– The details, such as the settings, are recorded every time I capture an image on one of my digital cameras. This information is often called metadata.

I frequently find myself referring to the metadata embedded in an image, analyzing the information days, months or even years after the image was taken. I’m interested mainly in the date and time of day. It helps me to understand phenology, which is the study of cyclic timing of nature.

Last week I looked through a folder of largemouth bass images. The folder contained current images to ones as far back as 15 years. What I was interested in was dates when largemouth bass over 5 pounds were taken.

It’s common knowledge that most fish, after spawning, tend to go into a feeding slump. Angling experts and fish biologists claim bass and other fish, especially big females, rest after spawning and are not particularly active. The large females are not only scattered and difficult to find, but also seem to be closed-mouthed and unwilling to bite.

Well, my unscientific observations proved that is true.

The metadata showed not a single bass more than 5 pounds (I weigh all big bass with a digital scale before a photo and their release) was caught during June.

Of course, there are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to nature. I’m sure some reading this think: “I’ve caught a 5-pounder during June.”

Perhaps one variable should be mentioned here. I exclusively fish bass in shallow, weedy waters — slop as it is often known — and almost always use surface lures, usually a floating frog imitation. I love the heart-stopping splash when a bass blasts the surface and inhales a lure. However, fish caught in shallow water areas during June are usually male bass weighing less than 2 pounds.

That experience changes about the first week in July.

I’ve caught two largemouth bass more than 6 pounds in all of my fishing years. One was boated on July 9, the other on July 16.

My friend and bass fishing partner Lindy Frasl, of Brainerd, agrees with my observations. Lindy is a part-time bass tournament angler and excels in the sport. Of course, successful tournament anglers must be capable of finding and catching bass whether the fish are deep or shallow, in the slop or under docks — anywhere. But Lindy agreed with my consensus. “The big bass seem to turn on starting in early July, and that includes shallow-water fish,” he said.

Every summer my brother Leo, who lives in Grand Forks, N.D., travels south to Brainerd to fish largemouth with me. Each summer I have the same suggestion. “If you want to catch a quantity of bass, come in early June. If you want quality bass, be here during in July.”

Am I suggesting that the best way to catch a 5-pound-plus largemouth is to fish a surface lure in shallow water during July? No. But again that is my preferred method. I’d rather catch one bass on the surface in shallow water than three in deep water.

I know that fall fishing is usually a choice time of year to catch a real wall-hanger, but with so many other outdoor activities I slack on fishing. I prefer to spend time bowhunting for deer, walking aspen thickets for ruffed grouse, or hunting ducks among a thick stand of wild rice.

July is different.

You’ll find me standing in the bow of my boat in shallow water, a heavy action rod in hand, and a reel loaded with 30-pound test braided line. Most likely I’ll be chucking a floating frog lure. I’ll wait, hope, with muscles taught and nerves on edge for that big bass to rocket skyward and eat my fake frog.


Bill Marchel is an outdoors writer and photographer. He lives near Brainerd. Reach him at bill@billmarchel.com.