Gerald Almy: Four tactics for hot weather bass
Hot summer weather doesn’t have to slow down your bass fishing. Try these four tactics to incite strikes from stubborn largemouth bass even when the temperature soars and the air feels so muggy and thick you could cut it with a knife.
Toss topwaters early and late
Nothing can snap the sultriness out of a steamy July or August day like a bass punching through the surface and blasting into a topwater lure. Stock a selection of several types, including stickbaits, prop lures, wobblers, buzzbaits and poppers. You’ll soon learn which of these score best in the waters you frequent most often. But it pays to experiment, too, since fish tastes can change from day to day or in different weather conditions.
Try slow-twitching and fast-paced jerking retrieves as well as smooth, steady reeling with wobblers and buzzbaits. Work any visible cover and also probe flats, shallow points, submerged islands, riprap along roads and the edges of weed beds. Action may last only for an hour, but if you connect on five or six fish, you’re on your way to a solid day’s catch.
Evenings may actually produce even more action than mornings if you have the stamina to stick with it. Try taking a break during midday or forgoing the daybreak action and launching your boat around lunch time so you have the energy to stay on the water and don’t miss the hot bite just before sunset.
Sling deep-diving crankbaits
Savvy anglers save their shallow crankbaits for spring and fall, but plugs that dive deep can pay off big time during summer’s heat. Choose versions that dive 12 to 20 feet. That’s where summer bass are often hanging out after a brief flurry of shallow water feeding. A crayfish or minnow-shaped lure wobbling past bass in their deep hangouts is often more than they can resist.
Cast the lure beyond where you want it to work, since it takes a few cranks to get these big-billed offerings down to their maximum depth. Keep your rod tip low or even buried in the water and reel steadily. Go with slow to moderate speeds first. If that doesn’t work, rip it.
If you still aren’t drawing strikes, try pausing and twitching the lure during the retrieve. Points, humps, drop-offs, and brush piles in deep water are all good targets. A soft-tip rod is best for this fishing, so you don’t pull the lure away from the fish when it strikes.
As an alternative, you can try trolling these deep diving lures. This will let you keep them down in the strike zone continuously. That might be just what it takes to tempt some lethargic, bottom-hugging summer bass in favorite Virginia lakes such as Anna, Gaston, Kerr and Moomaw.
Jig a slab spoon
A slab or jigging-type spoon is one of the top offerings to have stashed in your tackle box for hot-weather bass. These are particularly useful to turn to when you locate fish on a depth finder directly under the boat.
Chrome, nickel, and gold finishes are all good. I like weights from ¾ to 1 ounce. Probe areas such as humps, brush piles, bridge abutments, deep points, creek channel drop-offs, or areas where you have located heavy concentrations of baitfish or gamefish on the sonar.
Lower the lure down to the level bass or baitfish are showing on the depth finder, or just off the bottom if you’re fishing a specific piece of structure. Raise the rod with a crisp lifting motion, anywhere from 6 to 36 inches. Then let the lure drop in freefall. That’s when most strikes will come.
Be careful not to allow excess slack to form as the lure falls, since this is when fish are most likely to strike. If the line stops falling, twitches, or moves sideways, set the hook. Chances are a bass has grabbed it.
Fish just before a front
Once summer settles in, it often seems like the weather is one long, uncomfortable string of muggy days. But it’s not, of course.
Interspersed throughout those hot periods are some surprisingly refreshing fronts and storm systems that can cool down both the air and water fast. Just before and during their arrival, these fronts can trigger bass feeding binges.
Safety must be kept uppermost in mind if the front involves lightning. Get to land and shelter before an electrical storm actually reaches the water. No one should be fishing when a thunderstorm arrives. The smart angler, though, can fish just before it gets there and reap big rewards.
Look for fish moving up onto points, shallow humps and flats as the storm approaches. They might even move into weeds or next to blowdowns and fallen trees near shore.
Bass want to feed heavily at this time, and shallow water is often where food is concentrated and easy to ambush. Try a variety of lures such as lipless crankbaits, soft plastic jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and medium-depth crankbaits for this short-lived, but exciting period before a front. You want bass lures you can fish fast, so you can cover ground and cash in on the maximum number of strikes before conditions become dangerous or the fish calm up.
I especially like to fish soft plastic jerkbaits with a fast and erratic motion before a storm. Bass are feeding aggressively and will often nail these quivering, lures with a vengeance when they’re twitched and jerked in a random fashion, inciting an instinctive predatory response.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.