By: Lee Smith
I am one who hates ledge fishing, in fact deep water period. So, I can be found going shallow when everyone is fishing deep. I’d almost rather stay home than go out knowing I’ll probably be fishing deeper than 10′ all day long. It’s just how I feel and frankly, have always felt. Now, I have had my rear handed to me over the years because I refused to go deep when I should have. However, even during those tournaments, I can think back and find the mistakes which cost me.
Through the years, I have worked and played with a pattern for shallow water fishing during the hottest months; it’s my pace, fast and furious! Hating to ‘drag’ a jig or a worm down a long slope or over a big hump in 20 feet of water; I will run from spot to spot in shallow water looking for the perfect cover. “Hit it and get it”, is what one of my team partners calls it. So, here’s my suggestion for people like myself who can’t stand dragging and sure can’t stand it when it’s so hot outside.
First thing in the morning, I find shallow grass close to a ledge and I either fish it with a frog or a swimbait. Those deep ledge and shelf bass will come up at night to feed on shad and can be caught shallow early. However, anglers should be fishing close to their midday haunts. The bass won’t be there long, but the action can be swift and strong during the early hours of the day.
Then I move to the mid pocket areas, catching bass on their way from the shallows. Squarebill cranks, swimbaits, swim jigs are my go too baits until the sun gets up and over head. These bass will be close to the edge, but not up near the cover as they are making small transitions from their night feeding to their daytime mainstays. Work lures through every piece of brush, loose grass, rocks, anything a bass could relate too. Don’t forget to pay attention to the very outside of these structures. Most bass are hanging out at the edges, looking for a last easy morsel of food to come by before they settle in for a long hot day.
My favorite time is once the sun is up and shining it’s brightest, it shrinks the area for me, fewer areas for me to waste time ‘covering water’ as I know where the bass will be now. They are in the nastiest stuff I can find and they are shallow! Below are some of the main areas I look for and fish during the heat of the day. Notice there is one primary thing on this list, vegetation is a must this time of year. The bass must have the oxygen and the shade; put those two items together and there will be bass.
Work the edge for active bass. Follow up by punching the holes with light weighted punch rigs. Then work the rest all the way to the bank with a heavy punch rig of choice. Personally, I use jigs on the edge, soft plastic stick baits with a 3/8-ounce weight pegged in the holes and creature baits with a ¾-ounce and above weight (as needed) for the rest, or whatever is comfortable for the conditions.
The thicker the better, duck weed blown into a hole with a ditch running through the area is one of the best places to find bass during the heat of the summer. I only have 2 rods on the deck when I’m running duck weed, a weighted frog and a light punch rig. I use a frog with 3/8-ounce weight pushed inside and add a couple of rattles. The extra weight pushes down on the thick stuff to help the bass know it’s there. The hits are viscous and the hook up ratio is terrible, hence the reason for the punch rig. If a bass misses the frog, or even lost during the fight, immediately pick up the punch rig and pitch to the hole made by the strike. I promise, seven out of ten times, the bass will strike again and the hook up ratio is so much better. However, this bass is never caught without the frog getting its attention in the first place.
Some call it a curse, I call it a God Send! Especially when it gets the hottest. This nasty, tough floating weed is the very best cover in the lake for bass during the heat of the day. Hyacinth is also the least fished. People can’t stand dealing with it. A punch or two with nothing but getting hung up in the roots, dragging in a few clumps, and cleaning off lures stops most anglers from fishing hyacinth. The trouble it presents is one of the main reasons I like it so much, great cover, cooler water, oxygenated and filtered with almost zero pressure. Bass under a good thick hyacinth mat react faster and more aggressive than others because they are not used to anything pounding through the roof. There is only one bait for this technique in my book; a 2-ounce punch rig, double pegged and the biggest straight shank hook I can get my hands on. Start at the edge, then work all the way back in 3′ increments, front to back, side to side. No need working it too hard; punch, feel, reel in and repeat. This is not a slow or finesse presentation, punch through and rock and roll.
If it’s cracklin’, it’s livin’!! Famous lakes like Guntersville, Wheeler and others down south have made these mats famous. Thick matted vegetation with a top cover of duck weed or other floating vegetation is perfect. The first thing an angler needs to do when pulling up on a mat is to stop and listen! It must be alive, when I say alive, listen for small fish working. We need to hear snap, crackle and pop coming from a good mat. Without these sounds, don’t waste valuable time. If there is activity, it’s weighted frog time again and have a flipping stick near-by with a heavy sinker pegged to it. I do work my frog different than most on these mats, pop, pop, pause, pop, pop, pause. I use a swift small jerk of the rod, I am not wanting to move the frog far, but make as much commotion on top as I can. Most of the time I will pop the rod tip while holding it down close to the water line only 3 or 4 inches. Always have pauses in the retrieve, especially when the vegetation moves around the bait. This movement means a bass has noticed the frog and has moved in for a closer look. After a pause, the first pop will be the one to generate a strike. Amazingly, the hook up ratio in this type vegetation is better than thick duckweed, as the crust is not as thick.
So, if you’re a ledge/hump/deep water hater, try these techniques this summer. The worst thing to happen would be getting to cool down while riding around the lake looking for the next mat to fish.
First Published in Ultimate Bass