What We’re Throwing in July

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Summer is in full swing, but I’m not scared to go shallow. Or, maybe I’m just too stubborn to go deep. Either way, I do tend to stay skinny throughout much of the summer and really anytime I have the chance. Sure, I’ll fish deep with a crankbait or a hair jig. I can occasionally force myself to slow down enough to drag a football jig or drop a dropshot. However, when it comes to Carolina rigs and shaky heads, I have to draw the line.

Unless I’m in a dire situation, I just don’t enjoy having to slow down and work that hard to get a bite. I’d rather stay shallow and grind the way I like to grind, in search of one or two good bites a day. Then I will have a little something rigged up to throw at the occasional schooler too. That’s the gist of what I like to keep on deck in July–a few big fish baits and something to throw at schoolers. What does that look like this summer? Let’s talk about it. 


There’s a lot of talk about Whopper Ploppers, Choppos and other new-fangled topwaters. All of them are great, don’t get me wrong. The Berkley Choppo pops up as a key tool in the hands of touring pros year after year. It did so again with Hunter Shryock during the recent Bassmaster Elite Series event on Smith Lake in Alabama. Shryock sold out to the shallow Choppo bite on day one. It caught him the biggest bag of the day and put him in the lead, proving itself again to be a powerful bait for summertime fishing. 

The old classic buzzbait is still hard to beat, and I’ve recently found myself falling in love with it all over again. In the last week of June I had two memorable fish catches on a buzzbait that have kept me chucking and winding through the miserable, sweltering heat of Alabama in the summer. In one of our little Wednesday night derbies on the home pond, I caught a 6.78-pound beast on an old school Lunker Lure in the rain. More recently, I caught a nice 4 and a half pounder fun fishing with a Damiki MTB Noisy Buzzbait. The 6.78 just sucked the bait under. The 4-pounder smoked it and choked it. Both were a whole lot of fun. 

Having a buzzbait on deck during the summer gives you a great lure for covering water–which is what you’ll need to do if you hope to get bites. Shallow bass are few and far between in the warmest months, but they are often big and grouped up when you do find them. A great way to create a little mayhem is to throw a topwater into the mix of three or four big bass in competition with one another.


Why are big bass shallow and often in small schools in the summer? Well, bedding bluegill have a lot to do with it. From May through September, bluegill, red ear and other bream spawn in the shallows throughout much of the country. Big bass roam the shallows in search of these beds and when they collide with them, chaos ensues. This is why I like to keep a big wakebait on deck–the Clutch Wakegill in particular. 

I’ve spent a good amount of the last four months trying to learn and expand my experience with big baits. I’ve played with a few glide baits for a while, but as the water has warmed to near 90 degrees on most of my lakes, I’ve shifted my attention to fishing a big wakebait a lot. Boy oh boy has it been fun. 

Big wakebaits like the Clutch Wake Gill work well around bluegill beds and cover in the summer because they mimic a slow moving, struggling bluegill as well as or better than any other bait out there. If you crawl this lure alongside enough docks, laydowns, shallow brush and stumps, you’re bound to get the bite of a lifetime at some point. This is an intoxicating and addictive way to fish, so consider this your fair warning. If you’re not careful, you can spend all day using this technique and never get a bite. However, it’s the most fun you can have without getting tons of bites. When you do, it’s all worth it. 

You’ll need a large rod, a strong reel and good braid for these baits. The F5 Black Metal 715MH is a 7 foot, 10 inch medium-heavy rod with a moderate fast action that I love for this bait. The bend of the rod helps make lob and roll casts much easier, it loads up well on the hookset and during the fight to keep the bass pinned. I’ve swapped back and forth from a Shimano Curado 200H and a Lew’s Super Duty for the reel. Fifty pound Sufix 832 braid has served me well, but you can step up to 65-pound test if you feel the need. 


Now that summer is in full force, aquatic vegetation is super thick in places. I like to keep a punching bait on deck to flip into the occasional grass mat. I’ll stumble on “trash mats” too from time to time: leaves, saw dust, pine straw and literal trash form into mats caused by fluctuating water in the summer. A great way to pluck up a fish or two is to keep a punch setup on deck to get down into the mats. 

I’ve recently been testing the 7 foot 8 inch extra heavy Shimano Curado casting rod as a flipping stick and it has handled 1 ounce and 1.5 ounce weights well. You’ll need a strong braided line for this style of fishing, fifty pound test will suffice in looser vegetation but you’ll want to go up to 65 pound test in the thicker stuff. The BassMooch Shooter Craw has been the most recent soft plastic to adorn my punching setup.


Though you’ll want to use the punching setup for the thicker stuff, you’re better off with a jig around isolated wood and dock posts. A good way to pick apart shallow cover is to keep a pitching jig on deck. I like to toss a jig like this into the ends of laydowns as well and work them through cover anytime I can find a little current. 

Shade is something that you really have to focus on when fishing shallow in the summer. This is what makes docks so appealing when it’s hot out. The dark and broad shade of a dock gives bass a refuge from the scorching hot and bright sun of summer. Skipping a jig under a dock like this is a great way to catch the big ones that lurk beneath it. 

The ⅜-ounce Dirty Jigs Luke Clausen Compact Pitchin’ Jig is pretty solid for pitching and skipping. I’ve been fishing it lately with a Zoom Salty Chunk and leaving the skirt full. This combination has a really slow and subtle fall and it’s proven quite effective at getting bit even in 90 degree water. 


Lastly, it’s a good idea to keep some kind of little bait fish imitator rigged up, in case fish come up chasing shad around the boat. A finesse popper works well for this, as does a 3.3-inch Keitech on a 3/16-ounce jighead. The bait I’ve used most lately is the Shimano BT Bait 99SS.

This is a wicked little lure. It’s only about 3 inches long but has an unbelievably realistic action. It kind of reminds me of a small Berkley Magic Swimmer. You can burn this bait along without it blowing out or reel it slow. You can twitch it and pause it and kill it. It pretty much looks exactly like a live little baitfish, no matter what you do to it. 

The SS stands for slow sinking, which makes this a great bait to throw to bass that are chasing shad and other small baitfish along the surface. It’s surprisingly easy to cast too, for its size. Even though it weighs only ¼ ounce, I can cast it 60 feet or so with a baitcaster. The combo I’m using works really well for it. I rigged it on a Lew’s LFS Speed Spool with 12-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon. I have that reel on the SPRO RkCrawler crankbait casting rod, which is a 7 foot 2 inch rod with a medium power and moderate action. This bait would no doubt do well on spinning gear too. 


The majority of the bass population moves deep in the summer, no doubt. However, so does the majority of the fishing pressure. As anglers head out to deep water to chase the bass that live there, I choose to stay shallow and go after what’s left. Covering water with a buzzbait helps me increase my odds. Slowing down and crawling a big wakebait around the highest percentage cover is a lot of fun. Having a bait rigged up to punch into any mats I can find is a great way to get a big bite too. 

There are several ways to catch fish on a pitching/skipping jig in the summer. Then you’ll definitely want to have something rigged up to throw to the occasional schooler–the BT Bait is a sneaky little bait I have been really impressed by. These are the baits that are on my deck this July. Here’s to hoping they land me another big one soon.