Fourth of July weekend reminded me just how bad boat traffic can get on the bigger bodies of water in summer. Sometimes I feel like anglers are more interested in showing off their tricked-out boats than actually catching fish this time of years, because no matter how you slice it, no matter how good your electronics are, it’s just not fun trying to figure out a pattern when 25 jet skies are doing circles over your favorite deep structure hole. That’s why I tend to get a bit more unconventional in summer, though ironically what I consider unconventional now was 100% conventional back when a lot of us were kids fishing with grandpa and simply trying to catch bass. When the big lakes are jammed, here are two of my favorite haunts.
Many northern creeks have smallmouths, and plenty of southern creeks have spotted bass or largemouths. Sure, it’s tight quarters, but drifting in a jon boat is a summertime blast. You get constant changes of scenery and there are new targets to throw at around every turn. For me, that alone keeps the excitement up no matter how much or little you’re catching. The next bend could hold the motherload! Bass love cooling currents in the summer, and spots or smallies ambushing behind a logjam can be some of the most aggressive you’ll ever catch. If you’re planning a drift, keep an eye on flows. Raging is bad, but so is stagnant. I recommend taking a look at the terrain on Google Earth or by road prior to setting adrift. You surely don’t want to get so far and have something blocking the creek.
If you don’t have any bass-laden creeks to drift near home, maybe you have a lily pad and stump-laden swamp lake, oxbow, or backwater you can attack in a kayak, jon boat with a trolling motor, or canoe. These buggy places are the ones often rumored to hold some nice bass that are notoriously tough to catch. I’ve found the trick to success is leaving them alone on sunny days. These places come alive in foul weather, because bass that spend most of their time hiding under thick, swampy cover drop their guard and move into open water when the light is lower. Simply covering the edges of cover with moving baits like swim jigs and topwater frogs puts you right back into spring-like shallow bass fishing.