Bass fishing can get tough during the hottest part of summer, unless you know some secrets for success during those sultry dog days. These tips could help.
Select the best waters
Your summer bass-fishing success often depends on the type of water you fish. The best lakes for hot-weather fishing – those where largemouths continue to feed actively throughout the season – generally are deep, fairly clear and exceed 500 acres. They are very fertile and support abundant baitfish. There should be a good mix of structure and cover, and areas of open water adjacent to structural elements. Rivers produce good bass, too, when they offer the same environmental conditions.
In small, shallow lakes and ponds, summer fishing generally is poor. Spring fishing may be good, but during hot weather, weeds choke most such lakes, and bass have no cool, oxygen-rich depths to which they can retreat. Fish become lethargic.
Picking good waters using these guidelines isn’t foolproof, but by coupling this information with questions to state fisheries personnel, other bass anglers, dock owners, etc., you can narrow the field to choice locations.
Young-of-the-year sunfish are a superb yet often overlooked summer bass bait. They’re easy to obtain and store, hardy in any water temperature, super-lively on the hook and extra-appealing to big bass. One- to 2-inch ones are like candy to bucketmouths.
Use a small baited hook, minnow seine or cast net to catch small sunfish. Store them in a minnow bucket. They’re fished much like you’d fish minnows, but must be held farther from cover to keep them from wrapping line.
A small sunfish’s normal movements feel almost like a bass’s gentle nip at a minnow. It takes practice to ignore those little taps and twitches, but there’s no doubt when a nice bass takes a sunfish; it strikes hard. Check local fishing regulations first to determine the legality of using sunfish for bait in your area.
Prop on top
Near dawn and dusk, try working a prop bait around thick vegetation. Cast to the cover’s edge, and let the lure sit until all ripples subside. Twitch it then, just enough to rotate the props a time or two. If no strike comes, start a steady retrieve.
The idea is to get the bass’ attention so it will swim over for a look. When one does, you want to make the lure appear as if it is real and has seen the fish and is trying to escape.
Flip a jig
When fishing around logs and other woody cover in shallow water, try flipping or pitching a jig or grub. As you move the lure through stickups or timber, you can feel it start up over a limb. As soon as it stops coming up, lower your rod, letting the jig drop straight down again. If there’s a bass near the tree, it’s likely to grab the jig as the lure drops.
Rat on ‘em
Bass hiding in the shade in lily pads often can be enticed with a soft-plastic rat or mouse. Spinning tackle is superior for fishing these lightweight, floating lures. Cast to open spots amid the pads and allow the lure to sit on the water for a minute or so before swimming it back in slow, short spurts. If the lure is rigged with a weedless hook, it can be cast onto pads and then pulled off and swum slowly between them. Keep your rod tip pointed down, and make all retrieves slow and deliberate.
One of the most difficult aspects of fishing these lures is making yourself wait an extra second after the strike before setting the hook, just to make certain the bass really has the lure. If a fish swirls and misses, let the lure remain still, then wiggle it ever so slightly. This often will coax a second strike.
When bass are suspended at 9- to 10-foot depths, you can usually pinpoint them by trolling a 1/2-ounce lipless crankbait 120 feet behind the boat with 12-pound line. If you go to heavier line, subtract a foot for every pound test you move up to. If you troll with line lighter than 12-pound-test, add a foot of depth for every pound test you drop in line size. Troll at approximately 3 m.p.h.
Ready with a worm
Keep an extra fishing outfit handy, rigged with a big plastic worm. If a lunker swirls at the lure you’re using and misses, this is one of the best follow-up baits.
Are other anglers zigging? Maybe you should zag. Fish become conditioned to certain lures and presentations, and you may catch more lunkers by trying something unconventional – a big live shiner instead of artificials, for example, or a new lure or presentation that hasn’t caught on yet. Give a musky lure a try, or a big saltwater lure. Be open minded. Experiment.