How to Fish for Bass in Shallow Water
A largemouth pro share his tips for catching skinny-water lunkers in summer
The largemouth bass spawn is over, and many bass have vacated the shallows for deeper summer haunts. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find hot skinny-water action. In fact, some bass will always remain shallow, and for die-hard bank beaters like Tennessee pro Charlie Ingram, that’s good news.
“I find that bass in hot, shallow water are unusually aggressive,” Ingram says. “In summer, they’re shallow not because they’re spawning, but because they’re looking for a meal. So, they’ll strike readily if you put the right lure in the right spot. By comparison, summer bass on deep ledges and channel dropoffs can be lethargic and feed more sporadically.”
Where to Find Shallow-Water Bass
The key to a shallow bass bite in summer is weedy cover. “A weedbed often provides big bass with virtually everything they need,” Ingram says. “While deeper portions of the lake stagnate, areas with photosynthesizing aquatic plants are high in dissolved oxygen. The vegetation also provides food and shelter for all manner of bass forage, from bluegills to crayfish to water snakes, creating tremendous feeding grounds for bass. And you won’t find better cover. A big largemouth can literally bury itself in weeds.”
For most anglers, the problem with weedy waters is figuring out how to fish them, according to Ingram. “Many lakes have acres of shallow weeds, but bass aren’t everywhere in that grass. It’s easy to waste precious time covering unproductive areas. So instead of trying to fish an entire stretch, I concentrate on irregularities: grass that feathers out to form a point, areas where two types of vegetation occur close together, open holes inside dense matted milfoil or hydrilla beds, pockets and indentations along outer edges, isolated weed patches, and bottom indentations where a ditch or channel meanders through a weedy flat. Bass will consistently stack up in these spots.”
And, he says, they’ll often offer the best action during the middle of the day. “Lily pads and water hyacinths have blooms that open once the sun gets high. These attract insects, which in turn attract hordes of bluegills and, eventually, hungry bass.”
The Best Baits for Shallow Bass
Ingram relies heavily on weedless lures, such as surface frogs, Texas-rigged plastic worms, and tube baits, but he also fishes lipless vibrating crankbaits and spinnerbaits in the thick stuff. Working these snag-prone baits through submerged vegetation requires a ripping retrieve: Cast out and let the lure sink until you feel contact, then give the rod a sharp pull to literally rip the bait out of the grass. This clears away any weeds clinging to the hooks, and unlike a slow presentation with a worm or tube, it provokes an immediate reaction strike. Typically close-mouthed summer bass-those that are pressured by tournaments and heavy weekend fishing-will open wide.