Okay, it’s hot. The mornings start early and the days are long. And…the fishing is a grind right? Well, I guess. Let’s try and change that.
This is the point of the season when largemouth bass move onto what can be described as more specific haunts. They will follow forage yes, but they will also seek areas of comfort and better yet, areas to ambush prey while escaping the penetrating rays of the mid-day sun. There are many factors that determine their locations in lakes and tributaries such as available cover, oxygen content, water temperature, forage etc.
Prime Real Estate
Now, these “specific” haunts I mentioned. Many largemouth bass in most lakes will move to mid-lake structures such as humps, sunken islands, saddles, main breaklines and long tapering points reaching the main basin and other structures like old road beds and old railway lines. Basically, these fish are relating less to shoreline structures and will seek structures that offer both deep water and shallow water access. For a percentage of largemouth bass, as opposed to their randomly suspended smallmouth cousins, deep weed lines are the order of the day. Prime spots to focus your efforts are irregularities in these weed lines such as sudden inside or outside turns or points in the weedline. This could be a change in bottom composition or mud to substrate transitions, sand and so on.
Exist To Fish team member Colin Booth can attest to that, as he definitely leans on this basic pattern to drum up his little green buddies. Colin fishes northern lakes in the Kawarthas region of Ontario, Canada. He explains, “In the lake I frequent, the water is tea stained. Mid-summer spots are a little behind this year, but overall 10-12ft milfoil lines are the most consistent producer of quality bass.” Colin depends on dark colored crawfish imitating plastics (black, black/blue) when the water is heavily stained, and natural colors such as brown for clearer waters. “I rig these craws onto a 4/0-5/0 flippin’ hook (strait shank) and pair it with a 3/8-1oz tungsten bullet weight, depending on whether or not I’m flipping into the cover or along the edges”. He continues, “I’m more of a plastics guy, rather than a jig guy when fishing heavy cover. My bass seem to hit my offering more after the fact. I’ll lift/drop/jig several times then let it settle, which is when the bass inhale it, rather than an “on the fall” strike indicative of jig fishing”. Colin’s go-to plastics are the Anglers Choice “Flappin’ Weasel” and “Flappin’ Craw”, coated in Liquid Mayhem Craw scent.
Now, let’s talk about these mid-lake spots a bit more. The reason that these structures are of such importance is the fact that they can be picked apart from dawn to dusk. As first light peaks its way out, largemouth will follow sunfish into the shallows, which is a part of a trickle-down effect. Bluegills and pumpkinseed (sunfish), along with perch and crappie, will gorge on small minnows that are
feeding on hatching insects. Those dimpling baitfish you see are not only feeding, they are trying to evade the hungry sunfish. Then, as the bass move in on the sunfish, you’ll begin to see larger fish breaching the surface, which is when and where I pull out my trusty poppers. I like to impart an erratic “walk the dog” action along with strait pops to entice aggressive largemouth.
Not many anglers realize that poppers can be walked, but believe me, it is one of the most effective ways to spark a feeding response. My go-to popper is the 4” “Magic Popper” by Lake Fork Trophy Tackle. Its weight forward design allows this bait to walk as steadily or erratically as needed and has accounted for countless bass for yours truly.
Is That The End All be All?
As the sun ascends, the bass will descend into the depths along with the lower food chain. This is when sub-surface baits like medium-deep diving cranks, and eventually bottom contacting baits like the baits Colin discussed earlier. You see, that’s what makes these humps, sunken islands and other aforementioned mid-lake features so important, as bass are relating to these structures all day, all night. But are these spots the end all, be all at this time of year? Not exactly. It’s just a great place to start.
Another place to look is over hanging cover, both natural and man-made. Aged docks are a great option when the sun is high, along with over hanging trees. The one key feature of a well producing dock or tree is deep water access directly under or adjacent to said cover.
The best way to hit fish hiding from the intense light is skipping under the cover, which contrary to popular belief will actually anger a big bass rather than trigger a feeding response. It’s like sitting under an umbrella at the beach, then some weird stranger comes along and sits on your lap, yea, you’d be pretty angry too right? There are a few presentations I prefer to get this type of a response. Skipping a stickworm or a minnow/fluke style bait, tubes and flippin’ jigs are the deal. The “Hyper Stick” and “Magic Shad” by Lake Fork Trophy Tackle have been very effective for me, along with their flippin’ jigs as well. The jigs can be skipped (with some practice) but don’t discount flippin’ the jig along the sides of the dock or into a tree as well as a larger profile may be more attractive.
I always add Liquid Mayhem attractant to all my baits for the sent trail and taste that bass hold on to longer (and for neutral fish).
Another place to search out summer largemouth is tributaries with elements such as overhanging trees, lush vegetation and undercut banks. These rivers and creeks will hold an abundance of forage along with high oxygen levels and comfortable water temps. Look for inside turns, which is where you’ll find deeper water and some good hiding spots. I like to concentrate my efforts here but if these deeper spots aren’t holding big fish, I’ll use the “skipping” tactic into the undercuts and trees. The key feature here will be, again, deep water access in the river or creek channel and its adjacency to said cover. These spots can be considered holding areas, and points of cover and more importantly, points of ambush. Again, the Lake Fork Trophy Tackle “Hyper Stick” and “Magic Shad” (weightless) get leaned on by yours truly in this case.
When the sun gets low, or on overcast days, bass might be in open water, along the edges. This is when swimbaits, spinnerbaits and crankbaits can shine, especially when stumps/washed out trees are present. Bouncing a square bill crankbait or spinnerbait off of a stump or limb can’t be beat when bass are hunkered down or inactive.
Fishing The Junk
Let’s take a look at one more viable option when hunting out largemouth, especially of the larger variety. A high percentage of anglers shy away from fishing in extremely heavy cover such as matted vegetation, thick lily pads and so on. Well, you shouldn’t. I don’t. Neither does Chris Huskilson.
“I love to fish heavy cover” Chris states, “It’s where the big girls sit”. He explains, “Heavy action rods (7’11” Shimano Cumara “Punch Rod”) high speed reels (7.6:1 Shimano Chronarch C14) spooled with Heavy braided line (65lb Power Pro) are a must”. Chris counts on 3/4oz to 1.5oz tungsten Ultra Tungsten “Ultra Punch” skirted weight systems and Ultra Tungsten Bullet weights pegged with a rubber bobber stop are my go to setups for flipping and pitching heavy cover largemouth. He continues “I like to use small profile baits that can easily penetrate the thickest of cover. My go to baits are the Jackall “Cover Craw”, “Satsuteki Craw” and the “Chunk Craw”.
What Chris looks for
“When punching matted vegetation or clumped grass, I like to look for areas that the wind has blown into. This will create overhead matted cover and the wind will blow the baitfish in as well as setting the bass up for a dark cool place to hide and ambush their prey. This can be anything from mossy matted cheese moss, to
uprooted weeds that have floated and clumped together at the surface. The key is relative proximity to deeper water, especially during the heat of the summer. The fish need cooler deeper water to retreat to if they overheat, thus providing the security that they need if they must escape a predator themselves”.
He continues “Attention to detail is very important when fishing heavy cover. Multiple flips/pitches into the same matted area are very important to get your bait in front of the fish. I will pitch to the
matt, allow the bait to penetrate to the bottom and impart a gentle “yo-yo” like action on my bait a few times. I then repeat until I have thoroughly covered every portion of the matt. I have had several instances in which I had made 5 or 6 pitches into the same piece of cover before I got “bit”, so follow suit and be patient and better yet, stay persistent”. Lili Pads with matted grass in between the leaves are great areas as well as docks with matted grass blown in to them, or a steep bank with blown-in debris can be deadly”.
Now what if this technique fizzles, but you are seeing swirls in this cover? That’s when yours truly pulls out a frog or a weightless swimbait and violently burn it over this heavy “junk”. I’ll get out a 7’6” heavy action flippin’ stick, paired with a 7.6:1 high speed reel spooled with 65lb braid and rig up a hollow body frog or a solid plastic Lake Fork Trophy Tackle Frog (usually white) or a “Live Magic Shad” swimbait and I cover as much of the expanse as possible. A 6/0 superline EWG hook does the trick here, as this cover is of the heaviest variety. When I get a blow-up or two, but miss a big bass, I’ll pitch a follow up bait similar to Chris’s punch baits right back to the spot where I missed one. This “one-two punch” can really round out a day of fishing the junk.
It’s a lot to take in I know, but these are big bass techniques and patters that rule the mid-summer waters. Well roundedness and the ability to adapt and read the waters will be paramount to your success as largemouth bass hunters. Don’t be afraid to crash the party and drop baits into their domain, and on the other end of the spectrum (hint-hint) pay attention to the mid-lake spots near the depths. Big bass live in the extremes, not on the fringe in mid-summer. Mount up, get jacked and as I always say, see you out there!
Written by Jamie Wilson
Product used in this article
Shimano Cumara rod
|CUC711XHA||7’11||Extra Heavy||Fast||15-30||40-80||1-3||10.5″ Split Grip 3″ EVA Handle||Fuji KR-Concept Alconite Ring Black Frame||Punch Rod|
Shimano Chronarch CI4 Reel