The days are growing longer and hotter, the bass spawn is long past and months lie ahead until the pre-winter frenzy. There is a lawn to mowed, summer vacation, and with the kids out of school, time on the lake is a luxury. Worst of all, the bass must be on sabbatical. Not a bite to speak of! But fear not intrepid anglers, success can be had with a few simple tips.
It's true that spring and fall are the best time for bass but there is no reason to give up on summer. The fish are still in the water, they are still feeding, you just have to figure out when, where, and what they are eating.
Warmer water tends to hold less oxygen and can’t support larger fish so steer clear of the shallows that were so productive during spawning season. You may occasionally see a bass on a shallow ledge but he has likely had his fill and will be heading back to the edge of deeper water.
To lure them in, you need to go just off the edges of drop-offs where bass will often hang in the cooler, more oxygen-rich waters. They will stay near shallows to feed, especially shady ones, but won’t come out unless they spot something that peaks their interest.
In early mornings and cooler evenings, bass may hang just on the shallow edge of the drop-off waiting for food. No matter the time, shad and other small baitfish are the predominant diet of bass so stick to crankbaits colored like the native species. Alternatively, you can try dark-colored plastics which can produce well.
Like the cooler waters, areas around vegetation will be more oxygen-rich as well as offering shade and good ambush opportunities. Frequently, larger bass will lay near the bottom just at the edges of thick weeds and lily pads and wait for food to come by. Snagless baits are great, especially frogs. If the weeds are deep enough, shallow diving lures and spinner baits are solid options. Mid-morning and a couple hours before sunset are best, when the sun is lower on the horizon.
Don’t neglect rocks, stumps, and other rigid structure. You are aiming for shade where bass will be out of the sun. Lure them out with crankbaits and other diving rigs. Drop Shot setups can be especially effective.
Going deeper is a good summer mantra but to increase your odds, use your fish finder to locate old river channels in man-made lakes which will be cooler and hold more oxygen, keeping bigger fish happy.
Keep in mind that smaller fish will need less oxygen than bigger fish and will often rest higher in the water. If you want to get to the big boys, you have to make it through all the wimpy bass. Using larger baits is one option but not the best. Larger baits are expensive and fishing deep is a good way to lose tackle.
A popular method is to use a lead head jig or other rigs that are weighted so heavily it passes the smaller bass too fast for them to grab it. You can purchase bottom-bouncing rigs, often used for walleye and steelhead, that can save you some snags but you are better off to just accept you are going to lose some tackle and fish cheap! Plastics work great, especially in high contrast colors.
If you are dead set on fishing the same baits and methods you used in spring, you are going to have to lose some sleep. Your best bet for shallow water action is to fish the hours just before sunrise and just after sunset.
If you are fishing early, the water temperatures have dropped overnight and bass will be lingering near the edges of shallows to get some warmth and so will their prey species. Your best bet is to fish shallow diving crankbaits and spooks. You can give some plastics a try, preferring brighter colors or whites.
If you fish at sunset, wait for the water to start to cool. Hungry bass that have been avoiding the shallow water heat will charge in when water temps get in the mid-70s. Top water baits are still a hard sell but most other baits will do well. Smallmouth tend to be extra aggressive in the evenings.
If the only time you have to fish is midday in full sun, live bait is your best friend! Minnows work well but if you are after the big fish, stick to larger Shad. If your lake allows it, large feeder goldfish will drive bass mad! Just don’t tell anyone I told you.
Another great live bait for summer bass is live shiners. You can usually pick these up at your local bait shop by the dozen. They're great for scoping out new spots and bass have a hard time resisting them even on the hottest days.
Don’t fish too much weight and let your bait swim on its own. Structure and other shady spots are the best locations if you can keep your bait from snagging you up on every cast. This also works well in the evenings. If you can put your bait right at the edge of a ledge, you can draw up some dandy fish!
Also, don't forget about nightcrawlers. If you're fishing a weedy area where it's impossible to get a shiner in, try a nightcrawler with a weedless hook.
Here's an option that I've used for fishing nightcrawlers successfully in weedy areas. Don't use any weight and Texas rig the worm. You'll need a spinning reel combo that can cast lighter lures.
This presentation allows you to get a very fine feel for the worm. You'll be able to detect the slightest strike and usually be able to guide the worm around obstacles. Keep in mind while this isn't a 100% weedless solution it's very effective even on high pressure lakes.
As a kid, this was all I fished in the summer. The bass are rarely large but they are plentiful if you can locate the right water. If you do, it's time to start thinking like a trout fisherman. Deep water pools are always worth a shot but keep your eye on the bottom of shady rifles and on the downstream side of large rocks.
Live baits and shiny spoons are great choices for fishing rifles. Letting your bait float gently down the rapids above the deeper water is a great presentation. You can use a variety of baits but make sure they are eye-catching!
Fishing a boulder isn’t much different but allows for a larger variety of baits. Cranks, spinners, and spooks work well. These fish often grab whatever you present, the color isn’t likely to matter but reflective baits are better producers. Just let the current wash your lure around the boulder and into eddies where fish may be resting.
Fish deep pools much like lakes. Look for structure and deeper water. If you can get into the edge of the stream channel at the deepest part, you can sometimes find some monsters. Live baits work very well as well as mimic patters for minnows.
There are secret places where the big bass hang that should be found and closely guarded. If you fish man made waters, get a topo map of the area, preferably from before the lake was built and look for old springs. If you can find these areas you will have zoned in on the best of summer fishing.
After a rain, these areas will release cooler water, and once that water mixes with vegatation, it becomes oxygen-rich. It’s still better for the springs to be somewhat deep to keep fish out of the sun but you can almost bet there are some giant bass hanging out around the vent opening. If there is some structure around, all the better.
Most any deep lure that can get down far enough stands a good chance. Jigs are preferred artificials but don’t neglect your live bait which can be very effective.
Summer bass are lazy but they can be prime targets for the industrious angler. A little understanding goes a long way! Get out on the water and prepare to fish deeper. Though it may not be the explosive excitement of spring, summer fishing can be quite productive.
Since the kids are out of school, this can also be a very rewarding time for fledgling anglers. When you know where the bass are and how to catch them, you can keep the excitement up and introduce a child to a lifetime obsession! Kids are also great for distracting smaller bass while you go for the big ones!
Give some of these tips a shot and see if you can’t turn your fishless summers into some of the best angling experiences you have ever had!
Ok, summer may not stack up to other seasons but why lose a quarter of a year of good fishing? Grab the sunscreen and get out on the lake, good luck and tight lines!