Our recent weather forecast has made it more than obvious that summer is surely upon us. Temperatures spiking to over a 100 degrees is becoming the norm, making most of our local lakes temperatures soar up to the mid 80’s.
As a general rule of thumb, I start to look toward deeper water haunts to find stacked schools of largemouth bass, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty still in the shallows and finding these shallow fish can be easier than one would think because they set up in pretty obvious places.
Think like a bass for a second, it’s a 100 degree, scorching hot summer day with not a cloud in the sky. You find yourself standing in the middle of a large field. There’s nothing out there except a small clump of trees and an old picnic table. Where are you going to spend your day, in the middle of the sweltering heat or would you take shelter amongst the trees or under the picnic table? You would most likely seek out the shade and a bass is no different. As long as there is food and an ample place to call home bass will be present. You just need to think like them.
Looking for these shallow bass I’d first find a larger flat, your flat is the dinner table and provides an abundance of all kinds of aquatic life, most importantly forage. This time of year I’m always going to search out cover such as laydowns, mats of vegetation, boat docks, lily pads or anything that will provide protection against the sun yet still provide ample ambush opportunities.
Fishing this type of cover requires the right setup and is definitely not for the faint of heart. I ALWAYS try to go with the heaviest setup I feel I can get away with. Generally I’m going to employ a flip, pitch or skipping presentation. Most of the time I use a 7ft. heavy action baitcasting setup with 17 to 25 lb. Seaguar Abrazx Fluorocarbon or 50 to 65 lb. Seaguar Kanzen Braid.
Lure selection is very important here, generally and I do mean generally, I shy away from typical reaction style baits and tend to favor crayfish style baits such as the Biovex Vex Jig, tubes or other various soft plastics. Anytime I’m using soft plastics I use a traditional texas rig setup that includes various Lazer Trokar Hooks, a Lazer Tungsten Weight and I always peg the weight using a Eagle Claw Bobber Stop. The bobber stop is ideal for preventing the weight from sliding up and down on your line yet doesn’t compromise your line like toothpicks can.
Some of my favorite soft plastics for shallow cover would be any beaver style bait, tubes and senko style baits. Wisconsin’s own Pro Tour Baits, makes some of the best plastics available. The Craw Tube and Flippin’ Tube get the general nod and both of these baits get paired with the Lazer Trokar 4/0 Tube Hook. The size weight I use depends of several variables like, water depth, wind and vegetation but I tend to go as light as I feel I can get away with. Most of the time I opt for the ¼ oz. Lazer Tungsten weight and if the wind is really kicking than I may bump up to a 3/8 or even a ½ on some occasion.
When I approach the cover I quickly survey a few things before making a pitch, I look for the shaded areas and also make a quick scan of where the sweet spot is. A sweet spot could be where there is a tire under a dock in the shade or where there is a small batch of lily pads in the heart of a laydown tree. Anytime your fishing shallow cover it’s imperative that you are as quiet as possible, which means your bait should enter the water as finesse-like as possible.
I always use a baitcasting setup up for this but depending on how gnarly the cover is this could be a very advanced technique that would require much patience and practice to enjoy. The reason I went through all the frustrations of learning this cast was because you simply can’t provide the stout backbone in traditional spinning gear and once you’ve got it down a casting setup is more accurate than a spinning one.
If you opt for a spinning setup as I did when I first starting banging boat docks it’s essential that you use braided line, on a medium heavy 6’6” spinning rod and I’d be hard pressed to use any less than 30lb. Seaguar Kanzen Braid. Probably the number one bait for this would be a weightless 5” Pro Tour Baits Trick Sticks and a 4/0 Lazer Trokar MagWorm Hook. This presentation is slick and skips across the water like a dream, yet the braid and the medium heavy action rod should be enough to get a big bass out of the cover.
A jig is another lure that works very well in this type of cover and just this past weekend I got to put the Biovex Vex Jig to work and was very surprised by what I found. The smaller profile and the unique shape of the head make this jig skip like nothing I ever seen. I could put this bait so far back under boat docks and from some 30 feet away! The smaller profile and shape of the line tie make this come through the nastiest of the cover virtually snag free, a quality very hard to find in other baits.
Back to the reaction factor, I generally shy away from reaction style baits for several reasons, the main one cause they’re usually not as snag free and they tend to not be as efficient at pitching and skipping way up underneath the cover. The other reason is that I’m a firm believer that when you pitch a tube or jig into this type of cover that you’re actually getting a reaction strike anyway. These fish aren’t used to something coming flying into their home and pounce on it. With that said, there’s always an exception to the rule. There are times that I may fling a square billed crankbait, a swim jig or even a swimbait. This past weekend when I ran out of jigs I started skipping around a ½ oz. Biovex Kolt Ridge Tail Swimbait. I was very pleased just how effective the bait was at skipping. I’d skip it way up underneath pontoons and docks and slowly swim it out and as soon as the bait was about to swim completely free of the cover it would get absolutely smashed! I definitely found a new way to cover water and find productive areas before tournament time.
Here’s a recent video I shot from northern Minnesota where the bass where very abundant under the boat docks yet the rest of the fisherman where having extreme difficulties locating bass in the deeper water. I found that the bass were very eager to jump on my bait as soon as I put it in front of their face!
For more, please check out my website at www.JoshDouglasFishing.com or feel free to email me direct at Josh@JoshDouglasFishing.com.