Fish shallow during the heat of summer? Here’s how, why, and where you can use this overlooked tactic to boat more bass right now and during the coming weeks.
Many anglers get excited to fish deep during the hot summer months. Getting away from other anglers and finding groups of tightly concentrated, aggressive fish is always ideal, but when many of those local “honey holes” are already occupied, it becomes a difficult game. Also, after a few months of steady fishing pressure on the same spots, bass become more difficult to catch in their favored deep-water haunts. This is why going shallow in the summer can often “save the day” by not only offering the possibility of good numbers of bass, but also, in the right areas, the opportunity to land some big fish. Here is what you need to look for to target “skinny-water” bass when the water warms up.
The Value Of Shade. Are there any tall trees around your lake? Many lakes that have a good population of trees (see above for example) will have creeks or bays that are shaded most of the day. This can often mean cooler water than can be found in the main lake! Bass love to seek out these cooler shaded areas in the summer, and you do too! Bluegills and sunfish will stay in the creeks year round, offering enough forage to hold big bass. Breaking down the creeks even further, you can look for individual bushes and ideal pockets of shoreline cover that can house a bass or two. Even if you can see the bottom, bass will set up in the thickest part of the cover where they are virtually invisible. The oxygen transfer between the atmosphere and water can be enough to make bass go super shallow, as long as they have enough security cover. Any shallow areas on the lake that have some current, shade, or quick and easy deep-water access, are fair game for shallow fishing.
Dock Walkways. Docks are always good places to find bass, but have you checked under their walkways lately? This is a commonly overlooked part of the dock that can hold good shallow bass in the heat of summer. I’m not entirely sure why bass often prefer to hold under the walkway rather than the main dock, but it happens regularly. Maybe it’s because of fishing pressure, or they just like the view, but these areas often hold shad and other forage much like the deeper portions of the dock.
Marina Floats. Even if the water is deep under the floating marina slips, you can still find bass just a few feet down, hanging in the shaded areas. Schools of shad moving through the main lake often become perfect forage for these opportunistic, shallow suspended fish.
Overhanging Trees. Trees that have fallen over just above the water, or have large limbs that hang over the water, attract and hold many insects will in turn attract bluegills and other baitfish. These trees not only provide forage for bass, but create cover and shade.
Find Hot Areas Before You Hit The Lake. A little homework before your next trip can pay big. In addition to offering instant access to detailed topographic lake maps (see above) that will help you find several good-looking shallow areas, the ScoutLook Fishing app you can access quickly and easily in your smartphone offers a wealth of helpful fish-catching information.
You can also use the Scoutlook Fishing App to look at satellite earth views with topography overlays, receive accurate, detailed wind and weather forecasts, as well as mark and save the spots (see above) that you want to target before you get there. In short, the ScoutLook app allows you to maximize your on-the-water time and ultimately, boat more fish. And did I mention the app is free?
Tools For Targeting Shallow Cover. There are several great lures for targeting shallow docks, bushes, and laydowns for bass. Three moving baits that are essential are a square-billed crankbait, a spinnerbait, and a weedless swimbait. The spinnerbait and crankbait are great for bumping into the outer edges of cover, especially in the low-light hours. In more clear-water situations or sunny conditions, a weedless boot tail swimbait is ideal. Another great thing about these weedless swimbaits is they can often be skipped deep under docks and overhanging trees, pulling out bass you might not otherwise see.
For bright and/or very calm conditions, it’s better to switch to plastics and jigs to make pinpoint casts and skips into the cover. “Skipping” is the most-important method you can learn for fishing shallow. It will allow you to access bass that many anglers skip over, and those big bass that like to stay deep in the shade. An important thing to keep in mind is that flat surfaces offer the best skipping conditions. I like to use “beaver-style” plastics on Texas rigs, and as jig trailers, because the flatter sides make skipping easy. I also like to use the least amount of weight possible that will still get my bait through the cover. A 3/16- to 5/16-ounce jig or Texas rig is a great weight range for skipping. When pitching into cover that extends to the bottom, it’s often better to increase the weight, up to a ½-ounce or more, depending on cover thickness.
Once you find some fish in one area, try to develop a pattern that will open up other areas of the lake, such as specific cover types that are producing the most bites. Armed with this information, logged carefully in your ScoutLook Fishing app, the next time you are having trouble getting those mid-lake, deep-water fish to bite, you can target plenty of resident bass that are hidden around the banks and in the shallows. And you will have all the information you need to ensure some hot fishing action, even when summertime temps have most anglers claiming the local fish have a serious case of lockjaw.