By this time of year, we all know where the bulk of the bass are holding in our favorite lakes. And we also know that by now, they’re on guard, making for a tough bite at times. When I hit the water in late summer, I find myself looking for those secret hideaway spots that few anglers know about, but sooner or later we all run out of private property options or secret holes to take the big boat to on the big lake. The answer to success now is not so much about changing lures or scaling down tackle, but downsizing your craft. In my opinion, little jonboats and kayaks shine right now because they let you access places the big boat can’t. A super-shallow creek connected to a big public lake is a prime example of a remote late summer bass fishing spot ripe for picking where the Ranger can’t go. More specifically, a creek with an overabundance of sediment at the mouth, but plenty of water upstream, can be phenomenal in the right conditions.
With that in mind, when planning an attack the first thing you should look at is lake water level. Low lake levels and hot weather are advantageous to this remote-creek strategy. Hot weather is also a plus for those bass seeking the chill of a cooler mountain stream. On that note, when looking at inland reservoirs (or some natural lakes), it’s focus on the mid-sized creeks that flow in from the hillier side of the lake, as opposed to a creek that comes from 5 miles of flat cow pasture. A good tool for this preliminary search is Google Earth, but contours on topo maps or even a drive with the car can give you a good geographical idea as well. Many of the mountain type streams tend to be rockier and spring fed, which often makes them cooler. They’re also likely to be less susceptible to adverse mud water conditions following the smallest rain shower. The current may get stronger with some rain, which actually can make for better fishing, but overall they’re less likely to get blown out. The water clarity in a cow pasture type creek can go south very quickly, may recover way more slowly, and water temps are elevated because the open landscape provides little shade.
Once you’re up the right creek, fish it like you would a trout stream. Be stealthy and use common-sense current-related tactics knowing that there may be several big bass confined to a relatively small area. That doesn’t necessarily mean to use small finesse lures, it just means to focus more on proper presentation than lure choice. Look for subtle current breaks, undercut banks, logjams, deep holes, and key overhanging objects that create shadows. Make multiple casts at each target, and make your casts upstream so the lures are presented more naturally down current. Most importantly, take advantage of your little boat. Weasel your way into small side chutes, secondary tributaries, and any hard-to-reach spots that may harbor a single bass. Enjoy your ability to do things like hopping a log jam to reach the next two pools that you know nobody has wet a line in for months. What you’ll find is that the forgotten “get-after-it” lures of the spring and the images of vicious strikes both come back to life in these creeks during this time of the year. And so you know, I caught the fish in the photo on a spinnerbait in a secondary trib from a small boat just last week. It hit like it hadn’t seen a lure all summer!