As I sit here and type this article in my office, thunder is booming and lightning is flashing outside of my windows. Just a few minutes ago, my wife and I had to run to the front porch to make sure one of our big hardwood trees wasn’t struck by lightning. Our house shook like an earthquake and the sky lit up like Independence Day.
This terrible, and at times, frustrating weather made me shift gears a bit for this piece.
So let’s call it what it really is. I like to shoot y’all straight.
Summer bass fishing can flat-out suck. I’m nearly positive that anyone who reads this can agree and think back to a time they’ve been totally skunked in the summer. There are plenty of days when all of us would rather sit inside our houses and get away from that sticky, summer humidity.
It’s a frustrating endeavor, really; you cuss the heat and humidity as sweat rolls down your back but once you finally get a reprieve from the opressive heat, it normally comes in the form of a big thunderstorm with dangerous lightning that forces you back to the boat ramp. Both scenarios suck and to be totally honest with you, I’m a little tired of tiptoeing around the subject. I’m not going to sugar-coat things and act like I have the magic solution for this time of year.
I don’t. Nobody does.
Summer bass fishing, especially this late in the summer in the South, ain’t fun. It’s a grind and there’s a reason the boat ramps are pretty empty this time of year. Kids are back in school, bass boats are being stored and folks are starting to work on their deer stands, food plots and dove hunting fields.
As diehard anglers, however, we have an issue. We have to feel the rod bend and the fish bite, so even in tough conditions, we need to figure out a way to keep catching fish; it’s imperative that we scratch that proverbial itch. So when the bass fishing isn’t worth a crap, it’s hot and it’s tough to find the motivation to cast a line, what do we do?
I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers on any subject. But I’ve sat down and put together a few sneaky tricks that can help you catch some late-summer bass and scratch that everlasting itch. Give me a few minutes and we’ll knock it out.
Target main-lake laydowns with suspending or floating baits
If you’re anything like me, it’s super tempting to run to the back of a pocket or up a skinny creek and start flipping good-looking wood for the entire day. While I’m a big believer that there are, in fact, resident fish that reside in these shallow-water areas, the numbers are finite, if that makes any sense. These kinds of areas don’t tend to replenish because the fish live their whole lives in these places; there’s not a steady stream of new inhabitants coming into town every week or month.
In an attempt to stop relying on this finite shallow-water population, I started targeting more main-lake laydowns for the past few years. I don’t think there’s much of a need to ride around into creeks and trudge around in that skinny water; I actually think some of the biggest fish in the lake tend to hang out underneath the ends of these main-lake laydowns. As I’ve discussed ad nauseam, these kinds of deep-water laydowns offer a lot of favorable situations for a bass. When those irritating summer storms pop up, they can kick their little ol’ tails a few times and scoot out to deeper water. Conversely, when it’s pretty and sunny outside, they can snug up right underneath the overhanging branchs and ambush prey as it passes by.
This might not sound like rocket science to some folks and I totally get that. But where I differ from the majority is how I actually fish these laydowns. I spent years and maybe decades flipping these main-lake laydowns with a Texas rig or a jig; sometimes I’d flip a 3/8-ounce weight to ‘em and other times I’d go with a 1/2-ounce weight. I honestly didn’t have much of a system. I just did whatever felt right.
While I would catch some fish doing this, several of which made me a lot of money, I still felt like I wasn’t getting the most I could out of these laydowns; they were just too sexy to only get one bite. There had to be more than one fish in there, right?
They ain’t always sitting on the bottom. We think they are. But they’re not.
Those suckers will get right underneath those limbs and it takes a pinpoint approach to fool ‘em into biting. They’re not dumb.
So I started messing around with suspending baits and topwater lures. I’m guilty of thinking that topwater frogs are only meant for skinny water and vegetation but I’ll bet my wallet right now that if you toss ‘em around these deep laydowns, ol’ Sally is going to eventually bust through that surface and scare the pants off of you. It’s a labor of love and takes a lot of patience, but it can result in some gigantic bites that will make your year.
Furthermore, I really got into suspending jerkbaits and soft jerkbaits around these deep laydowns. These suspending jerkbaits aren’t great for laydowns because of the treble hooks but if you cast ‘em just a foot or two in front of the laydown, you’ll be shocked by the huge bass that will follow it to the boat. I’m not saying they’ll always bite, but these suspending jerkbaits are an excellent way to see what’s really living under those fallen trees.
For a quick story, I’ll tell you that I was doing this same thing a few years ago on a deep laydown; I was throwing a Zoom Fluke on some wimpy line and a wimpy reel. The water was pretty clear and I hooked a two-pound bass and started fighting it to the boat. After a few seconds, a shadow came out of the laydown and as sure as the day is long, a double-digit bass came out of the laydown and tried to eat the two-pounder I was fighting. I almost lost my breakfast but my fishing buddy saw it and we giggled for hours.
Look for the docks with rod holders
We’re all creatures of habit and we can’t act like we’re not. A bass fisherman has a general idea of where bass hide and of course, boat docks are one of the main targets. Around my area, however, I’ve noticed a lot of guys in robot mode over the years. They’ll pull into a pocket and start pitching the first dock and spend 30 minutes or an hour flipping every single dock in the pocket. Not only is this a low-percentage approach but I also think it’s an enormous waste of time.
When it gets hot and your shirt gets drenched with sweat, look for the boat docks with rod holders on the front. Don’t pitch underneath the docks, either. I guess you could in theory, but more times than not, if a dock has rod holders on it, there’s a brush pile in front of it. And as we all know, these silly summer bass absolutely love a mid-depth brush pile. The water is cooler down there, they can eat plenty of crawfish and baitfish and they feel totally safe. So if you don’t have all the fancy electronics on your boat, don’t worry. Look for rod holders and cast about a boat-length in front of the dock. The landowners will often sink old Christmas trees and other yard debris in front of their docks in order to catch bass, crappie, catfish and striped bass.
Before I get fussed at (unfortunately that’s the world we live in these days), don’t fish a brush pile in front of someone’s dock if people are outside enjoying the day. If the homeowners are swimming, playing, listening to music or laying out, just wave and move on to the next dock. There’s no need to get in some sort of argument while you’re trying to catch a little green fish. Just smile and ease on down the bank.
Shallow points offer two opportunities
Not everyone has or can afford all of the new electronics on the market these days. I get it and there’s absolutely no judgement coming from me. Some folks like to keep it simple and others like to utilize technology as much as possible. There’s no need to take a side, really. To each their own. The important part is that we all have a common interest.
If you’re someone who doesn’t have a bunch of new technology on their boat, there’s no need to worry. With a quick search of Google Earth, you can quickly find some shallow points that will likely produce some nice bass for you in the heat of the summer. When you find these lighter-shaded points, be sure to make a note of them and take a two-pronged approach to them the next time you hit the water.
Early in the morning, right when the sun is slowly making its way over the trees, the bass are on top of these points and feeding like fools. Heck, you might even catch several big striped bass in the same area. The shallowest part of the point acts as a dinner buffet of sorts and the predatory fish will destroy all of the little baitfish in the shallow water. It’s almost like seeing dolphins corral prey in the ocean; they’ll sit off a small sandbar break line and ambush their prey out of nowhere, causing a feeding frenzy. On a lesser scale, that’s exactly what bass do as well. You probably won’t see topwater explosions everywhere but if you pull up to one of these shallow points in the early morning and see any surface disturbance, make sure you tie on some sort of walking topwater lure and make a bunch of casts.
If you’re a tournament angler, this is an awesome way to catch a limit before most guys have even arrived at their first fishing spot. If you’re just fishing for fun, you can have an absolute ball catching linesides (stripers and hybrids) doing this. When I used to guide a bunch, I’d take the kids to these areas first thing in the morning so they could start the day strong and get pumped up for the day!
As I mentioned earlier, you’re going to have a lot of days this time of year where you’d rather cut the grass and drink a cold beer; I get it. Fishing is awesome but it ain’t fun doodle-socking a little finesse worm in a deep brush pile with sunscreen dripping in your eyes.
But it you have an itch that needs to be scratched, try these little tricks. You’re going to sweat, question your life decisions and probably blurt a few cuss words but I’m willing to bet you’ll salvage the day and catch a few good bass. That’s just about all you can ask for this time of year but keep the faith… cooler temperatures are (hopefully) on the way in a few months. Or I hope so, at least. I’m tired of sweating.