I don’t know about where you live but in south-central Alabama right now, it’s hot and it ain’t going to let up for quite a while. Chances are it’s hot or getting hot where you are too, though I’m sure a few of you are reading this from up north where its still a bit chilly. I’m about as jealous of y’all right now as I can be. I’m not sure what the opposite of a “snow bird” is but I’m about ready to fly north for summer.
The reality that must be dealt with for now though is that the bite is getting tough. The water temps are sky rocketing, the pleasure boaters have made their push onto most of the local fisheries due to summer break and even the pond fishing is getting difficult up in the day.
This has caused many of us to swap over to night fishing, our annual reprieve from the summer chaos and heat. But there are still short windows and specific deals during the daylight hours where the fishing can be really good. So today, we’re going to break down how you can make the most out of the best bites of the day this summer.
First and last hour
Almost year round, there’s a short window at the beginning and end of every day when the fish just bite better. The first and last hour are prime time when fishing in the summer especially, as the sun is low and the shade is plentiful. The first hour is the best quite often, because there are far fewer pleasure boaters on the water early compared to late in the evening.
During these lowlight hours both early and late, topwaters can be super productive. Choosing something like a buzzbait or a Whopper Plopper will allow you to cover as much water as possible to maximize the number of bites you can get during these short windows of time.
But slower topwaters like walking topwaters, poppers and hollow body frogs also work well if you’re fishing targets. So you could choose to run around for that last hour and target laydowns with a Spook for instance, trying to draw the fish up out of those laydowns that have been hunkered down all day.
Shade is a critical component when trying to find a good bite in the summer. The banks that are shady during the morning will have bright sunshine on them during the afternoon and vice versa. Picking the banks you fish based on the shade present will not only make the fishing more bearable for you but will likely increase productivity as well. That same relief you feel from being in the shade in the summer, the fish can feel that too and it typically puts them in a better mood to bite.
When the sun is high, continue to look for shade. Docks, mats and overhanging bushes are all obvious places to target bass in the shade. But some of the sneakier ones are tree tops that are under the water and submerged grass lines. Though you may not be able to see the shade, these types of cover are still casting shade and provide refuge for the bass to avoid the direct sunlight.
One of the other keys to finding the best bite you can this summer is to look for food sources. Food can be a little scarce in the summer for bass, those that choose to stay shallow in particular. If you can find a good condensed food source, you’ll typically find a wad of fish as well. Sense the food elsewhere is scarce and the bass are in a concentrated area, these fish are often some of the most aggressive you’ll find this time of year.
There are several species of both baitfish and insects that spawn or reproduce in the summer. A mayfly hatch is one of the most common phenomena we see; thousands of these little insects will hatch, mature, lay eggs and die within just a couple of days. During that time period, however, everything in the food chain will feed on them. Bass, bream, crappie, catfish and even turtles will be picking these little bugs off the water’s surface. But the real fun starts when the big bass show up… the ones that aren’t targeting the mayflies but instead the smaller fish that are eating the mayflies.
Spawning baitfish are also big-time fish attractants in the summer, in particular bedding bluegill. Taking a topwater and a soft-plastic stick worm, you can target bluegill beds in shallow water where bass are terrorizing baitfish as they attempt to guard their beds and make their way through the reproductive process. Finding a food source like this is often critical in the summer and can turn your whole day around in a matter of just a few casts.
To make the most of the summer bite, you’ll have to be deliberate. Planning your trips around the most productive times of day is a good idea. You’ll likely catch more fish if you go ahead and get out there at the crack of dawn and fish for an hour than you will if you fish 7 or 8 hours I the middle of the day. Targeting shade will also help increase your odds, being sure to keep in mind that all shade isn’t visible to the naked eye.
You can really get on a good bite in a hurry if you find a good food source. Be sure to match the hatch when choosing baits to fish around spawning baitfish and match whatever is feeding on the hatch when spawning insects are at the bottom of the food chain. The real magical summer bite though can be found when you combine all these categories.
For instance, I’ve rarely seen anything in fishing more exciting than the last 30 minutes of the day, on a shady bank, around a mayfly hatch. It doesn’t get much better than that.