Pro's Picks For Summer Bassin'
Aaron Marten's Summer Lure Selection
Davis Baits Shaky Fish:
This is Martens' own design that he uses from the shallows to 30 feet of water. He keeps 3/16-, 1/4- and 3/4-ounce models on his deck to effectively take on all depths. “This is good for when they come up schooling, and it'll also get 'em up off the bottom,” he says. Most often, he threads a Zoom Fluke on. If it's a solid color, he rigs it upside down.
Megabass Flap Slap:
Martens says that this shallow-runner has the same action as a homemade flat-sided bait, which makes it a good summertime bait. “If they’re shallow, I’ll throw this in the backs of creeks, especially if there’s been rain and the water is a little dingy.” Pro blue and Tennessee shad are his go-to colors.
Deep Diving Crankbait:
Marten’s uses a deep-diver — like Megabass’ Deep-X 300 — to probe deep structure, but more often he’ll throw it in water that’s shallower than the bait is capable of diving, just to stir up the bottom. He’ll also not hesitate to use Sunline braid if he’s fishing it around timber or thick brush. “You get your bait back more often, and I don’t notice getting fewer strikes,” he says.
Martens uses this versatile worm in a number of ways, given the conditions he’s facing. If the current is running and the fish are active, he’ll thread one on a shaky head. If there’s no current or the fish are shut down, he’ll opt for a drop shot rig. “If the fish are suspended and off the bottom, use a longer leader on your drop shot, up to 15 inches,” he says. “But you want to experiment with the two and see which is producing better.” He likes a slew of colors, including prizm shad, Aaron’s magic red flake and MM3
What Aaron Martens Throws In Late Summer July/August 2012 Bassmaster (DavidHunter Jones pg. 24)
Bass That Go Bump In The Night
Most anglers are engrained with reproducing what a crawfish looks and acts like, but most anglers don't realize that crawfish are nocturnal creatures. This common bottom dwelling prey can be found roaming rocky and sandy lake bottoms throughout the night. In order to take advantage of this phenomenon I try to find flats that are near a steep drop-off. Bass will often be found moving from the deeper water to the now cooler shallows. As the fish roam looking for craws and other prey, it is a good bet to fan cast a spinnerbait or buzzbait through the area. The midnight hours consist of the time after the sun subsides. There may be an hour or so pause during this time to allow bass to "accommodate" or adjust their vision for the complete darkness of night. Bass will be moving toward the docks during this time and will be relating more and more to that kind of cover. As with fishing during the day, bass often hang around docks, especially lighted ones. Lighted docks offer bass a chance to stay completely hidden while seeing everything in the light not directly under the dock.
Over the past year, I have fallen in love with night fishing, resulting in my tackle box becoming full of a variety of spinnerbaits, buzzbaits and bladed jigs. Just like in daytime fishing, all anglers have their own favorites. Ironically, dark colors offer bass the best silhouettes that they can more easily see so I stick to black and red as my main night colors. I can't even begin to count how many fish I have landed at night using a 1/2oz black spinnerbait with a black Colorado blade. When fishing a spinnerbait at night, use a trailer hook and a bulky trailer that increases the silhouette of the bait. The large silhouette makes the bait more visible in low-light conditions. Assassinator has a spinnerbait that works well at night utilizing a patented wire design that causes the blades to "clack" together. The Assassinator Pro-II Clacker has become one of my go-to night spinnerbaits. Topwater fishing is perhaps my favorite method for the dark. I quickly built experience and confidence fishing a buzzbait at night. Using a buzzbait in the dark can increase your hook-up ratio because the angler can't see the strike. Instead, the angler relies on sound and feeling. Another old, but still very productive topwater bait is the Jitterbug. It makes a gurgling sound that bass just can't seem to resist. Though I like to fish the moving style baits, many anglers use a Carolina-rigged worms with good success at night also.
Bass That Go Bump In The Night Summer 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Robert Taylor III pg. 6 - 8)
Bernie Schultz Goes Deep In Summertime Mats
Summertime bass don't always set up on the deep edge of cover. "Don't be afraid to go way back in," advises Schultz. "If I like the place I'm fishing and I'm not getting bit on the edge, I'm going to go back in six or eight feet. I may go as far as 20 or 30 feet. And there are extreme situations where I may motor in with the big engine into the middle of a mat and just let things settle down and flip all the way around the boat and then move another 20 or 30 feet and do the same thing again." Once he locates that productive depth zone, he expects the pattern to hold across the lake or up and down the river.
He believes the biggest bass in any water spend most of their time burrowed in their home defending their turf regardless of weather conditions. "What this cover provides is oxygen, insulation, and forage. It's got everything a bass needs. The better class fish in any body of water, if they've got this kind of cover, they're going to take it over and dominate it. You see the quality of these fish. The better grade fish live in this kind of cover." Most folks associate flippin' and punching with shallow water. But hydrilla, milfoil, and the like will generally grow as deep as sunlight penetration allows. From the clear depths of Minnetonka to the tide-washed California Delta to Toledo Bend or down on Lake Seminole, grass grows deepest and thickest in late summer. It often blankets that magical 6-to-8-foot range that many anglers would otherwise crank with a diving plug during dog days. It may seem odd to flip such depths, but that's exactly what Schultz did to tremendous effect.
Lure Selection & Presentation:
Schultz differs from some of his neighbors in terminal tackle selection when digging big girls out of the slop. He does use the long rod and thick braided line, but on the business end of his outfit is a 3/0 extra strong EWG Gamakatsu instead of the straight shank version favored by many Florida flippers. He uses that particular hook because it fits perfectly with his 3-inch Yamamoto Fat Baby Craw. Stubby though it may be the Fat Baby Craw is thick enough to ride a big hook behind a large diameter weight. It is molded with a shallow groove that keeps skin-hooked steel at the ready while covering it just enough to keep it from hanging on everything except fish. "What I'm using is a small package. You want to keep the whole deal as tight and clean as possible. It's totally snagproof but I'm hooking everything that bites."
Schultz pairs the small plastic critter with a heavy weight. Dense, compact tungsten keeps the outfit streamlined to facilitate easy entry and a solid hookset. "Without that weight you're just not going to get to this kind of fish. A big weight's essential but if you're using tungsten you've got a more compact profile. It slides right in." While much has been written about the ounce-and-a-half bombs used by many flippers in dense vegetation, Schultz found that 3/4oz. model was adequate for the job. Because he used the lighter weight he didn't need to guide it down with his rod tip. He simply let it free fall to induce reaction strikes from unsuspecting bass as the morsel slipped silently through the canopy and zipped past their nose. "I just try to be in tune with the bait without a tight line. I don't want tension on the line as it falls. I just try to be dialed-in as to what's going on with the lure. When you're flippin' in deep water it requires more line and it's a little more awkward when you pull it out. But as long as you're making presentations correctly you can get over that. You see the results." Such deep cover demands extra attention. "A lot of times they'll pick it up and swim sideways with it and you'll think it's sinking when it's actually going horizontal. Be conscious of the depth you're fishing and if it looks like more line is out than the depth you're fishing then there's a good chance you've got a bite."
Bernie Schultz Goes Deep In Summertime Mats Summer 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Vance McCullough pg. 68 - 70)
Breaking Down Ledges With Mark Menendez
"In my mind a ledge is anywhere you have a flat, which can be from 5- to 25-feet of water, where bass can feed; adjacent to that is a change in the contour where it goes from shallow to deep," said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Menendez. "It can be a gradual slope, a stair-step, a vertical bank or it can be a sharp drop. It can be anything where a bass has a flat to feed on with deep water available. If you have an area like that, you can find bass there 10 months out of the year." The size of the flat will determine how productive a ledge will be; the larger the flat, the more fish it will hold. Spots within spots are key areas and the larger the flat, the more of these areas it is likely to have. However, anglers should not dismiss areas where two creeks come together and just a small flat exist, because any travel route is a good location to fish. For the most part, the size of the flat will dictate how many fish it can harbor. The methods for locating ledges have changed in recent years, primarily due to the advancement in electronics. In years past, map study was the fundamental ingredient for locating offshore ledges.
For Menendez, maps are still key components and he says map study is something that can be done in conjunction with other activities. In the not so distant past, anglers had to rely on their maps and dashboard flasher units. Buoy markers and triangulation are what allowed anglers to return to the same spots. With modern electronics using side and down scan, Navionics chips and global positioning satellites, a lot of the guesswork has been taken out of the ledge fishing equation. Menendez still uses some of the skills he learned in the days before high tech equipment to make himself a better angler using modern electronics. "Today’s electronic systems have taken a lot of the guess work out of locating ledges," the three-time B.A.S.S. tournament winner explained. "I still utilize those old skills and I think it makes me a better angler. When I pull up on a ledge, make a cast and hook a fish, it is my job as an angler to be able to repeat what I just did. So when I hook a fish I am going to mark a way point, drop a buoy marker and use something to triangulate my position so that I can repeat that cast."
Lure Selection & Presentation:
As soon as the first cycle of fish spawn, the females move out to the first drop adjacent to the spawning flat and recuperate there. They will group up according to size and feed actively. For the Paducah, Ky. pro, a big crankbait is the way to go. On most ledges, a crankbait that will run extremely deep, in the 20-foot range, works well. As his go-to crankbait, Menendez picks a Strike King Series 6XD in Chartreuse Sexy Shad for dirty water or a Sexy Shad color in clear conditions. He fishes this on 10- to 12lb Seaguar fluorocarbon line spooled on a Lew's Tournament Pro Speed Spool reel with 5.4:1 gear ratio on top of a Lew's 7-foot composite rod. After an angler catches several fish on a crankbait, fish become leery and the bite sometimes begin to taper off. When this happens, Menendez will switch to the 6XD Silent Stalker. This is the same crankbait without the internal rattle. He likes to keep multiple rods rigged with crankbaits to maximize his time on the water. Once the first fish is hooked, things happen quickly.
If the crankbait doesn't work, Menendez will go deep with a spoon. He fishes a Strike King Sexy Spoon on a 7 1/2 foot heavy action rod and reel combination coiled with 15- to 20- pound fluorocarbon line. He will stroke the spoon just like a jig and he uses a split ring on the front to eliminate line twist. The front split ring also allows him to add a treble hook to the front of the bait if he is getting strikes, but not hooking the fish. A spinnerbait is a ledge bait that Menendez thinks is overlooked by many anglers. He likes to slow roll a spinnerbait near the bottom and believes it works because it is something the fish aren't used to seeing on a ledge."This is a technique that works really well when the temperatures heat up," he said. "A spinnerbait is a lure that you can usually catch larger-than-average fish on, so why not try it offshore where some really big fish live?" His spinnerbait of choice is a 1-ounce Strike King Bottom Dweller in either white or a chartreuse/white combination fished on a 7-foot medium/heavy rod and 15-pound-test line. He will use a slower gear ratio reel to easily keep the bait on the bottom. "As water temperatures warm up, the bite has a tendency to slow down," Menendez noted. "This is when I like to slow down with a football head jig or a soft plastic because the bass don't want to chase their prey as much." Menendez will drag the football head tipped with a Rage Tail trailer or he will throw a large soft plastic to imitate a nuisance to bass. He prefers to Carolina- or Texas-rigged 10-inch worm to imitate a freshwater lamprey.
Living On A Ledge Summer 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Tim Tipton pg. 38 - 40)
Digging Up Dirt For Late Summer Bass With Dustin Wilks
“By the middle of summer that good, deep water bite is usually slowing down,” Wilks says. “Now I may begin a new fishing day by hitting some ledges or humps just to see if they're biting deep. But after a couple of hours, if I haven't found any fish, I'll head back into a creek and start targeting shallow bass.” This is when Wilks goes against the grain. He says this time of year, many anglers fish shallow first and then head to deep water as the morning progresses. However, he has learned that the shallow bite usually gets better toward mid-day. “When the sun hits the water, phytoplankton start growing and they give off oxygen as a byproduct ” explains Wilks, a fisheries science major in college.
“The oxygen content increases as the sun climbs higher, and this makes the fish progressively more active. My favorite time to fish shallow water in the summer is in the hottest, brightest part of the day.” And when Wilks says “shallow,” he means it. “I'm talking about depths of 3 feet or less. I've caught a lot of fish in midsummer in water only a few inches deep. Again, I'm talking about places that most people wouldn't consider fishing this time of year.”
To run this pattern, Wilks picks a creek, idles into it and begins “picking it to pieces.” “I'm looking mainly for any cover that the fish might orient to,” he continues. “This is usually vegetation or wood. It could be weeds growing along shore or on a shallow flat. It could be willows or buck bushes. You just have to check all the options to see what's the best cover for that given day.” Wilks accomplishes this by staying for a lengthy period in his chosen embayment and covering the water thoroughly. He runs the banks. He test-fishes flats, the mouth of the creek, and any depth breaks, no matter how shallow or subtle. He will check any and all cover objects and possible locations where bass might be holding, trying to establish a pattern for the remainder of the day. He says, “I really get excited if I can find a small creek with a defined channel and a few good stumps along it. There's a good chance those stumps will have a bass or two hanging next to them.” Wilks says he finds most of his cover targets visually. (He depends on Costa sunglasses with dark grey lenses to see stumps and other objects beneath the surface.) Occasionally, however, he uses his depthfinder to locate subtle bottom contour changes, and he also finds underwater objects “the old fashioned way” - running into them with his electric motor as he trolls along. “If I catch my motor on a stump or log, I'll ease away from it. Then I'll come back later and fish it.”
Lure Selection & Presentation:
Now, finding the right spots is only half the equation. Lure selection and presentation is the other half. Wilks depends on a range of lures and fishing methods to match different situations he encounters. “One of my favorite baits around shallow cover objects is a 10- to 12-inch plastic worm,” he notes. “When bass are hanging out in water that's really warm, their metabolism is high, and they like a big meal. If the fish are feeding, this is usually the bait I'll be throwing.” His favorite worm colors are red shad or black in dirty water and green with orange flakes in stained water. One other ace-in-the-hole presentation for Wilks is punching a Culprit Incredi-Craw through thick, matted weeds. “This is how I catch some of my biggest bass this time of year,” he says. “I look for mats with at least a couple of feet of water beneath them. In the heat of the day, the fish just sit under there, and the only way to catch them is to punch a bait through to get a reaction bite. To do this, I rig the Incredi-Craw Texas-style with a 1-ounce tungsten bullet weight, and I fish it on an 8-foot rod and 65-pound-test braided line.
Digging Up Dirt For Late Summer Bass July/August 2012 Bassmaster (Wade L. Bourne pg. 66 - 68)
Fishing For Midnight Bass
Giant bass love quick access to deep water and to shallow water feeding areas, and the structural locations he targets - particularly in late winter and early spring - provide both. “Almost all the really big bass I catch at night are related to the creek channel or a ditch of some type,” Looper says. “And I like places where the channel or ditch only runs up a little ways along the bank and then turns away. I don't like places where it comes close to the bank for a long stretch.” Another preference is a place where the creek channel or ditch make a U-turn against a bank or in a pocket. “Now a couple of bluffs on lakes I fish have ledges that are not necessarily related to a channel,” says Looper, noting an exception to the channel/ditch rule. “The ledges are the key in that type of place. But, again, I don't like a deep ledge that runs 100 yards down a bank. I want a short ledge. Those are the places I fish. Those are big fish places, day or night!”
Hard bottom is a must, especially in spring. “Hard clay, rock, whatever, but it has to be hard,” he says. “Scattered stumps are a bonus!” On a moderately clear lake, Looper expects to get bites to about 10 foot depths. On an exceptionally clear lake, he extends that bite range to 20 feet. These guidelines help him determine boat position with relation to the structure he is fishing. During warm weather months, more conventional cover and structural elements factor into his plans. “For largemouth, I am often throwing at steep laydowns and grass points, especially in summer,” he says, noting that productive points for summer night fishing may extend 100 yards or more even on a relatively small lake. “These long underwater points are some of the best places for really big ones. If your lake is 60 feet deep, an ideal point probably goes to about 30 feet. In summer, you want a point that drops deeper than the average depth of the lake.”
Lure Selection & Presentation:
Bait selection gets simple at night. Looper restricts his choices to two styles of “big fish” baits - jigs and oversize spinnerbaits. His jigs range from 1/4 to 1/2 ounce. A Yum Money Craw is his primary trailer. Most often it is some type of craw, brown or a brownish color, particularly in spring, but black-and-blue jig/trailer combos also work well, especially in summer. Grass-style jigs like the Booyah Boo Jig predominate, but he will opt for a football-head jig like the Booyah Pigskin when working rocky points. “For smallmouth, I am always throwing a football jig at night,” he adds. His spinnerbaits are homemade or modifications of existing baits. His 1/2-ounce models sport a No. 4.5 gold Hildebrandt Colorado blade teamed with a No. 8 silver Indiana blade on the back. Spacing is important, so he varies the number of beads between blades until he gets the blades to work properly together. His 3/4-ounce version features the same No. 4.5 gold Hildebrandt Colorado in the “fore” position, but a No. 10 fluted silver Indiana blade on the back. “The only spinnerbait colors I use are white or white-and-yellow,” he says. “Another thing I do is spray Blakemore's Real Magic or KVD's line conditioner on my spools before I go out at night,” says Looper. “The spray tames line down. Backlashes are not something you want at night.”
Sound substitutes for compromised sight at night. “I always want my lure to land shallow when I am night fishing,” explains Looper. “So if you take a 3/8-ounce jig, which is my favorite size for fishing at night, and it lands in 2 feet of water, it goes 'splat.' But if you cut that cast short and it lands in 15 feet of water, it goes 'plunk.' You are mostly working by sound because you sure can't see it.” This sound training is easy to teach, he emphasizes. And knowing the difference can be critical, particularly when he is fishing nearly vertical walls with narrow ledges. “I've been doing this for 20 years,” he says. “I have first-time night fishermen make a cast shallow and tell them to concentrate on the sound. Then I have them cast to deep water and let them hear that, too. They automatically understand. And it is really important to get that 'splat' along vertical walls. Your first pull with the bait is at 5 feet. Pull it again and it is at 10 feet or deeper. If you land 10 feet off the bank, your lure won't hit bottom for a long time. You have to know where your bait is in relation to the bank.”
Night Magic July/August 2012 Bassmaster (Mike Pehanich pg. 54 - 57)
Hot Summer Smallies
,p> Topwater Plugs:
Topwater plugs not only allow anglers to mimic baitfish on the surface, they also put you in position to catch the biggest fish in the area. I use two styles of topwater lures in the summer - poppers and stick baits that I can work in a walk-the-dog motion. I use a popper about 90 percent of the time and the two baits I've found most productive are Storm Chug Bugs and Pop-Rs. Both work very well. Try them both and switch it up to see which ones work best that day. Topwater plugs really shine when smallmouth are feeding on schooling baitfish. Points, sandbars and offshore rock piles are key places. Smallmouth are aggressive feeders regardless of the cover. If they are feeding, they won't pass up a topwater plug. Try different retrieves or cadence to figure out just what they want at that time. Start with a medium retrieve pop - pop - pop waiting a second or two between pops; next try jerking hard between pops so the bait makes a large splash and only a second between pops. The water is warm and the fish are usually aggressive for one of these two retrieves to work. If not, try a long pause of five to ten seconds between movements. A long pause will often entice a larger bass. For the walking bait, I like to use the innovative and unique Yo Zuri Sashimi topwater pencil. If I'm trying to draw bass from a distance like over deep water, I go to this lure. Slowly walk it across the surface in smooth cadence. We've caught some monster bass on the Sashimi because of its side-to-side motion and a finish that changes colors as it moves through the water. When throwing these topwater plugs I use 6.5-foot Skeet Reese Tessera topwater rod spooled with Seaguar Senshi monofilament.
Crankbaits are great search baits that can cover a lot of water to give an angler a sense for what the bass are doing. Crankbaits come in a wide variety of colors that resemble almost any forage. Selecting the exact color depends on the water clarity and weather conditions. Key colors during the summer are chartreuse, crawfish, perch and shad patterns. Smallmouth are prone to hitting a crankbait when it changes direction so bouncing it off rocks or other structure can be very productive. Also keep in mind, smallies may follow a bait all the way to the boat making it a good idea to watch the bait during the retrieve. If a smallie follows the crankbait, but doesn't hit it, toss a tube at it. A crankbait is also a good choice for fishing in the same areas where one might use a topwater bait at first light.
Carolina rig is something that some anglers won't touch, while others rely on it day in and day out. I began experimenting with this technique a few summers ago and have had good success with it. Use the lightest weight possible while maintaining contact with the bottom. Leader length depends greatly on the water clarity. On the Mississippi River, I'll use a 14- to 18-inch Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader with a 3/8oz brass weight. If I'm fishing a lake and need to get down deeper, I'll go up to a 1/2oz to a 3/4oz weight and a 24- to 36-inch leader. Small creature baits work well on the C-rig as well as flukes and lizards. Experimenting with different bait combinations to fish the secret for successful on the water that day. Like the two other lures mentioned above, the C-rig allows an angler cover water quickly, which is key for summer smallmouth fishing. Smallmouth move frequently in the summer, depending on baitfish and current. Dragging this rig over sand bars, rock humps and along a break line all work very well and can put some very nice fish in the boat.
Tubes are a great go to bait when fishing for smallmouth, as we have seen from many Lake Erie fisherman, tubes can catch some huge smallies. It seems just by dragging them over rock piles, over offshore humps, or along weedlines, they will entice smallmouth to bite. Tubes come in many sizes and colors. For starters, a 4-inch tube makes a good standard. Natural colors that represent crawfish or baitfish work well, but don't be afraid to try some bright colors especially when fishing in stained water. Day in and day out, an angler can never go wrong with a green pumpkin tube.
Drop shot with a small finesse worm is a great way to pinpoint and catch cover-orientated smallmouths. The first step in finding the right areas for fishing a drop shot. I look for rock piles, the tip of a point or a hump that has deep water close by with baitfish around it. Using my Humminbird side scan sonar unit, I can locate often-overlooked rock piles and other structure away from the boat. Like fishing a Carolina-rig, I'll use the lightest possible weight to give my bait a more natural look. I use a Trokar Drop Shot hook in a 1/0 and nose-hook my plastic baits, such as finesse worms, leeches and shad imitations. I make a long cast right on top of the structure letting my rig settle to the bottom. Then I'll just ever so slightly twitch the bait, or if there is wind or current present, then I'll just hold my rod still and let my lure move naturally in the water.
Hot Summer Smallies Summer 2012 Bass Angler Magazine (Glenn Walker pg. 60 - 62)
Micro Topwaters For Finicky Bass
A 1/4-ounce walking stickbait qualifies as a micro topwater because it is dwarfed by standard 3/4-ounce size stickbaits like the Zara Spook. A tiny stickbait isn't a staple on the Elite Series tour. Why does Alabamian Gerald Swindle make room for Lucky Craft's 7/32-ounce Sammy 65 in his bass boat? “It's for desperation time,” Swindle says. Swindle's desperation alarm was deafening when he fished an Elite Series tournament at Clarks Hill. The bass were marauding blueback herring that were spawning on shallow, red clay points. Unfortunately, the bass had become lure-shy due to heavy fishing pressure.
One option was to slow down and fish a finesse drop shot rig or shaky head worm. Swindle elected to tie on the Sammy 65. His Elite Series tournament Marshal was astounded. “You're not really fixin' to throw that peanut out there, are you?” he said. Swindle gave him a thumbs-up and went to work. Instead of walking the dog, Swindle twitched the Sammy 65 a few times and burned it over the surface with brief pauses. Each time he ripped the bait, it made a “V” on the surface. The bass pounded the little Sammy during the pauses. This desperation ploy put enough bass in Swindle's livewell to earn a Top 20 finish. Walking the Sammy 65 has come through for Swindle at other lakes when the bass were feeding on tiny shad. “You can throw the Sammy 65 on baitcasting tackle, but it overpowers that little bait,” Swindle says. Swindle has better lure control with a 7-foot spinning rod and 10-pound braided line knotted to a 4-foot, 10-pound-test monofilament leader. With the spinning outfit, “you can really sling that sucker,” Swindle says. To improve his strike-to-catch ratio, Swindle replaces the Sammy 65's stock No. 8 treble hooks with bigger No. 6 trebles.
Kentucky's Mark Menendez dupes skittish bass in calm, clear, skinny water with a white Strike King 1/8-ounce Tri-Wing Mini Buzz King. He replaces the skirt with a small, white curled-tail grub, a boot-tail minnow or ringworm to give the Mini Buzz King a slim profile. “It looks like a small shad, and it's gotten me a lot of checks along the way,” Menendez says. The Mini Buzz King has been especially kind to Menendez at hard-fished lakes, such as Old Hickory near Nashville, Tenn., and Lewisville, a water source lake for Dallas, Texas, and its suburbs. Then again, the little buzzer once produced a 16-pound bag for Menendez at Lake Kissimmee when the bite was tough.
Menendez also scores with the Mini Buzz King when bass hammer small shad, which is common in late summer and early fall. Despite the Mini Buzz King's diminutive size, Menendez can easily cast it with a 7-foot medium action baitcasting rod, paired with a 7:1 gear ratio Lew's reel filled with 17-pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon. “A really cool thing about that bait is that the slower you retrieve it, the louder the plop-plopplop sound it makes,” Menendez says. “You get a higher pitched sound with a faster retrieve.” When the water's still, Menendez opts for a fast pace. He slows down to make more noise when it's overcast or there's a slight surface chop. However, if it's too choppy, bass can't see the little buzzer's profile, Menendez notes. “The Mini Buzz King is a high efficiency bait, too,” Menendez says. “You don't miss many strikes with it.” Many other companies also offer capable 1/8-ounce buzzbaits. The Single Arm Buzzbait from Buckeye Lures is a good example of what's available.
The most widely used poppers, even among the Elite Series pros, weigh only 1/4 ounce. Do you really need a smaller one? Topwater guru Zell Rowland doesn't cast anything smaller than XCalibur's 1/4-ounce Zell Pop when he's fishing against the world's best bass anglers. “In most Elite Series tournaments, you have to catch big bass to do any good,” Rowland says. “A tiny popper just won't get the quality you need.” However, Rowland will downsize to Rebel's 1/8-ounce Teeny Pop-R when he fishes ponds and creeks for fun. He once toyed with the Teeny Pop-R while practice fishing for a tournament at Lake Ontario. The bitty popper was assaulted incessantly by smallmouth bass, but it wasn't tempting enough of the heavyweights to earn a spot on Rowland's tournament roster.
“Believe it or not, Rebel sells more baits like the [3/16-ounce] Crickhopper Popper than its mainstream bass baits,” Rowland says. “More people fish from the bank than from bass boats. Those little baits catch tons of bass and bluegill.” Rowland works the Teeny Pop-R as he does larger poppers, but he switches from baitcasting gear to spinning tackle and drops to 10-pound line so he can cast the light bait. Weekend anglers that fish from shore with spinning and spincasting rods typically do well with 6- and 8-pound-test monofilament.
Early in his fishing career, Ohioan Charlie Hartley frequently competed in tournaments on the Ohio River, a notoriously stingy bass fishery. He often relied on tiny topwaters then, because a limit of 12-inch bass was a strong catch in any Ohio River tournament. Now that Hartley is a regular on the Elite Series tour, “keeper” bass won't cut it. He leaves his little topwater baits at home - with one exception, Heddon's 1/4-ounce Tiny Torpedo. This tail prop is a cross between a stickbait and a double prop bait. When you walk it, the prop splashes and flashes. Zip the lure ahead, and the prop rips the surface, leaving a trail of bubbles. Both presentations produce for Hartley, especially when bass are munching small baitfish. A medium action 6-foot, 6-inch baitcasting rod, matched with an Abu Garcia Revo MGX reel and 12-pound monofilament allow Hartley to cast the Tiny Torpedo effectively. “A flexible rod and the stretch in monofilament prevents you from ripping those little treble hooks out of a big bass,” Hartley says.
Soft, crushable, weedless frogs have proven their ability to catch heavyweight bass. Why would anyone need a downsized version? Frog master Dean Rojas designed the 1/4-ounce Spro Bronzeye Frog Baby Popper for pond fishermen that use spinning and spincasting tackle. The lure is a smaller version of the proven Bronzeye Popper. “The 2/0 double hook in the Baby Popper is much smaller and thinner than the hooks in the bigger Bronzeye baits,” Rojas says. “You don't need a heavy rod to hook bass with it.” Live Target's realistic 1/4-ounce Hollow Body Frog also has light hooks that penetrate quickly. A good setup for both lures is a low stretch, 20-pound superbraid with a medium to medium-heavy action spinning outfit. With spinning tackle, you can skip these little frogs far under docks and overhanging limbs. Many fishermen don't have the ability to skip larger frogs with baitcasting gear as well as Rojas does. Skipping a micro frog with spinning gear lets you take full advantage of this deadly tactic.
Forgive me for injecting myself into this article, but I couldn't resist commenting on my favorite micro topwater bait. It's an F09 Rapala Original Floating balsa minnow that weighs 3/16-ounce. I've been catching bass with it for more than three decades, and it is as deadly as ever. I reserve this bait for calm, shallow, protected pockets during the spawn and postspawn phases. Although I've pulled quality bass off their beds with the little balsa minnow, it catches far more males, especially the fryguarders, after the spawn. You can tempt bites with a gentle twitchpause action, but I fare much better by making the minnow turn sideways and slap the surface with quick, short rod snaps. A medium or medium-light spinning outfit is needed to cast the light minnow, and anything heavier than 10-pound monofilament overpowers it. A 10-pound superbraid with a short 8- or 10-pound mono leader is the way to go. Be sure to tie a loop knot. Rapala makes Original Floating minnows as light as 1/16-ounce for supermicro topwater fishing.
Other Noteworthy Micros:
Some lures refuse to be categorized, which is the case with OSP's Bent Minnow baits. The micro-size Bent Minnow 76 tips the scales at 5/32-ounce, while the Bent Minnow 86 comes in 1/5-ounce. As the name implies, these slender, lipless floating baits have a uniquely curved body. The shape shows bass something new, and you can make these lures swap sides with extremely light rod twitches. Lucky Craft's Shingo Screw double prop bait is another oddball. It sputters over the surface when retrieved steadily and splashes water when you work it with a twitching action. However, it sinks during pauses. The reasoning behind this is the lure attracts bass with its surface commotion and gives them an easy target when it sinks. It might be just the thing for those days when bass swarm under a topwater bait, but won't come all the way up for it. Lucky Craft offers two micro-size Shingo Screws. The 55 weighs 3/32-ounce, and the 60 is 1/8-ounce.
Micro Topwaters July/August 2012 Bassmaster (Mark Hicks pg. 36 - 41)
Rock Climbing For Summer Bass
Prime locations include drops where channels swing near islands and points, old roadbeds, submerged ridges and humps. A little wood cover around these spots enhances their attractiveness but also offers bass refuge when they're hooked. Falcon fish have an attitude problem, so don't expect them to head immediately for open water. All of Starnes better fish came from 20 to 25 feet of water on rockpiles and ridges he located with the aid of a Humminbird 1198 depthfinder crammed with waypoints. When Starnes finds a productive piece of structure, he switches to his 997 model on the bow and marks a waypoint directly over the spot and another where his boat should be positioned for the prevailing southwest wind. With two waypoints and a directional arrow on the screen, Starnes can make pinpoint casts to his hot spot without looking up from the screen. The advent of high-resolution side imaging has been a godsend for his jigging technique, and not just for pinpointing fish. “Seeing those rocks is so important,” says Starnes, sixtime national bass champion and perennial angler of the year on the Mexico bass circuit. With side imaging, “you can see the crevices in the rock, and you can determine the size of the rocks and best angle of attack for your casts.” He tries to pinpoint the bigger rocks that border the drop into deeper water. “Typically on the ledges, there'll be gravel on top and then bigger rocks on the edge,” he notes.
Presentation & Lure Selection:
The real magic comes into play when Starnes' Rock Crawler jig approaches the rocks. He'll start by crawling the jig over the gravel and smaller rocks. If nothing intercepts the bait by the time it reaches the big rocks, he will pop it off the structure with a vigorous snap of the wrist. He wants the bait to jump 2 to 4 feet upward. “I try to imagine my jig running into the rock,” he says. “A fish might turn toward it then, and the moment I jerk it off the rock, it triggers the fish. It looks like a crawfish saw the bass and is trying to get away.” When bass are aggressive, as they sometimes are on Falcon, there's no mistaking a strike. “They'll knock 2 feet of slack in your line,” Starnes says. At other times, however, it'll feel as though the jig is stuck behind a rock. Equally frustrating is when the fish “pushes” a jig toward you, creating a sensation of weightlessness. Either way, you have to be on high alert and react instantly and decisively.
Rock Climbing July/August 2012 Bassmaster (David Precht pg. 46 - 49)
Russ Lane's 5 Deep Channel Techniques You Must Know
Deep Diving Crankbaits:
This isn't the most original idea you've heard. I know that. Nevertheless, I put it first for a reason - it's the best and most reliable way to catch bass holding on deep channels and deep breaks. Deep diving crankbaits are at their best in the 10- to 15-foot depth range. I typically work upstream, throwing my bait at a 45 degree angle off the deep side and pulling it toward the shallow side. I never bring my crankbait straight back to the boat. I'm always jerking it, snapping it, stopping it, speeding it up or slowing it down. It's important to work slowly and carefully. You're looking for any irregularity in the structure that might hold bass. Sometimes that'll be a change in the channel itself. At other times a shell bed, small clump of weeds, a stump or a pile of rocks will be the key to success. Once you find that irregularity and catch a fish or two, you need to stop and fish the area from every angle you can. Oftentimes you can catch several extra bass simply by changing the direction of your bait. I think they see it differently when you do that, and that difference causes a reaction bite. Regardless, it works. That's all we really care about.
My favorite bait for this is a Spro Russ Lane Series Fat Papa. My two best colors are sneaky blue chartreuse and nasty shad. I throw them on 10-pound-test Sunline Reaction FC Fluorocarbon. It's a line designed for crankbaits and, unlike many fluorocarbons, it has some stretch to it. This helps with hook sets, and it gives the bait more snap when it bounces off something. It acts almost like a rubber band at times. My reel is an Abu Garcia Revo Winch (5.4:1 gear ratio). It has the power to get a true, deep diving crankbait down without putting too much stress on the reel and the gear system. I like a 7-foot medium action Carrot Stix. It gives me the length I need for long casts and the flexibility to make secure hook sets in deep water.
Stroke Your Jig:
I toss my jig out, let it settle to the bottom, and then reel it back slowly. I want to just drag it along with a slow, steady retrieve, never losing contact with the bottom. I'm looking for cover or structure. As soon as I find it, I pop my jig up, about a foot off the bottom, with a sharp but short snap of the rod. Watch your line on the fall. About 99 percent of your bites will come as it settles back down. Do not set the hook before you reel all the slack out of your line and then only by pulling back on your rod and reeling hard. A hard hook set will cause you to lose the fish. A 3/4-ounce Buckeye Football Jig is about right for most applications. I always attach a Big Bite Russ Lane Signature Series YoDaddy trailer. My most productive colors are greens or natural browns. I stroke my jigs with 14-pound-test Sunline Shooter Fluorocarbon. A 7-foot medium-heavy Carrot Stix rod with an Abu Garcia Revo MGX reel (7:1 gear ratio) will handle this technique perfectly. The high-speed reel is critical. It'll help you take the slack out of your line quickly.
Throwing a vibrating jig is much like fishing a deep diving crankbait except that it's at its best in clear water and under sunny skies. I always work upstream and fish at a 45 degree angle from the deep to the shallow side. But, unlike fishing a crankbait, the key to success with a vibrating jig is a slow, steady retrieve back toward the boat. I make as long a cast as possible and let my bait settle on the bottom. Allow a little extra time after that so the line can sink. That'll get the bow out of it and give you a straighter pull back to the boat. On the way back, keep it just off the bottom. A foot or two is about right. If you're much above that, you'll be fishing open water. That's a total waste of your fishing time. The best bait I know of for this is the Buckeye Pulse Jig. It's basically a jig head with a clear plastic collar around it. The vibration from this simple-looking lure is fantastic. I use a Big Bite Warmouth as a trailer. I try to use complimentary colors with these two baits, and I always try to end up with something that I think looks like the local shad. I have to admit, though, that a bluegill combo isn't all bad. The same tackle I recommended for deep diving crankbaits will work perfectly with a vibrating jig. The only difference is that I prefer 12-pound-test Sunline Shooter Fluorocarbon for my line. A vibrating jig is especially effective in the 15- to 20-foot range.
Stroll Deep Diving Crankbaits:
You may not have heard of this one. I think it started in Texas on Lake Fork. Regardless, it'll work almost anywhere if you give it a chance. Start by making a long cast with your crankbait parallel to the channel or drop. Leave your reel in free spool. Back away with your trolling motor until all the line is off your reel. In most cases this will be around 150 yards. Crank your bait back. This will get your bait down to the 25- to 30-foot level. Spro has a couple of baits that work real well for strolling - the Little John DD and the Fat Papa. Which one you choose is a matter of personal preference. My favorite col ors are sneaky blue chartreuse and nasty shad. Hook sets can be an issue here. You have to experiment to find the best retrieve when you're strolling. Slow and steady will give you the most depth, but sometimes an erratic action will trigger the most strikes. I use an Abu Garcia Revo Winch (5.4:1 gear ratio) for this with a 7 1/2-foot medium action Carrot Stix. My line is 10-pound-test Sunline Reaction FC. I want the smallest diameter possible to give me the most depth. Strolling is good only after you find the fish with your electronics in very deep water when they're on a crankbait.
The umbrella rig is somewhat controversial, but it will catch bass, lots of them, when conditions are right. I throw mine back in the creeks during the fall when the bass are relating to the center of the creek channels but aren't necessarily right on them. It's even better when they're suspended over 25 to 35 feet of water. I rig my umbrella rig with five 1/2-ounce Buckeye J-Will Swimbait Heads and five Big Bite Cane Thumper swimbaits. My favorite color is disco violet. This combination will give you a lot of weight, but it'll also give you a realistic looking school of baitfish. Find the fish with your electronics. Cast the rig out and count it down to the correct depth. Crank everything back to the boat. Cast again. Hang on. It's really that simple. Heavy tackle is a must. You're throwing five 1/2-ounce heads rigged with five big plastic swimbaits. I use an Abu Garcia Revo Inshore reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) on an 8-foot extra-extra-heavy Carrot Stix flipping stick. My line is 60-pound-test Sunline FX2 Braid. Check your tournament regulations and the local laws carefully before you fish with an umbrella rig.
5 Deep Channel Techniques You Must Know July/August 2012 Bassmaster (Russ Lane as told to Ed Harp pg. 34 - 35)
Sticking It To Shallw Bass With Bobby Lane
I start my day extra early. Being on the water early is the key to cashing in on the post-spwan. Bass are looking to feed aggressively, and the earlier the better. They're feeding when the water is the coolest, and then they retreat into a feeding coma. My first stop is the spawning flats and points that held bass during the spawn. I like to back the boat up away from these areas because by now bass are moving out and they are tired of being presented tubes and creatures.
Lure Selection & Presentation:
I've found a pretty unique bait for the early morning post-spawn that really hammers the fish. The Sebile Ghost Walker in either Natural Shiner or White Lady is right on for this time of the year. You can slow roll this lure on top, walk the dog, make it dance in place by twitching it or dead stick it. Working the bait is basic. Anglers need to spend time on the water in those early morning hours, letting the fish dictate what they are looking for, and mixing it up on the retrieve isn't a bad thing either. Every once in a while, fish need variety.
If the shad spawn has concluded in your area, the Ghost Walker will still be the deal in the morning, but as bass start to go into their afternoon slumber, I like to throw something they haven't seen yet that is an easy meal. Why do you think chocolate cake is so deadly after a huge meal? It is just sitting there, not moving, begging someone to eat it. This is the exact reaction I want these post-spawn bass to have with the Sebile A.T. Worm. I am taking the 5" version and rigging it with the Sebile Soft Weight System, using 1 soft tungsten weight with the 5/0 hook. This gives the A.T. Worm a dying shad-type fall and is off-the-charts tempting to a bass. There aren't too many worm that present themselves like the A.T. Worm. Its fall mimics a dying shad, but is also versatile enough to be worked 2 feet under the surface as a stickbait.
Walking Topwater Gear:
I throw it on 50lb SpiderWire Ultracast or 15lb Trilene Big Game. A fast gear ratio is important to me when it comes to topwater lures. I've grown pretty fond of the Abu Garcia Revo MGX 7.9:1 paired with a 6'9" MH Abu Garcia Micro Guide Series rod.
Sebile A.T. Worm Gear:
For this technique I like to vary the retrieve with 17 to 20lb Trielne 100% Fluorocarbon on a 7:1.1 Revo STX reel. The rod for this is a 7' MH Veritas.
Stick It To Shallow Water Bass June 2012 Bass Times (Bobby Lane pg. 4)
Summer Vegetation Bass
“Junk weeds such as hydrilla and milfoil grow in vertical towers that fold over when they reach the surface to form a mat,” says Elite Series pro Boyd Duckett. “Your lure must penetrate this mat in order to reach bass living in the relatively open water beneath it.” To accomplish this, Duckett, of Alabama, rigs up a heavy worm sinker (up to 1 1/2 ounces), which he pegs immediately above his Texas rigged creature or worm to keep it from sliding up his line. “I'll either pitch the lure onto the mat and shake my rod tip repeatedly until the sinker works its way through the thick grass, or I'll 'punch' the sinker through the mat with a sharp downward stroke of the rod.”
Oklahoman and Elite Series pro Fred Roumbanis knows summer is prime time to catch monster bass from lily pads. His weapon of choice: a surface frog. “I key on openings in the pads, places where big pads transition into smaller ones, the outer edge of the pads, and other spots that differ from the majority of the cover,” he explained. “The pad bite is often best during midday - bass that were roaming open water early in the morning will move under the pads as the sun gets higher to take advantage of shade and cooler water temperatures, and to prey on bluegill feeding on insects buzzing around the opening pad blossoms.”
Texas Rigged Tube:
Surface algae or “pond scum” is another common form of aquatic vegetation, one that vexes many anglers in summer. Elite Series pro Davy Hite, of South Carolina, fishes this slimy stuff with a Texas rigged tube bait rigged with a 1/8-ounce screw-in worm sinker. “Rather than fish the tube like a jig, I'll crawl it over the top of the scum carpet,” he notes. “The 1/8-ounce sinker provides some casting weight, but is light enough so it won't break through and get all slimed up when it lands on the mat. I'll soak the tube in fish attractant to make it slippery, then cast it right against shore and crawl it across the surface of the scum toward open water.”
The Kitchen Sink Aprroach:
In clear lakes, aquatic grass may grow to depths of 15 feet or more in summer and can be located with any graph. “Deep grass growing on or near a structural edge, such as on the end of a point or the breakline of a ledge, tends to hold the most bass,” says Alabamian and Elite Series pro Greg Vinson. “My favorite approaches for fishing this cover are dragging it with a Carolina rigged worm or a football jig, or ticking the top of the grass with a diving crankbait or 1-ounce spinnerbait. Big fish often stack up in deep weedbeds during summer, and if you can locate the grass, you can often load the boat quickly.”
Pro Tips For Fishing Summer Vegetation July/August 2012 Bassmaster (Don Wirth pg. 72 - 73)
Brandon Palaniuk's June Lure Selection
Berkley Power Worm:
Palaniuk likes a 10-inch model in either red bug, green pumpkin or blue fleck when targeting deep bass. "Once you've located fish, this worm will catch the biggest ones in the school," he says. "Those big females are deep and getting their feed on." He targets weedlines, shellbeds, ledges and other areas where bass are ganged up. "I can fish it in a foot of water down to 50 feet if I want. I just change the weight," he says.
Palaniuk will often start his day with a crankbait because it's most efficient at covering water. "It was a toss-up between this and the worm for No. 1. I like this to cover a lot of water, and I throw it in the same places I throw the worm, typically that 12- to 16-foot range. Plus, when I find a school it'll fire them up, and you can catch a bunch in a hurry." He prefers the line of Ike's Custom Ink colors, saying their faded hues look more natural in the water.
Snag Proof Ish's Phat Frog:
If the offshore bite is nonexistent or not hot, Palaniuk focuses on shallow fish, most of which will be hanging under or around cover. "I like to skip a frog under overhanging trees or docks or work it across grass mats," he says. "All of these places offer bass shade and food." More often than not, these are postspawn fish that haven't come off the bank yet. Palaniuk uses either a black or a white frog. "You can catch big ones this way."
Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper:
This finesse worm pulls double duty for Palaniuk. He'll put a green pumpkin model on a shaky head when fishing shallow for bass, or he'll thread it on a drop shot when targeting finicky offshore fish. "You can also skip it under docks weightless and that super slow fall makes for an easy meal," he says.
What Brandon Palaniuk Throws In June June 2012 Bassmaster (DavidHunter Jones pg. 24)
Froggin' With Dean Rojas
"Basically, I throw a frog into places where I can't even see if there's water there," the Arizona pro says matter-of-factly. "I try to get the frog into the hardest, darkest places I can find, because that's where bass don't see many lures. They're more relaxed, more apt to come after the frog. "The lure has no limitations. You can fish it anywhere. You can keep a frog on the surface and in the strike zone indefinitely and literally tease a bass into grabbing it. That's what I do."
"When I'm fishing the frog, I want to put as many of the percentages of hooking and landing a bass in my favor as possible," he emphasizes, "but at the same time I want to give the bass as many advantages as possible to get the frog. That's why I don't fish the big milfoil mats, the very places where frog fishing was born, because it's too inefficient. The same is true with lily pads. I want the bass to have a clear view of my frog and an unobstructed path to it. Milfoil and pads have too many obstacles in the way.
"Most fishermen retrieve a frog too fast," he says. "When I'm fishing around heavy cover, I believe a slower presentation allows bass more time to detect the lure and strike. This could be part of the reason fishermen who skitter their frogs quickly across the top of milfoil beds miss so many strikes. I like to stop my retrieve, too, especially when I think I am in a strike zone. I always try to visualize exactly where a bass is located and where the strike is going to come from so I can adjust my retrieve accordingly. "I like a walking retrieve because it's slower and keeps the lure in the strike zone longer, but when I do fish through thin, scattered surface vegetation, I may use a stop-and-go chugging presentation, especially if the bass are aggressive. When I'm fishing choppy water and need more commotion, I'll try a chugging presentation, too, but I can always change back to a walking retrieve if chugging isn't working."
Dean's Frogging Gear:
The rod he designed, a 7-foot medium-heavy action with a 10-inch fast tip and a broomstick butt, is what allows him to work the frog this way; that tip is all he shakes, not the entire rod. The rest of the rod is used for hook setting and controlling the fish. His frog line, Sunline FX-2 Braid, is 80-pound test but has the same diameter as 65-pound braid, and it doesn't break. When he gets hit, the rod absorbs his hook set and, because of the braid, Rojas has the fish coming toward him instantly. There's no drag on his Quantum Smoke Burner 7.0:1 reel because Rojas has locked it down. He doesn't play a bass at all; he swings it into the boat as quickly as possible, using the fish's own forward momentum.
Why Dean Rojas Is A Better Frog Fisherman Than You June 2012 Bassmaster (Steve Price pg. 42-46)
Peter Thliveros On Postspawn Carolina Rigging
The Florida pro favors rigging on flats with scattered stumps, grass or small rockpiles. "The fish are loose and roaming a lot then," he says. "They're not necessarily on the bank and not necessarily off of it either. So it's one of those things that when you're fishing it along you can hit stuff that you can't see, which is the kind of stuff postspawn fish gravitate toward." Because the fish can be anywhere along the flats, Thliveros positions his boat parallel to the bank and fancasts the structure. "Boat positioning is not critical as long as you maintain the right water depth," says Thliveros. He drags his rig from 2 to 10 feet deep throughout the postspawn, but most of his strikes occur in the 6- to 8-foot range.
Lure Selection & Presntation:
A 6-inch Zoom plastic lizard and Zoom Ol' Monster plastic worm in green pumpkin, watermelon and watermelon/red flake hues are Thliveros' favorite lures for rigging. "I like lures that present a pretty good profile," says Thliveros, who sometimes throws an 8-inch Zoom lizard when he needs to catch a kicker fish. The components of Thliveros' rig include a 5/8-ounce mojo-style tungsten sinker followed by a bead (to create noise and protect his knot) and a swivel on a main line of 17-pound fluorocarbon. Just about any size swivel will work on the rig, according to the Florida pro. "When you have a big old hunk of tungsten and a bead in front of it, the size of the swivel isn't going to matter," says Thliveros.
Postspawn bass tend to be lethargic after the rigors of spawning, so Thliveros prefers using a longer leader (3 feet) in warmer water. The fish will usually be roaming from the cover or suspended off the bottom during the postspawn, so when the sinker on a rig with a longer leader hits the cover, the lure glides away from the target to trigger strikes from the roaming fish. Thliveros opts for a heavy leader line (15-pound test fluorocarbon) so he can drag his rig through the cover, especially when the sinker makes contact with either stumps or rocks. Tied on the end of his leader is a 4/0 worm hook. Thliveros drags his rig with a 7 1/2-foot American Rodsmiths Mag Strike Predator Series rod (medium-heavy action) with an Ardent XS1000 baitcast reel (6.3:1 gear ratio). A slow, steady pull best describes Thliveros' Carolina rig retrieve. When his sinker hits cover, Thliveros pauses his retrieve.
While some anglers shake or hop their lures during the retrieve, Thliveros sticks with a steady pull because he believes the commotion caused by the weight and bead banging on the bottom is enough to trigger strikes. The rig produces postspawn bass for Thliveros whether the water is clear or dirty, though he opts for something else when the water is extremely muddy. "As long as you can't track a coon through it, the rig will work," says Thliveros, who also drags a rig whether it's sunny, calm, overcast or windy. "There might be other things that work better under those circumstances, but the Carolina rig is a steady producer."
Peter Thliveros On Postspawn Carolina Rigging May 29, 2012 Bassmaster.com (John Neporadny Jr.)
Post Spawn Flipping & Pitching With Denny Brauer
Flip and pitch flooded buck brush, willows or any shoreline cover like that. Lots of times the bass will spawn on the shallow backside of this stuff. Immediately after the spawn they move out to the deeper side. That's usually in front. You can target them there and often have a pretty good day. Boat docks are another great target. The spawn here usually happens on the inside of the pillars closest to the shore. In the postspawn you should target the outside pillars closest to the channel. Fish the deep side first. Last, but by no means least, check out laydown logs that run straight out from the bank. The bass spawn against the shore, alongside of them. Immediately after the spawn, however, they move to the deeper front side. Flip and pitch every twig.
Water temperature: They'll not usually stay around their beds, even in the deeper areas, after the water warms 10 degrees or more above their spawning temperature. For example, if they spawned at 58 degrees look for them to move to their really deep summertime spots when the water reaches about 68 degrees. Water clarity: The water usually starts to clear after the spawn. The quicker that happens the quicker they'll move really deep. Food: If the shad and other baitfish stay shallow the bass will stay shallow. If the baitfish start moving, the bass will follow them.
My bait choices are pretty simple at this time of the year. I'll flip and pitch a Strike King Flippin' Tube immediately after the spawn. Once that's over - and it doesn't last very long - I switch to something with a little more movement to it. That's a Strike King Rage Tail Craw. And, I only use one hook these days - the new Mustad Grip Pin Extreme. I'm proud to say I helped design it. It's a straight shank hook that'll noticeably increase your hooking percentage, and it's designed with a large barb on the shank that'll hold even the softest plastics in place. It's available in sizes from 2/0 through 6/0 to meet every angler's needs.
Lesson 19: The Postspawn May 10, 2012 Bassmaster.com (Denny Brauer)
Summer Ledge Fishing With Elite Series Pros
"A ledge is basically the old river bank in a reservoir," says Elite Series pro Pete Ponds, of Mississippi. "If you look at a topo map of the lake, you'll see the river channel and major tributary channels snaking throughout the system. The shallower areas immediately adjacent to these channels are ledges, and they're major holding and feeding stations for bass."
"The defining feature of a ledge is its rapid descent into deep water," Ponds notes. "Many of the ledges we fish in competition are around 14 to 22 feet deep on top and drop off quickly to 60 feet or more when they hit the channel. Bass, often big schools of them, will move on and off these structures throughout the day, and if your timing is right, you can often load the boat quickly." Ponds and other B.A.S.S. pros use sophisticated electronic units with side scan technology to pinpoint ledges. "But even a $99 graph will clearly show these structures," he says. "They're relatively easy to find - just idle your boat out away from the bank toward open water while watching your graph. When you see the bottom drop rapidly into a deep channel, you've found the edge of a ledge. Idle along that edge and drop several marker buoys near the dropoff as you follow the structure; the markers will to give you a visual casting target."
"Ledges are often large structures, and bass aren't everywhere on them," says KVD. "They'll stack up in key places along ledges that we call sweet spots. These might include isolated pieces of cover, like a big stump, a sunken tree or a rockpile, or some structural irregularity in the ledge, such as where it makes a sharp bend or indentation. Finding these sweet spots is what ledge fishing is really all about, because bass often gravitate to them from a wide area and in large numbers. If you can pinpoint these key places and figure out how to fish them correctly, you'll have some of the most memorable bass fishing moments of your life, whether you're casting for cash or fishing for fun."
Lure Selection & Presentation:
Elite Series pros use several lures and presentations when probing ledges, including the following:
Deep-diving crankbaits: "Big diving plugs like Strike Kings's 6XD are my No. 1 ledge lures during summer tournaments," says Elite Series pro Kevin VanDam, of Michigan. "I usually fish them on a 7-foot medium action cranking rod with a 5.3 baitcasting reel and 14-pound fluorocarbon line." VanDam positions his boat in deeper water, makes a long cast onto the ledge, then grinds the crankbait along the bottom of the structure, trying to "crash the lure" into bass-holding cover to provoke a reaction strike.
Football jigs: "These are big fish baits that are perfect for ledge fishing in hot or cold weather," swears Mississippian and Elite Series pro Cliff Pace. "I'll use either a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce V&M Living Image Football Jig with a craw trailer, depending on the depth of the ledge I'm fishing. I'll make a long cast past my target, let the jig hit bottom, hold my rod at a 45 degree angle and use my reel handle to crawl it slowly along the bottom, like a live crawfish."
Big worms: "In hot weather, a big (10- to 12-inch) plastic worm, like my signature Yum Big Show Paddle Worm, either Texas or Carolina rigged, is an awesome ledge lure," says Floridian and Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins. "Cast it past fish-holding cover or structural irregularities and bump it slowly along the bottom. Worms are slower to fish than crankbaits but often work better when the bite is less active."
Flutter spoons: "These metal spoons are big - often 5 inches long - and displace a lot of water, so they flutter to the bottom erratically, like a dying shad," claims Elite Series pro Kelly Jordon. "I really like 'em on ledges because they'll catch the bigger, lazier bass that are often holding under a school of smaller fish and are used to preying on injured baitfish." The Texas pro fishes spoons on heavy baitcasting gear. "Cast to your target, let the spoon flutter down, then stroke it off the bottom with a sharp, upward sweep on your rod. As the spoon falls back down, lower your rod while reeling up slack line, then stroke it again. Most strikes occur as the spoon flutters back to the bottom, so watch your line and set the hook hard if you see it move."
Pro Ledge Fishing Tactics June 2012 Bassmaster (Don Wirth pg. 68 - 69)
Targeting Summer Suspending Bass With Bill Dance
"Most bass spawn in shallow creek arms of big reservoirs or in the upper ends of watershed lakes and smaller impoundments," Dance says. "Then, after spawning, they move back to the big water, and they switch focus to chasing baitfish in these areas. In big reservoirs, this usually happens over or near the main channel," Dance continues. "Bass trail schools of suspended shad, waiting for a feeding opportunity. You can see the baitfish and the bass on your electronics. For example, they might hang at 20 feet deep in 60 feet of water. Especially in power generation lakes, there's no stratification since current mixes the water and provides uniform oxygen levels and water temperature at all depths. Because of this, the fish can hang at whatever depth they wish."
However, Dance explains that a different situation exists in smaller lakes with little current flow. "In these smaller lakes, stratification occurs in the summer, and the baitfish and bass concentrate in that zone above the thermocline. So, we're talking about two different scenarios here - big reservoirs and small lakes. The bass suspend and trail baitfish in both these types of waters, but the situations are different, and so are the strategies for catching the bass they hold."
"In June, typically the best bass fishing spots are downstream channel swings or points where tributary creeks empty into the main river," Dance says. "The very best spots have some type of cover on them (stumps, logs, brushpiles, rocks, etc.). When the current kicks on (power generation begins), the shad move from open water to these places where the current isn't as strong and the pickin's are easy." But Dance says that things get tougher when the current slacks off. "When the water quits moving, the shad slide back out over the channel and suspend, and the bass trail them back out there." Dance says the baitfish/bass usually won't swim far from the ledge or creek mouth where they were previously holding. "They may be 30 to 50 yards straight out in the channel or upstream or downstream. I'll start trolling around and watching with my graph. Both the shad and the bass will usually hold at the same depth at the top of the adjacent ledge or point. When the current stops, they just slide out over deeper water."
Presentation & Lure Selection:
Dance says feeding action slows when the baitfish/bass suspend, but the latter can still be caught via the following two presentations."First, I'll try a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce Cordell CC (jigging) Spoon. When I locate the fish with the graph, I'll note their depth, and I'll start fan-casting around them. I'll make a long cast and count the lure down to their level. Then, when the spoon is at their depth, I'll start ripping it up, then letting it flutter back down. I'll work it like this back to the boat." Dance continues, "Or, I may try vertical-jigging with the spoon right under the boat. Let's say I see fish on my graph holding at 20 feet. I'll mark my line with a black marker at 22 feet. Then I'll lower the bait down and jig it right through the shad as I troll around."
However, if the spoon doesn't produce, and if conditions warrant, Dance switches to presentation No. 2, which is his go-to technique for the smaller lakes that tend to stratify this time of year. "This is for when the fish are very inactive," he emphasizes. He rigs a Yum Houdini Shad (5-inch soft plastic jerkbait, shad colors) on a Gamakatsu Skip Gap worm hook (size 4/0). "This is the perfect hook for this bait," Dance says. "It has an offset bend in the shank that holds the head in place, and the hook also serves as a keel so the Houdini will track straight through the water. It just keeps everything lined up and allows the bait to fall with a horizontal orientation." Thus rigged, Dance casts this bait into the vicinity of the suspended fish and allows it to sink to their level. "This bait sinks about a 1/2 foot per second, so it's really slow. It represents a dying shad. As it's sinking, I'll twitch my rod tip every few seconds to move the bait about an inch - no more! It looks very helpless and triggers strikes from fish that will ignore a more active lure."
Bill Dance's Two-Step For Suspended Bass June 2012 Bassmaster (Wade Bourne pg. 64-66)
Topwater Trifecta For Postspawn With Cliff Pace
More to the point, Pace has refined his topwater approach to three basic scenarios - his "topwater trifecta." Then, on any body of water on any given May or June day, he will choose the approach best-suited to the conditions he encounters. He knows that when "things are right," any of the three offers the potential for a big catch and all the thrills that accompany a hot topwater bite. Here are Pace's three topwater scenarios for when the spawn is over, but bass are still in the shallows.
Bass Are Guarding Their Newly Hatched Fry:
"This pattern is object-oriented. The fry will be holding around something. So you move quickly, looking for cover objects with minnows working around them," Pace says. "This is mostly visual. You see the minnows spray out of the water or swirl around the cover." Pace continues, "This scenario calls for a slower moving topwater bait, something that will make a commotion but that will stay around the cover object longer. I use a popper in this situation, specifically a Jackall Lures SK-Pop Grande. I like a bait that has a white or bone underbelly. This resembles the underside of a bluegill." When he identifies a target, Pace casts his popper 3 to 4 feet past it and lets it rest 3 to 5 seconds. Then he pops it. Then he lets it rest again, and then pops it. He continues this sequence until the lure is 4 to 5 feet past the target, upon which he reels the lure in and casts again. "I'll make three to four repeat casts to the same spot," he says. "A lot of times you have to aggravate the fish into biting. They'll watch it go by that first or second time, but they get more agitated with each cast. And then finally, hopefully, they'll get mad enough to hit it. I've caught some of my biggest bass ever doing this."
Fishing Where Shad Are Spawning:
Pace's second topwater scenario for the postspawn is fishing a walking bait over broad areas where shad are spawning. "In late spring, in a lot of lakes, shad will spawn on top of milfoil, over shale points, on riprap banks, around boat dock pads," Pace says. "They will lay their eggs on any hard surface, and in doing so they will collect in large concentrations. When they do, bass move in for the easy picking." Pace explains that this is an "area" pattern instead of an "object" pattern (as above). Also, he's searching for feeding bass as opposed to one protective fish that will strike out of aggression. "For these reasons, in this situation I want a bait that will cover a broad area of water fairly quickly. I need something to work all that milfoil bed, shale point or riprap bank where the shad are clustered. The walking bait allows me to keep moving and to search very efficiently for those feeding fish." Pace casts a Jackall Bonnie 95, a 3.8-inch lure that "walks the dog" easily and seductively. He opts for a shad colored or black lure when the water is stained and opaque colors when the water is clear. "I'll fancast an entire area where bass might be feeding," Pace says. "Cover doesn't always have to be present for bass to be feeding there. In fact, a lot of times the bare areas are best."
Calling Bass Up From Deep Structure:
In clear upland reservoirs, when bass finish spawning, frequently they will migrate back to the first significant bottom structure - a submerged point or hump a gully, a creek channel swing, etc. Now the fish may be 15 to 25 feet deep, but Pace still "calls them up" to the surface with a large topwater walking bait. "The water must have at least 5 feet of visibility for this to work," Pace emphasizes. "This is another feeding situation, and when they're holding on structure, many times I can coax big bass up to the surface, but they've got to be able to see the bait." Now Pace uses a Jackall Bowstick 130, a 5.2-inch long walking bait. He says the lure's size and design facilitate long casts. Also, its large profile is a plus in windy conditions. His favorite colors are ghost minnow and SG Ayu (a transparent green color). Pace says, "I just cover water with this lure. I hit those long points and underwater structure areas quickly and move on. I'm looking for aggressive biters. If I know there's a brushpile or some rocks or other cover on the bottom, I'll make sure to work the bait over those. But I also fish a lot of random areas as well. Many times the bigger fish will come up and strike violently when I'm doing this."
Topwater Trifecta For The Postspawn June 2012 Bassmaster (Wade Bourne pg. 48-49)