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Please Visit Source Website, Click here!08/05/2005Print this Page  
The Shallow Summertime Bite
By Tim Tucker
BASS Times
For many bass enthusiasts, the terms dog days of summer and deep water go hand in hand
Shallow summertime
During the summer months, George Cochran seeks out shallow water for some prime bass action.

Most bass fishermen equate summer with deep water. And the majority of the bass in a lake or reservoir may be relating to some type of deep water cover or structure.

But that doesn't means all of the bass will be deep. Anglers who automatically head offshore to deep structure spots when the temperature tops 80 degrees are making a mistake, according to the experts. They are removing themselves from some surprisingly prime shallow water action.

"The summer months can offer some excellent fishing," said Alabama's Tim Horton, a former guide and 2000 BASS Angler of the Year. "A lot of fishermen might not realize it, but you can catch a ton of fish shallow during this time of year.

"There are always going to be some bass shallow, regardless of the time of year. You can always find some fish shallow, if you look hard enough.

In summer, Horton always looks for some good topwater action early and late around bank cover. Under those low light conditions, he typically ties on a Pop-R or Zara Spook in hopes of catching a bank-prowling bass or two.

"On grassy lakes, when the sun is up, I look for the thickest patch of grass I can find," he continued. "I flip and pitch these spots with a Yum lizard or crawfish with a heavy sinker. You'll find some of the biggest fish of the year are hiding in that ultrathick vegetation."

"I fish baits like those around any type of vegetation, especially hydrilla and maidencane, where I find a point or hole that would make a great ambush point for the bass," Florida pro Shaw Grigsby added. "You can have a great time fishing topwater (plugs) in the summertime, but the main thing to remember is that you have to pause the lure often and let it sit awhile to get a strike. That's the unnerving part of topwater fishing."

Many anglers know that the low light periods early and late each day usually provide the best topwater action (and an escape from the summer heat). But Grigsby claims that the front edge of a typical summer thunderstorm usually ignites a burst of feeding activity.

"Right before those afternoon thunderstorms, the bass really turn on and the fishing gets wild," he noted. "They'll sometimes bite during the storm, but you don't want to be on the water when lightning is striking. The main thing is to be safe. Catching a fish is not worth getting hurt or even killed by lightning."

It wasn't stormy that August day in 1996 when George Cochran showed the fishing world that plenty of bass can be caught shallow extremely shallow in the summertime.

While most of his competition was probing the deep contour features of Alabama's Lay Lake, the veteran Arkansas pro was on his way to winning his second Bassmaster Classic championship in what seemed to some like the unlikeliest of hot weather spots a pocket so shallow that his trolling motor constantly kicked up silt.

It was a muddy 5-acre bay located in the back of a creek where resident largemouth were holding tightly to supershallow grass, brush and stumps.

"I was fishing different from everybody else," Cochran recalled. "I knew that nobody was going to fish in 2 feet of water at that time of year. But I also knew there would be some fish in that shallow water; they stay there throughout the year."

To reach the spot, Cochran had to cross a quarter-mile of water dotted with stumps, like mines in a shipping channel. He mapped a route into the area so he wouldn't have to idle and troll his way to the back end. No one else wanted to risk losing a lower unit to the snags, so Cochran had the place virtually to himself.

"The reason I fish places like that is because nobody else does," Cochran revealed. "And there are always plenty of fish in place like that, as long it contains enough oxygen for them to survive. Because the water was dingy, I figured it would be just as cool to the fish as water in the main lake."

On a typical summer week in the South dominated by bright skies, high humidity, little wind, hot temperatures and afternoon showers that strategy produced 15 bass weighing nearly 32 pounds.

Another place likely to harbor shallow bass in summer, he said, is the headwaters of a lake.

"That's my style," Cochran stated. "I like to seek out places that are shallow instead of fishing down where the water gets real clear and hot, and the fish tend to move out on structure.

"On the upper end of the lake, the water is dingier, and there will be a lot of fish shallow. Those fish will bite all day in that dingy water unlike the fish in the clear water on the lower end. There will be a lot of fish shallow next to creek channels and cover, especially if the water is dingy. To me, that's a lot more fun than trying to catch them out on structure. And it can be a lot more productive."

When targeting the upper reaches during the summertime, Cochran looks for bays and coves that have both cover and shad. That could include stumps, brush, logs, rocks and vegetation. Because of the bright sunlight, he believes that bass are more oriented to cover in that shallow water than they are in the deeper, lower end.

His primary lures for that situation are Strike King Series 1 and 3 shallow running crankbaits, as well as an 8-inch 3X plastic worm. He rigs the soft plastic baits either Carolina style (with a short leader), or Texas style; he said they're good choices because the buoyant 3X material causes them to float up and over cover in skinny water. He works crankbaits and worms quickly to take advantage of the bass' high metabolism this time of year.

In lakes from Florida to California, the summer months also signal the beginning of red-hot schooling action.

"You can load the boat with schooling bass in September and October," Florida pro Bernie Schultz said. "They're easy to locate when they're schooling, and you can catch all the 1- to 3-pound bass you want."

Schooling bass are phenomena that fishermen love. It is an activity that not only gives away their location, but also turns largemouth bass into marauders that will attack anything.

Gulls hovering and diving for injured baitfish will often point the way to schooling action

Schooling bass can be easy to catch, once you hit upon a lure they're willing to take. Schultz utilizes a variety of lures, including Rattlin' Rapala lipless crankbaits, Senkos, Rapala spoons and topwater plugs like the Skitter Prop. He emphasizes the importance of selecting a lure that closely matches the size of the shad, shiners or glass minnows being chased by the bass.

Go with the flow

During the summer months, knowledgeable largemouth hunters target current-laden areas.

"Water temperature is one of the most critical of all factors when we're looking for bass because it determines how active the fish will be," veteran Texas pro Clark Wendlandt emphasized. "And in the summer, one of the best places to look for bass is in the upper part of a lake, where current might be present. Moving water is always better oxygenated and is usually cooler."

Finding moving water in summer often means traveling to the far upper end of a lake where the main river tributary enters. Two favorite techniques are working shallow running crankbaits through pockets behind rocks and stumps, or drifting a plastic worm downstream around the rocks. If a lot of shallow shoreline cover is present, Wendlandt also uses a spinnerbait.

"I believe one of the main keys to fishing current successfully is lure presentation," he said. "I always try to have my lures moving downstream with the current so they appear more natural. This generally means using the trolling motor to hold my boat in the moving water while I cast upstream. As I do that, I guide the lure around the rocks and into the different little pockets as the current washes it downstream."

The former CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier often uses a presentation technique that, while seemingly unorthodox, results in quick limits. If the current is fast and the depth is perhaps 2 to 3 feet right along the shoreline, he makes short, rapid-fire casts to the bank with his crankbait, reeling back as fast as he can and casting again. Most casts are less than 8 feet in length. "It doesn't always work," Wendlandt added, "and I think the strikes are purely reflex responses from bass holding in the shoreline cover. They see something dart by them that appears to be trying to escape, and they just hit it."

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