather eat a big gizzard shad, or a few large bluegills or crayfish, and be done for a while. That’s where your big bait slipping through the reeds, pads, hyacinth, bulrushes or jungle of hydrilla or milfoil comes into play. Texas-rigged tubes and worms will work, and jigs are a favorite of some despite the open hook that can snag. But there’s a better option: the punch bait.
A punch bait is a great way to mimic a jig without the grass-grabbing exposed hook. For heavy vegetation, start with 65-pound-test braided line, add a rubber sinker stop on the line and slide it up, then add the sinker.
For thick vegetation you’ll need an ounce or more; bullet-shaped sinkers slide through easily, and tungsten has a smaller profile than lead (plus, lead is not legal in many waters in the West anyway).
After the sinker stop and sinker, tie on a hook and then add your plastic. Options include the Reaction Innovations Double Wide Beaver, a Berkley PowerBait Chigger
Craw, the Strike King Rage Tail Lobster and Missile Baits D Bomb. Stick with bluegill and craw colors to simplify things.
Punch baits come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes. The fun is figuring out which one the bass prefer.
A Simple New Way to Transport Your Lures
One of the things that separate anglers who catch more fish from anglers who don't is pretty simple: Anglers who catch more fish spend more of their time with their lures in the water.
For bass anglers, being able to switch out lures quickly is a big factor in maximizing effective fishing time, and Lure Lock's new storage system, the Roll-Up ($29.99; lurelock.com), has three characteristics that really save anglers time.
The Roll-Up is a clear container featuring with a proprietary gel technology called Tak Logic that holds lures secure and in place so they don’t tangle with each other. At the same time, the clear container allows you to see all the lures at once before you open it. Thus you can instantly find the specific lure you are looking for and quickly remove it from the Roll-Up without tangling hooks or running a hook into your fingers. Finally, the container itself is flexible enough that, as the name implies, it rolls up for compact storage.
No more fiddling with tackle box lids, removing trays and pawing through boxes to find the lure you want or untangling one lure's hooks from another. The Lure Lock Roll-Up allows you to see the lure instantly and remove it fast without hassle. — David Johnson