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Shallow Summer Bassin'

Article: July, 2008
 Lake Fork Pro Guide Tom RedingtonEvery summer, many bass move out of shallow spawning areas to deeper offshore structure in the main lake. As advanced graphs and GPS units have made deep water fishing a lot easier and more effective, many anglers take up residence out deep in the summer, as well. However, bass are predators that live and feed wherever prey can be captured effectively. Take a glance in the shallows of most any lake during the summer and you’ll find it teeming with life—shad, panfish, juvenile fish, and minnows—better known to bass as “lunch.” No matter how warm the air or the water temperatures, you’ll be able to catch bass in shallow water all summer long. And some days, you can catch them better shallow than out deep.

Start your search for shallow bass in a couple different areas. First, large flats with lots of grass or wood cover normally hold fish year-round. These are resident bass that spend their whole lives on the flats because they offer plenty of food in all seasons. Secondly, look for shallow water areas that are adjacent to deep water, either in large creeks or on the main lake. These shallow water feeding areas offer the best of both worlds to bass—the cooler temps and security of deep water, with quick access to food. Good examples of this are lily pad covered main lake points or banks in major coves where the creek channel swings in close.

Once you’ve located some likely areas, your timing will contribute to your success. In clear water, I generally do best up shallow early and late, or during the day if it is cloudy and windy. At these times, fish tend to roam more and you’ll want to cover the flats more with horizontal presentations like spinnerbaits or crankbaits. Meanwhile, if you’re fishing a stained or muddy lake, shallow fish can normally be caught all day long. During the middle of the day, especially when it is calm and sunny, fish tighter to cover near drop-offs or creek channels. For instance, flipping trees along a creek channel running through a flat or worming the outside weed edge on a point will often work well. These more vertical presentations will often result in bigger bass, too.

Depending on the conditions and the cover, pick a lure that’ll match the bass’ primary forage. In most cases, bass will be keying in on bluegill, shad, or crawdads. Bright orange and yellow accents to brown, green and purple lures match bluegill and other sunfish well, while silver or white mimic shad, and browns or greens replicate the look of most crawdads. As noted before, spinnerbaits and shallow running crankbaits are a great way to locate concentrations of fish, especially on windy and cloudy days or during low light conditions. These baits will not only catch active fish, but they often give away the location of a large school. Once the action slows on the search baits, I’ll slow down and work the area over with soft plastic jerkbaits like Magic Shads and Zig Zags. Work these baits weightless or wacky rigged over the top of grass and around wood to coax out the less active fish.

When the fish are less active, fish around the heaviest cover with a Texas rig, jig, or shaky head. A worm is hard to beat in the summertime and it’s normally my first choice. I’ll Texas rig an 8 or 10 inch Fork Worm, as summer bass seem to prefer a big ribbon tail. Rig these with the lightest weight possible for a slow fall and let them soak a long time between hops, because many of your bites will come as the bait is sitting still. Other times, you’ll illicit reaction strikes by pitching a Texas rig or jig to the heaviest grass or wood cover available. I’ll Texas rig a Fork Flipper with a 3/8 or ˝ oz sinker or use a ˝ oz Mega Weight jig with a matching Fork Craw and let it quickly fall into the cover. Hop your bait around a couple times, and then pitch the next target. The quick drop of these baits will trigger fish to bite that might pass on slower presentations. Finally, for the most reluctant of bass, a shaky head rig like a Twitch Worm on an 1/8 oz Screw Ball jighead will work wonders. Cast this rig to any shallow cover and gently shake your bait in place between hops. This small bait, rigged on light line like 8 or 10 lb P-Line Fluorocarbon, will produce bass when all other lures are ignored.

As numerous tournament winners have proven over the years, there are always some good bass in the shallows, even in the heat of the summer.
Good Fishing,

Fishing Tip by  Lake Fork Pro Tom Redington


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