Beat the Heat
- Written by Andrew Court
Often we think that Summer Bass are as difficult to catch as winter fish and at times this can be the case but not because Bass don’t bite at this time of the year! What makes fishing tricky in summertime is the multitude of options available to the angler! No other season presents more options for anglers than the summertime. We know that Bass can be found fairly easily in shallow or mid water depths during the spring and autumn months, making them a little easier to pattern and pinpoint but come the heat of summer they are often found very shallow, very deep and generally anything in between. This is often what confuses us with trying to pattern them. Then of coarse there’s the issue of lures and tactics! We know that during the colder months there are a bunch of techniques that are not as effective so we can eliminate and hone our pattern quicker. In summer however, I don’t think there’s a bait or technique around that won’t catch Bass at one time or another!
So where do we begin in sorting through the multitude of patterns and techniques? One of the keys, of coarse, is depth. Where do most Bass go after leaving the spawning areas? A step in the right direction would be to get some understanding about the particular water you intend to fish and how the Bass relate to that water during the summer months. On most waters you will encounter, the Bass usually take up residence in the deepest water that offers the most food, cover and comfort and generally it is believed that up to 80 % of the Bass population moves deep during the heat.
Generally, after the spawn, Bass will follow river channels, ditches and points that lead away from the spawning flats to deeper areas on the main body. Of coarse depth is relative to any body of water but the dam end or downstream section is usually the deepest, where Bass can find the necessary comforts. So fishing the deep end of the dam in say the 20-30 ft range can produce some good fish, however Bass being the ‘resident-loyal’ creatures that they are, might find the 10-15 ft depths in the upper sections of the dam just as comfortable. The key here is to try and establish where the better fish are located and probing points from shallow to deep can offer some productive clues to Summer Bass, especially those that have attractive cover to enhance them. Initially however these might be the more obvious and visible structures but a lot of the time it’s the less obvious, under water points and humps that can be the sweet spots. Good use of your electronics is often the key to finding bigger and better fish during the Summer. We often find ourselves rushing off to obvious, visible and pressured areas in stead of spending time cruising over potential areas while observing our sounder. Look for baitfish activity and/or thermoclines and if you can find structure in the form of humps, submerged points, rocks, etc. that intersect those depths, you could well be on your way to unlocking a quality summer pattern.
However, this doesn’t mean to say that the best fishing is always deep. Once again depth is relative to the nature of the particular water and where in the country you fishing it. For example waters which have an abundance of oxygen rich grass or weed growth in warmer parts of the country could see Bass holding throughout the year with minimal migratory movement. Other waters might see more extreme Bass movement during the seasonal changes and these are usually the ones that experience extremes in water clarity and temperature between seasons. So doing a little homework on the water you intend to fish both in its location and nature can set you in the right direction but there are also a number of variables that all us Bassers should always consider...weather. During the summer months when temperatures soar, wind or overcast conditions can and often does spur on and bring deep Bass into the shallows to feed, even during the middle of the day. So keep a close eye on changes in weather patterns, wind and approaching fronts as well as changes in water clarity from one side of the dam to the other. In good conditions, stained or dingy water can push Bass a lot shallower than you think, even during the heat.
As mentioned, vegetation can hold Bass shallow throughout the year and dams that have good growth of submerged or visible vegetation can be excellent spots for staying shallow in summer. This often occurs in the upper river sections of dams as well as in smaller feeder streams. Rivers and inlets can provide good fishing and are greatly enhanced if there is ample cover and some current which often provides cooler and more oxygenated water. Another good spot for fishing shallow in summer is around boat docks and jetties, especially the larger wooden variety that have pilings and deeper water nearby. Docks and jetties can maintain an abundant food source for Bass and provide shaded cover throughout the day. The same can be said for bridges which can provide a vast amount of varied cover below the surface. This could be the drop offs into the river channel as well as lodged debris at the base of pilings, rock piles and the rip rap banks which usually always accompany bridges.
Not to mention the ‘golden hours’ of summer Bassing would almost be a sin. Those few hours from first light and the last hours till dark can provide some awesome topwater action on a lot of waters around the country during the hot months. If you fortunate enough to be on the water during overcast warm conditions then you might even have explosive topwater action all day. Buzzbaits, walkers, poppers or frogs can be great summer baits in the cooler hours and although there are a myriad of baits and techniques to employ in summer, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, action tail worms, creature baits and jigs are more often than not...deadly!
- When wood, vegetation or rocks connect key structures like points, drops or humps, Bass are more than likely to be around and especially if it intersects a thermocline.
- Bass often migrate to the shallow areas of structure during the cooler hours or on rainy, overcast days. Topwater baits can be very productive in these situations-even in deepish water.
- Be aware on dams that might be releasing water at the wall-it creates current and can make Bass active.
- Wind creates current, helps disguise you and can turn Bass on during summer.
- Night fishing in summer can be awesome especially on a full moon-use dark or black baits that emit a good vibration.
- Check water temperature regularly to find cooler areas and more active Bass.
- If shallow water doesn’t produce don’t be afraid to check deep water structure and if deep is 30 ft or more then fish it
- When temperatures soar Bass become less active but can often be stacked up on deep points and drops-they are catchable.
- For those deep areas you can use Carolina rigs, drop shot rigs, deep diving crankbaits, heavier jigs or texas rigs-bigger baits can be used but don’t be afraid to finesse if the situation calls for it.