Typically in August, especially in the deep south, bass begin to transition from deeper water back to more shallow water. Usually it is not because it is cooling down because where I live in Texas, it is probably the hottest month of the year. What happens though is the water quality begins to degrade in deeper water – becomes less oxygenated. I usually like starting towards the back of creeks around creek channels and make sure I keep my eyes open for schooling bass. The ones that don’t move shallow a lot of times will just move towards the surface, and there can be great schooling action this time of year. The other thing that can work well this time of year is to fish shallow isolated cover- topwater and shallow cranks are my favorites. I hope you get to get out on the water some this August!
A great way to catch bass in the summer is targeting the bluegill spawn. The time is right when the water is warm and the moon is full or new. Fishing for blue gill is fun too. I love catching bluegill, but you can also catch big bass that are feeding on those spawning bluegill. Bluegill spawn in warm, shallow muddy-looking flat bays. My favorite way to fish the bluegill spawn is topwater, moving down the bank quickly. But if there is a lot of cover, try a swim jig. I like the Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Swim Jig with a Rage Craw trailer. It runs shallow and looks a lot like a blue gill. You might move your rod a little to put inflection in the bait, but basically just reeling it in works well. If fish are not chasing topwater or swim jigs, try an Ocho rigged whacky style pitched up in shallow water. You can catch some really big fish during the bluegill spawn. covering a lot of water and using the right baits.
How do you set up to catch fish off of ledges in the hot days of summer? The first thing I do is make sure I have about six or seven baits rigged up – football jigs, a few deep diving crankbaits, Carolina rig, and a flutter spoon – something I can jerk up off the bottom and it will flutter down slowly. I rig these on fluorocarbon line. I like Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon because it’s a dense line that cuts through the water well, and gets the bait down into the strike zone. Then I need to know how deep to get. In Texas it is generally 15-25 feet. This is where my electronics are crucial. The Garmin Panoptix is an amazing tool for this type of fishing in that you can actually SEE schools of fish when you get close to them. To be competitive anymore on the professional tour, this technology is essential, but for the weekend angler, it can make for a much more fun and productive day on the water. So rig up a lot of rods on fluorocarbon line, determine the depth, use your electronics to find schools if possible, and get out there and have fun catching!
It’s the time of year when topwater really excels. You can catch fish on topwater when the water temperature reaches 55 degrees but May and June is the time when topwater really takes off, and the best conditions are when the water is clear. My favorite overall topwater bait is the Strike King Sexy Dawg. It’s a great casting walking bait that is easy to walk, it has rattles, and after throwing it a lot this Spring, I am convinced that it gets more bites than any other walking bait I’ve thrown. You can work it slowly or quickly with great results. This is a great casting bait. I just like to cover a lot of water with it and hold on for some great action.
Swimbaits have become more and more popular over the last couple of years. Tournament anglers are always looking to these baits for bigger bites. One I have found recently that has really put some nice fish in the boat is the Strike King Rage Swimmer. It comes in two different sizes, 3.75” and a 4.75”, and really has a great action. To start with, it has a great tail kick with the tail swinging wide, but it also has a good back and forth wobble to it, which is what I think makes it irresistible. It comes in a ton of great colors. You can fish it on a weighted hook or on a jig head. Give it a try. It will definitely put some big ones in the boat!
If you hear anything about fishing at the Potomac River, one thing you’ll probably hear about is snakeheads. They’re an extremely bizarre fish that are considered invasive by both the Maryland and Virginia Departments of Natural Resources. It is actually illegal to have them in your boat alive, and they ask that you terminate any you catch. The fear is that with their extremely prolific bi annual spawns and their aggressive nature, they will overtake the fishery, overtaking other species – bass, catfish, bluegill etc. We actually saw boats on the water designed to bow fish for them because they are a very good eating fish. A few buddies of mine had some and said it was great. I caught this one on a Strike King Buzz Bait. It probably weighed 8 pounds. It was a fun fight.
We are traveling home from the FLW Tour stop #7 on the Potomac River in Maryland. The Potomac River is one of my favorite places in the country to fish. After three days of practice, the biggest concentration of fish I found was in a giant grass bed near Mattawoman Creek. The area had a ton of bass in it, and I knew it would be fairly crowded, but I had no idea the number of boats that would fish it. The first day, there were at least 20 boats in there, and everyone was catching fish. I ripped ‘em, and weighed in 19-11oz., and left that main area by 1:00. The second day, the boats were a little more concentrated, and there were a few more of them. The heavy pressure made fishing a lot tougher, and I only managed 11 pounds. That area still produced some nice strings on day two, I just couldn’t get any bigger bites – caught a lot, just not big ones. In hind sight, I wish I had left that area mid-morning and hunted for some less pressured areas. Lesson learned. I will definitely look forward to the next opportunity to fish that amazing river.
The sixth stop on the FLW Tour this year was a place I have never fished – the Upper Mississippi River out of La Crosse, Wisconsin on pools 7, 8 and 9. What a cool fishery! Shallow water, current, wing dams, grass, flooded timber – the fishery has it all. The cool thing is that you can catch fish a number of different ways. The tournament was won by Brian Schmitt throwing a swim jig and second place was flipping flooded cover in back waters. I didn’t have my best tournament and finished 66th, but I’d love to have another crack at it another year. I look forward to our return trip.
In all the tournaments I’ve fished on the Tennessee River, I have never fished the tail race below the dams. So the other day while in Florence, Alabama at the Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship, Wade and I decided to try the Wheeler Dam tail race on the upper end of Wilson Lake. The amazing thing was the variety of fish we caught – from drum to catfish to white bass to black bass to small mouth. The cool thing was that we got so many bites in the current. Though we didn’t catch a whole lot of bass, the drum were biting extremely well, and we could have caught them all day long – lots of five to eight pounders. The white bass were literally every cast, and if that’s what we had been targeting, we could have filled the boat with them. If there had been a bass tournament there, I don’t think that’s where I would have wanted to fish. The bass we caught were scattered, though we did catch some nice ones. But it was cool to see what the tail race was all about
One of my favorite lakes in Texas is Lake Amistad on the border near Del Rio. It has clear water, a lot of cover. and I’ve had some great days down there over the years. The last 4 or 5 years have been rough for Amistad, however, with some kind of fish kill that made fishing really tough. I have been hearing good things recently though and went down recently to film a show for Fishing and Hunting Texas, and, wow! It was great. First, there is cover everywhere – shallow bushes and grass. We caught a ton of fish, mostly in the 2-3 pound range. But had one giant, an 8 pounder. I look forward to you seeing the footage! I caught most of them on Crankbaits including a Strike King KVD 2.5, 5xd and 6xd. It was an awesome trip, and I look forward to another trip as soon as I can!