Best or Worst of Times? It's Summer
It's both the best of times and the worst of
times within the season now. It's summer, and bass find the
living easy now, but anglers generally find it harder to catch
them in the heat. In this week's issue, we hope to give you a few
things to try if you go out this weekend. Keep cool.
IT'S THE BEST OF TIMES FOR BASS. We are at
the time of year when bass live best. Plenty of food, plenty of
cover, warm water temperatures, relatively predictable weather.
Plenty of time when the bass has nothing else it needs to do
except just enjoy its life, absorb food, efficiently turn it into
energy in the hot water - and basically function at its sensory
peak in the warm water with no distractions (spawning, fry,
weather fronts, impending winter, etc.). In the upper 70's to low
80's bass grow fastest and generally live well. The only
"dampener" now would be poor water quality - polluted
water - that raises environmental stress to the Nth degree during
summer more so than during other seasons.
IT'S THE WORST OF TIMES FOR ANGLERS. There
are no biological urges driving bass to hit our lures during
summer. There's no biological "distraction" that
compels bass to hit our lures like they do in spring and fall. In
the spring, bass are very territorial during pre-spawn and spawn,
very hungry in post-spawn. Again, during the fall, there's a
biological urge to fatten up for the winter. All this helps us
during spring and fall, but there is no such "helper"
DON'T ASSUME THEY'VE GONE DEEP. Not all
fish put on the scuba tank and go deep as anglers traditionally
believe bass do during the summer. Terry Christensen (TopCat at
www.NCBF.com forum) and I were out last Saturday. We tried deep
and all we were getting were small dinks. In fact, we fished a
few trips deep earlier in the week -- just dinks. Then we got up
shallow on Saturday into a long stretch of coves with flooded
brush. Terry set his Pinpoint trolling motor to follow the 9'
depthline and that motor automatically trolled itself down two
miles of shoreline sticking on the 9' depth mark. This was in
Lake Powell, AZ where the depth drops close to shore. Most of the
time we made underhanded flips to the shore where we could always
see the bottom - most fish we caught were 4' to 6' deep. Terry
spinnerbaited about ten fish out of the sunken salt cedars before
I could score even one! What to do? I couldn't handle the
pressure, it was hot as Hades, and I was a skunked, sweating
backseater! Well, I got next to naked, jumped off the boat and
cooled off for a spell. After regaining my composure (and
dressing again), I started to catch 'em! All told, we had 25-30
smallies in the boat ALL nice sizes from 1 to 2 lbs. - all on
chartreuse spinnerbaits in the flooded brush in a rim of clouded
water. The hazy, clouded water was the key. I'm sure bait-sized
sunnies were suspended in the brush, and I suspect shad were
concealing themselves in that cloudy fringe of water, reluctant
to come into the clear - and a pint-sized chartreuse spinnerbait
with gold blades and a chartreuse 18-series trailer did the
trick. All this in over 100 degree weather under a blazing hot
sun. Wayne Gustaveson, a Utah State Fisheries biologist indicated
to us that "78 degree water is just right and the fish love
it. That's why they are so active right now." This is
definitely the best time of year to be a bass. They grow faster
and live more comfortably in water around the 80 degree mark than
in lower water temperatures.
QUOTE FROM KASTMASTER on the www.WaynesWords.com
bulletin board: "We spoke with a gentleman in Forgotten
Canyon [Lake Powell, AZ] on July 13 who had been doing some
snorkeling. He said he'd seen quite a few large bass in 3'-10' of
water, under certain ledges and boulders during the 105 degree
heat. Also in some shaded vertical cracks at the same depths. We
had been catching some small to medium sized bass at the 20'-35'
depths, but it was slow going and we did as much swimming as
fishing in order to keep cool. We went across the canyon to where
he'd seen the shallow fish and threw some 3" pumpkinseed
colored tubes, both Texas rigged and on 1/8 oz jigs. My first
cast produced a 3 pound smallie. 2 casts later, to the same
ledge, I had a good hit that stuck my jig in a crack. As I
maneuvered closer, my jig suddenly popped free. Then just as
suddenly, it disappeared beneath the ledge with a stout tug. I
was watching my lure the whole time, but never saw the fish. I
made a low, sweeping hookset and saw a nice largemouth come out
from under the ledge and head for deeper water. After a brief
struggle, I had a 4+ pound fish by the lower jaw. A quick
snapshot, and she was released. She went right back under the
same ledge. Over the next few days, we concentrated on finding
areas that stayed shaded almost all day in less than 12' of water
and found that the right cover held some excellent fish. We
covered a lot of shoreline to find the perfect conditions, but we
were rewarded each of the next 4 days with our biggest fish of
the trip. We still had to get wet regularly to keep cool, but
once we were onto fish it was a quick dip and back to searching
for those shallow fish."
SHORELINE SHELF JUST BEFORE DUSK. Very
often, there can be a clear band of water rimming the shoreline.
It's like a small ledge or shelf maybe only a few feet wide, and
typically devoid of any plant life due to incessant wind and wave
action. That very same wind and wave action pushes cool water and
oxygenated water up onto this shoreline rim. All small life will
gravitate to it - preyfish, crayfish, nymphs - due to the
coolness, oxygen and protection from predators that this skinny
band of water provides them. Look for presence of bait during the
daytime and come back to those shelves later. If you see
shoreline birds stalking or perched on sticks - you've found a
good shelf. Typically, you will get a fleeting magic 30 minutes
or so when bass slip up to raid this food shelf during the
half-light between afternoon and evening. Be alert for this
moment, and once you know what it is, there's an "in
between" time when it's no longer day but it's not yet dusk.
It's right after the late afternoon occurrence of "golden
light" if you know what that means. Bass will often slip up
onto the rim to snack then for a few minutes. This is often a
sightcasting situation - to individual bass - including some fine
trophies. You will either see the bass themselves slipping up
onto the shelf, making a hit and swimming back to deep water - or
you will see the disturbed activity of the bait.
SUMMER STORM CELLS. Other times - but
dangerous to be out in them - are just before a thunderstorm.
Again, it's a fleeting magic moment, and you definitely MUST have
an escape plan to leave the fish and get into safe shelter while
you still can. I am no expert on this, so please don't take my
word for it, but I have always assumed that a nearby rubber-tired
vehicle out in the open away from trees, etc. is a safe haven. I
can not say for certain this is safe, just that it is what I do,
and only you can decide for yourself based on your own research
into the subject of safety in the outdoors during a summer storm.
Bottom line, I am telling you I don't ever try this unless I have
a guaranteed escape plan prepared ahead of time and I will leave
biting fish to execute that safety plan. You cannot predict what
will happen - and the storm cell can be on top of you and all
over you in an instant. It's a life-threatening situation in a
boat or on the shore. As a matter of fact, you can stay in safety
close to the water, and high-tail it out there right AFTER the
cell passes, and you will again find yourself in a magic
half-hour or so when fishing is great after the cell passes and
you are no longer in harm's way.
ALL ANIMALS SEEK SHADE AND OBJECTS.
Finally, at any other time, bass (and all animals) will seek out
shade. Not just any shade, but shade where they can have their
backs up against an obstacle - any obstacle. The shade gives them
security - as does the obstacle at their back. Because the sun is
constantly moving - and because the shadow thrown by cover
constantly changes - the shade may come and go quite rapidly and
the bass will come and go into this shade just as rapidly. The
bass could easily change its position 10 times in an hour as the
sun and shadow changes - and NOT be there at all the next hour.
It's not the coolness of the water that shade provides - but the
security. The bass will constantly be repositioning itself in the
shade - typically with the sun at its back. Usually it will have
its belly to the bottom and an obstacle at its back. Most of
these bass are very alert. They are usually not stupored out and
inactive for biological reasons like they become in spring, fall,
and winter. During adverse weather and other conditions, bass
will go into biological stupors for the duration of such
unfavorable periods in spring, fall, winter. But generally, bass
only get stupored out, become lethargic or listless in summer in
oxygen-deficient low quality water, or during heavy plankton
blooms which generally happens more often in August than July.
Usually, in good quality water, a bass is as alert and as
sharp-witted as it will ever be. They're clearly more cautious to
lures. You will see them inspect lures more often in summer.
Rising up to them, butting them with the sides of their heads,
sliding them along their lateral lines and flicking them away
with their tails. However, if you make a good presentation with a
weighted jig and soft plastic trailer to where you believe a bass
will be laying comfortably- just drop it unalarmingly in front of
these bass, leave it there for the longest time -then quiver it a
bit - and they will surely inspect it - and often bite it if you
do this right.
ABOVE ALL KEEP COOL. Just like all other
animals wisely seek shade, you should too. Rather than just
jumping off the boat like I did, an easier option to keep cool is
one by Wayne Gustaveson, Utah Fisheries Biologist. Wayne says,
"Next time you feel like you are starting to render down
into candle wax, just take your hat off, dip it in the water and
let the liquid run down your neck. As it evaporates you get a
refreshing blast of cool. There is another device that works well
if you need a bit more. Keep one wet towel in the cooler on ice
and put one around your neck. When the one on your neck warms up
replace it with the other and put the first one back where that
came from. You can fish all day without missing a beat."
Fellow Lake Powell fisherman Ed Gerdemann adds, "I keep cool
by taking my shirt off, dipping it in the lake, putting it back
on and then putting my boat up on plane for a little jaunt. It'll
refresh you and get you ready to flail the water some more!"
Of course, these guys are not medical experts, just anglers
trying to cope with the heat out on the water. If you are going
to be out on the water during hot stressful periods, you really
should seek proper medical advice. Danger of heat stroke is a
very real probability and you should be aware of all proper
medical authorities' options to prevent it.
These are just a few examples of how to succeed
with bass while keeping cool in the summertime heat. Hope there's
something here that helps you catch one before you melt like
candlewax in the hot sun.