There is a widespread belief among serious bass anglers that during the summer heat, the biggest fish, and largest concentration of fish, are going to stack up on deep offshore ledges. Years ago it was a little harder to get good at targeting these bass and finding the best ledge, but now, thanks to advancements in technology like side-scan sonar, you may notice that a ledge that used to be a “secret spot” on your favorite lake is suddenly receiving lots of pressure. If you find yourself amongst a sea of boats loaded with anglers bombing cranks, football jigs, and big worms on the deep ledges, don’t fret. My experience has taught me that if you’re a strong, persistent shallow-water angler, you don’t need to fall for the “ledge myth.”
I don’t care what lake you’re on or what kind of cover it has; frogs and jigs catch big summertime bass. If you have the willpower to avoid the deep-water crowd and commit to fishing frogs and jigs precisely and aggressively, you’ll catch big bass close to shore. To do this, you need to cover water fast to find those small key areas where “resident” bass are holding, but at the same time be delicate in your presentation. Much like in flyfishing, make your first cast to a given spot count, and assume bass on the banks in the hot months are a little more cautious than those offshore. Your bites may be fewer and further between, but you can usually count on quality fish when you do get smacked.
I think anglers also have a habit of getting so focused on fishing deep that they forget things are still happening in the shallows that are attractive to the fish and can create a great feeding scenario, even if it’s short lived. Maybe bream are bedding, maybe there’s an early morning shad spawn, or maybe there’s a mayfly hatch around the overhanging bushes and trees. Any of these occurrences can draw bass in like a magnet. Just remember that whatever you find happening in one place may not be occurring everywhere, so you have to stay on the lookout and be sort of a mover and shaker.
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that water temperature means a lot this time of year, and even a 2-degree difference can make or break the action. Cooler water is part of the reason why the bass migrate to deep ledges, but deep ledges aren’t the only places with cooler water. This time of year, it’s worth taking a cruise to the way, way back of creek arms. The ideal scenario is finding a creek that’s spring-fed, which will get cooler the further back you go. These creeks essentially offer a nice “breeze” for a summer bass. What’s great about these creeks is that they replenish often, as fish move in and out from surrounding areas to bask in the air conditioning (if you will) for a while. If you find a cool creek that also has plenty of attractive cover, you could very easily spend the whole day poking around back there, picking off nice bass one by one.