Hot Summer Bass? No Sweat!
Hot Summer Bass? No Sweat!
When the heat gets cranked up and bass shut down, turn the tables with these hot lures and strategies!--By Colby Simms * Photos courtesy Simms Outdoors
As many of us day dream about cooling air, falling leaves and the great fall deer hunting season, we can find a great distraction to pass the time on one of the many bass fishing waters of North America. Summertime bass angling is great fun as the warm water temperatures mean that plenty of active bass will roam lakes, rivers and reservoirs in search of the food that will fuel their high-speed metabolism. Despite the advantage that warm waters can provide, this season can sometimes be a difficult time to catch good numbers of big bass. While the feisty little scrappers of the shoreline banks can mean fast action, the bigger fish, the ones that we see in visions while we sleep, can require different tactics. Some waters can offer big summertime bass in the shallows, while others provide better action for anglers that probe the depths. Let's look at the different waters and patterns that produce both shallow and deep water fishing for big bass.
Colby Simms with a beautiful summertime largemouth bass from Kinkaid Lake in Southern Illinois.
BASS IN THE SHALLOWS
Waters that contain good weed cover can hold big bass shallow all season long. Large active bass can be found in water temperatures that range through the 80s and even into the low 90s where thick healthy aquatic vegetation is present. The best places to locate bass are areas that offer complex structural elements. Gradually tapering flats that have an irregular breakline on their edge, long primary points, mid-lake humps and islands are excellent spots when they have good shallow weed cover and a drop off to deeper water nearby.
Often the big bass will position in the shallow cover and wait for a meal to amble by. Other times though, they'll school up and suspend shallow, but over deeper water near these shallow weedy structures to actively hunt shad and other pelagic baitfish species. A variety of presentation options will take these fish. Long-arm spinnerbaits--1/4- to 1/2- ounce--and topwater lures such as buzzbaits, chuggers and walking cigar plugs in similar sizes are excellent for working over the top of weeds and grass that doesn't quite reach the surface. Shallow diving crankbaits with a wide wobble can also tempt bass out of the weeds. When the fish are buried in the thick stuff, punching through with a compact weedless Tru Tungsten Jig from Tru Tungsten (tru-tungsten.com) and plastic trailer can be a hot ticket. Tungsten is a very heavy material that's about half the size of lead. Its small size allows for a more subtle presentation, and its density means much greater sensitivity. This can be very important for 'feeling' what the bottom is made of and when the bait contacts cover. They also crawl through cover easier because of their smaller size.
On lakes that don't contain vegetation, bigger bass typically hold in deep water most of the time. Good places to look for deep bass are along bluff walls. Vertical rock walls that plunge quickly into extremely deep water can hold lots of nice bass. The best bluff walls fall close to creek or river channels, and the best places along these bluffs to find bass include ledges and cuts in the side of the bluff, rock slides where rock has broken away from the bluff wall and collected on a ledge, and the ends of bluff walls where points begin.
Simms enticed this largemouth to hammer a Tru Tungsten Jig along a productive weed edge.
Speaking of points, they can also be excellent places to find deep water bass. The best spots are the tips of the deeper points and the sides of points that have a steep slope. Obviously, rock is a primary form of cover in these areas, but wood is excellent too. Deep standing timber and stumps are great places to drop a lure on rocky structure. Long billed deep diving crankbaits that get down into the 15- to 20-foot range are effective. Large heavy spinnerbaits of 1 to 2 ounces or more, such as the School N Shad HT and Baby School N Shad HT (maout.com/colbysimms.htm) take big active bass. Vertical jigging with jigging spoons and blade baits produce good catches at times. Subtle soft plastic baits such as straight-tail worms, soft jerks, grubs and tubes can all be highly effective on deep summertime bass. Carolina rigs and drop shot rigs with Tru Tungsten Weights are two of the best ways to fish these baits, but threading the bait on a Tru Tungstun Ikey Head Jig also works very well.
High quality graphite rods are necessary to detect subtle bites and to feel what your bait is doing in the water. Using the right graphite rod is like having a camera on the end of your line, as it lets you know just what is happening down there. Rods must also be strong, durable and lightweight. I select models of the Platinum, American Classic and Team Series Graphite Rods from All Star Rods (allstarrods.com) for these and other bass fishing situations. I usually select medium to heavy baitcasting gear for larger lures designed for power fishing, like spinnerbaits, topwater lures, jigs and carolina rigs, and opt for light to medium spinning gear for smaller, finesse-type presentations like subtle soft plastics on open hook jigs and drop-shot rigs, small to mid-sized crankbaits, spoons and blade baits. I pair these rods with top quality reels with high capacity spools and super smooth drag systems like the President LP, Supreme LP and Trion LPCR Baitcasters, and the Medalist, President and Trion Spinning Reels from Pflueger Fishing Tackle (pfluegerfishing.com), and spool up with Supreme Super Tough or Cajun Red Lightnin' for baitcasting and Super Smooth or Red Cast for spinning gear from Shakespeare (shakespeare-fishing.com). Good polarized sunglasses are another must have item on a summertime bass fishing trip. Quality fishing optics like the Master Angler Series from Flying Fisherman (flyingfisherman.com) help anglers see deep in the water at longer distances to spot bass and baitfish, as well as cover objects and bottom changes. They also protect an angler's precious eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Summertime bass feed heavily on baitfish and crawfish. Choose shades of white and gray with darker backs, or silver, chrome and other highly reflective finishes that mimic baitfish. Smoke, natural greens, light brown and sometimes a bit of orange work well on plastics and jigs. Usually the best time of the day to target summertime bass is from an hour or so before light until mid to late morning. The late evening period can be very productive as well. Anglers should not rule out night fishing for big bass in the summer months, as it can be the best time of year to prowl the waters during those hours. Summer gets a lot of hunters down, but just grab the fishing gear and head out on the lake. You're likely to have so much fun that the time will fly by and the fall hunting season will be upon you before you know it.
Ray Simms with a big bass taken from deep water on a Simms School N Shad Spinnerbait in the heat of summer.
LIVING FOR BASS
Heading out on the water or into the woods early in the morning, before light, just as our ancestors did for thousands of years before us, the anticipation builds to an almost indescribable feeling. The smells and sounds of nature can touch you deep within your soul as you match wits with fish and game in the pursuit of the greatest of sports. We can draw on our experiences of hunting and fishing in the great wilds of this earth. We can treasure these moments deep within ourselves, for all of time, and relive them in our minds when we need a bit of help getting on with the rest of our lives. Here, in the great outdoors, we get back to the raw unadulterated savageness that is nature, and take something from it that few can understand. It's like food in our stomachs, air in our lungs, and love in our hearts, fuel for living in the world outside of this one. So, fill up when you're out here, just make sure to get back before you get close to E.
Outdoorsmen can book guided sport fishing and hunting trips with top guides throughout Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin with the Simms Outdoors Team Guide Service, and get the very best custom fishing lures and leaders from Simms Sport Fishing Tackle at www.maout.com/colbysimms.htm or 573-358-5948 / 618-521-0526. Email the author at [email protected].