Photo courtesy of Brian Gratwick/Flickr
In the heat of summer, most of us move as little as possible. Bass are just the opposite: Because their metabolism speeds up as the temperature climbs, they are more active and must feed regularly.
But when and where you fish are key because bass develop particular habits in hot weather. Here’s how to schedule your fishing:
HYDRO IN THE MORNING
When the water lies still in reservoirs that have power-generating dams, many summertime bass suspend passively in the vicinity of ledges, river-channel junctures, and other main-lake structures. But when the dam pulls water to generate electricity, the current rouses bass like a dinner bell. They swarm tight to those structures and nab shad disoriented by the sudden flow. This often happens in the morning when air conditioners in homes and businesses come on and suck up electricity, but it can happen throughout the day when the temperature spikes.
The bass will face into the current in this situation, so cast upstream and retrieve your baits with the flow. Deep-diving crankbaits, Carolina rigs, and heavy spinnerbaits that weigh 3/4 ounce or more should draw hard strikes. Time it right and you can catch limits of heavy bass in minutes.
ON TOP AT NOON
Many anglers wisely take advantage of the short-lived topwater bite that often occurs during the first hour of daylight. Sputtering buzzbaits and chugging poppers spark strikes from prowling bass. But you can also bring up bass that way at high noon when everyone else fishes deep. (True, there are those fish that hold way down in hotter weather, but others will rove the top layer.) My favorite midday tactic is walking the dog with Heddon’s Super Spook or Super Spook Jr. Something about that side-to-side action attracts bass, especially on flat water when the lake appears lifeless.
In crystalline lakes with good visibility, bass will charge up from depths of 15 feet or more. One summer I duped a 4-pound 12-ounce spotted bass with a Spook Jr. on Georgia’s Lake Lanier. The fish leaped out of the water and arced over the bait before pouncing on it, a testament to how active bass can be in the hottest of times.
GRASSBEDS AT NIGHT
On clear lakes roiled by heavy boat traffic, bass feed mainly after dark in hot weather. The best fishing typically takes place near midnight, after the water has settled down from the day’s turmoil.
Bass that sit deep in the greenery under the sun move to the outside edges of grassbeds at night. Concentrate on aquatic vegetation such as milfoil, hydrilla, and pond weeds, targeting them with a black 8-inch or larger plastic worm rigged on a 4/0 worm hook with a 3/8-ounce bullet sinker (you’ll want to use 14-to 17-pound monofilament, and a medium-heavy-weight rod). The dark, bulky worm creates an obvious silhouette beneath the surface. Don’t be delicate about it–jostle the worm and heavy sinker through grass edges to rile the bass. You may sweat a little bit, but it’ll be worth it.
For nighttime fishing, I spool up with no-stretch superlines such as Berkley FireLine and SpiderWire braid. Their great sensitivity allows me to feel when my worm is on the bottom or ticking over cover. And even though I can’t see the line, I know instantly when a bass has grabbed the bait.
Smallmouths often go on the hunt right after dark in summer and will react vigorously to the heavy vibration and big profile of dark, drop-style spinnerbaits, like Strike King’s Midnight Premier. Such specialty spinnerbaits feature a 1/2- to 1-ounce head and a large Colorado or Indiana blade. Cast the spinnerbait along the edges of grassbeds and over rocky points, humps, and ledges with a medium-heavy rod and 14-pound mono. Let the bait helicopter to the bottom on a tight line with the rod tip held high. When the spinnerbait touches down, drop the rod tip, take up the slack, rip the bait up 3 to 6 feet, and let it helicopter back to the bottom. Continue the rip-drop retrieve until the spinnerbait works out of the strike zone. –M.H.