Pay attention to vegetation, bridges, and current like the pros.
By late summer, bass fishing is not for the faint of heart. Largemouths are often deep and lethargic, and they’re also frequently starting to relocate and suspend at mid-depth ranges as forage begins to move.
This is when professional anglers start following the ABCs of summer fishing. “The ABCs stand for aquatic vegetation, bridges, and current, three shortcuts to finding fish,” says veteran tournament pro and Lake Fork guide James Niggemeyer. “In summer, bass need shade, cover, oxygen, and food, and the ABCs always provide that. In addition, aquatic vegetation and bridges have depth changes close to cover, and current in the back of a creek attracts bass from other areas.”
Why Bass Like It: Hydrilla, lily pads, hyacinths, and other greenery hold forage such as crawfish and sunfish and provide cover, shade, and higher oxygen.
What to Look For: Edge irregularities, especially depth changes; brush, logs, or rocks with the vegetation; isolated patches of greenery.
Techniques and Tackle: Skitter floating frogs over the top and through openings; flip tubes and jigs into open holes; run shallow crankbaits along the outside edge. Use 50- to 65-pound braided line for frogs and tubes; 12- to 20-pound fluorocarbon for square-bill crankbaits.
Why Bass Like It: Cover, shade, and abrupt depth changes are always present; nearby rocks often hold forage.
What to Look For: Brush lodged on the upstream side of pilings; current breaks behind pilings; baitfish around pilings.
Techniques and Tackle: Bulge a fast spinnerbait parallel to abutments and pilings nearest the channel first. Cover the brush at upstream pilings with a crankbait; hit the downstream side of abutments with a drop-shot rig. Use 8- to 16-pound fluorocarbon line (it sinks).
Why Bass Like It: Moving water produces higher oxygen, washes in food, and usually creates cooler temperatures.
What to Look For: Eddies and protected calmer water; rocks, small islands, other visible cover like stumps or logjams.
Techniques and Tackle: Cast light jigs, plastic grubs, or Texas-rigged worms upstream and let current carry them into quiet eddies. Work small buzzbaits across calmer areas, especially in early morning. Use 12- to 16-pound fluorocarbon for strength and low visibility.
[Finding reservoir largemouths} from mid-summer through September, when bass follow schools of baitfish moving unpredictably around the lake, can be maddening unless you know two things: (1) The fish usually suspend 8 to 12 feet deep over much deeper water; and (2) Isolated clumps of flooded timber near drop-offs and points serve as rest stops and snack stations for these roving bass. Work such trees at the right depth and you’ll consistently catch heavyweights when nobody else can find the fish.
The maze of branches that extend from cedar and pine trees give bass a dense sanctuary. Fish tend to cling to the odd type of cover in a given area, so look for a lonely cedar surrounded by a cluster of hardwoods.
The upper branches of many hardwoods spread out and offer bass numerous hiding places. Trees with more horizontal limbs generally attract more bass than trees with vertical ones. The thickest limbs tend to hold the biggest bass.
Flip or pitch a ½-ounce jig-and-pig to the trunk of a cedar tree with a stiff flipping rod and 25-pound monofilament or 50-pound braided line. Let the line drape over a branch and work the jig down, a few feet at a time, to a depth of 10 to 12 feet. Jig the bait up and down several times at each level to coax strikes. When a bass nabs the lure, set the hook with all your strength and horse it out before it can wrap the line.
Why Bass Like It: Fishing standing trees is usually best when the sun shines. The bright light drives bass into the shade beneath the branches. Cast your lures to the shaded sides of trees and limbs to get more strikes.
Techniques and Tackle: Cast a 10-inch worm rigged with a 4/0 hook and a 3/16-ounce bullet sinker to the center of the limbs with a medium-heavy baitcasting outfit matched with 15- to 20-pound monofilament. Count the worm down to about 10 feet on a semi-slack line, figuring a sink rate of about 1 foot per second. Most strikes come on the initial drop. If not, hop and swim the worm back through the limbs. Do not let it sink to the bottom.
Finding the Right Trees
1. Where to Look: Search for trees poking just above the surface in water 20 feet or deeper on main-lake areas and in the lower third of major creek arms. The most productive are located on the ends of points, near creek-channel bends, and on the edges of deep flats and drop-offs.
2. What to Look For: Sometimes a small limb that sticks a few inches above the surface is the tip-off to an overlooked tree. Wear polarized sunglasses to help you spot underwater timber.