Two pro guides, Layne Ell and Richie Moschella, are on the fish all year long—even during the dog days of summer when others go to the beach with the family. Suckers! Learn what lures to toss and how to work them and you too can keep fishing for big bass all summer long.
Expert Tips on Summer Bass Fishing
It could be the best of times and the worst of times. I’m talking about summer bassin’ and locating bass on bodies of water across the country. They can be aggressive or they can be unfavorably finicky and not seem interested in anything you throw.
Paying very close attention to weather patterns and zoning in on their feeding windows will be crucial for your success in the hot summer months. It’s all about finding the water’s rhythm, and once you plug into it you’ll be able to make the right choices for success. You need to be like a coach getting ready for the big game or a general gearing up for battle. In summer you need a game plan, it’s not just about fan casting an area hoping you find fish.
1. Switch to Low Light Mode
Take advantage of low light periods by getting to the water early and targeting the topwater bite. This is a fantastic time to be on shallow weedy flats and around boat docks. Nothing can get your day off to a better start than a topwater explosion. Look for shallow flats adjacent to deep water, as this is a prime location for big ole summer bass to roam when low light conditions are at hand. Use baits like buzzbaits, poppers, frogs and spooks.
You’re creating a scenario that happens on the body of water night after night. It’s your job as an angler to recreate nature and make that topwater bait scurry across the water’s surface as if to save its life. Or, act out a dramatic death scene by landing your bait near a dock, kicking and screaming in the water at first, and then slowly lessen the twitches until it barely moves. I’ve caught a lot of fish when the bait stopped twitching and just sat on the surface for a few seconds, as if the bass was waiting for the critter to die.
2. Find the Shade
The other classic summertime situation is the steamy period from midday into afternoon. Many anglers head back to the boat ramp when the hot summer sun is overhead, believing that the fish have stopped biting. Rather than leaving, I try to locate boat docks, marinas, vegetation and woods.
I have my 7/6 medium-heavy rod rigged with 25-lb Seaguar fluorocarbon flipping line. This line is tough and offers me the maximum sensitivity and knot strength. You’re going to need that strength where you’re going.
Find shade during the midday lull and chances are good you’ll find the bass, too. It is critical to flip and cover water effectively and efficiently. In tough, weedy conditions a heavy cover jig will do just fine, and my Z-Man Flip-N-Cast Jig is perfect for the job. The weight all depends on what you need to get through and can vary depending on conditions. In most conditions I use a 3/8-ounce Black/Blue or Green Pumpkin rigged with a Z-Man Palmetto BugZ. This jig offers great action and can really entice finicky bass to bite.
Your targets will be shady boat docks, vegetation, wood stumps and trees in the water. The temperatures will be cooler here, leading bass to seek cover from the summer sun. Don’t worry if an angler was just fishing the dock you pulled up on—his flipping skills might not be as good as yours. Practice makes perfect, and becoming a good flipper can give you an advantage in the summer months. Try and get your bait into high percentage targets like under docks and docked boats. The difference of a few inches can be what it takes to set the hook on a bass.
The shady side of wood in the water is another place to target bass holing up in bright, hot conditions. It offers them a great place to ambush prey and get out of the direct sunlight. If you have a big old log in the water, cast to the side that’s in the shade. If the sun is overhead, try and cast underneath it. Making calculated casts and thinking like a bass is key. You’re flipping with the goal of picking apart locations that have a high percentage chance of holding bass. You’re putting that jig right in front of them and offering them an easy meal. This is one of the best techniques when it comes to the sizzling days of summer.
It’s the dog days of summer—hot, steamy, with a light breeze and bluebird sky and yes, I decided this is the day I’m going fishing! I’m on a typical South Jersey lake—small, shallow and lots of muck.
I launch my Native Watercraft kayak as the light of day starts to brighten the shores of the lake. The water temperature is in the low 80s, and the air temperature is already also in the low 80s with a forecasted high in the mid-90s.
My weapons of choice for this day: 5 rods, including a finesse spinning rod with 6-lb fluorocarbon, a spinning rod with 8-lb fluorocarbon, a spinning rod with 10-lb braid, a baitcaster rod with 50-lb braid and lastly a baitcaster rod set up with 12-lb fluorocarbon. These combinations allow me to fish all day long and vary my presentations as the conditions change. When fishing out of a kayak you’re limited to the amount of equipment you can bring, so your choice of rod and reels should be very specific.
3. Structure Hunting
I look specifically for any structure that a bass may be using for relief from the hot sun. In this type of hot, smothering weather my game plan is to find lily pads, boat docks and water current. It’s really important to fish shade during the dog days of summer.
Lily pads offer a bass everything they need this time of year: shade, ambush points and cooler water. They also offer an angler a few different ways to go get ‘em! I begin by fishing the outside edges of the pads, usually with a Texas-rigged four or five-inch Senko, or by tossing a chatterbait with a speed craw trailer. I also like to throw a buzzbait anywhere around grass first thing in the morning, up until the sun starts to get up. Bass love to use the outside edge as ambush points and these fish are usually very active and looking to chew on something.
Next, I start working my way into the pads by throwing the Senko or a frog and dragging them over top of the leaves. The bass on the inner parts of the pads are usually not very aggressive, nor are they feeding, so you need to get a reaction bite. Luckily for anglers, bass can’t resist swatting at something running over their heads!
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Boat docks are another great hot weather spot to fish bass. Like the lily pads, docks offer shade and protection. When fishing docks, again start from the outside post and work your way further underneath with each cast. My baits of choice for fishing docks are a wacky rigged Senko, a small shallow-running crankbait, spinnerbait and a jig. The wacky rigged Senko and the jig should be used to vertically fish the dock posts and also to skip underneath the dock. I use crankbaits or spinnerbaits to run the outside edges, again looking for those active bass that are ready to pounce. Docks near deeper water usually produce better than those sitting on a big flat.
4. Moving Water Moves Fish
The next spot I seek out during the midsummer heat is a place that has water current. Moving water is simply cooler than water that is sitting still, and bass during this time of year seek out that cooler water. Current is also important because it has a higher level of oxygen, and bass in current will be more aggressive and more apt to bite versus those swimming elsewhere. These places include rivers leading into the lake, narrows between land masses, and bridges or dams that have water flowing past them.
I fish these areas by keying in on any available structure—such as bridge posts, laydowns or chuck rock—and throwing a moving bait, like a crankbait, chatterbait or spinnerbait. Fish are usually located in the eddy of the structure, facing upstream and waiting for something to swim past that they can gobble up.
The Heat is On, and So are the Bass
Follow these patterns to catch big bass during the hottest days of summer fishing season. Not only will you be able to work on your tan, but you will also be able to put a few fish in the boat!
Whether you’re fishing for smallmouth or largemouth, these summer bass tips will keep you on fish. | Feature photo: Richie Moschella