As summertime heat settles in, bass head for deep water and school up. Use your ScoutLook Fishing app to find and mark concentrations of aggressive fish, hanging in areas where the bite can be fast and furious.
When bass begin moving away from their springtime shallow haunts to establish summer offshore patterns, it’s one of the best times of the year to catch large numbers of good fish. Most of these fish won’t be the fattest and healthiest-looking bass you see regularly in the springtime, but their aggressive, “feeding-focused” nature after being “spawned-out,” as some would say, can be addicting. For whatever reason, many bass are triggered to congregate in schools after the spawn. Maybe it’s to help break down the big balls of shad and other baitfish that also are coming off the spring spawning season, and are readily available in healthy numbers.
Unlike bank fishing, offshore structure fishing can often mean making the same cast to the same area many times, but of course it helps to first have a good idea what’s down there. Often, it can take hours of “idling around” with your boat and reading your electronics to locate promising structure, and feel confident enough to turn the motor off and start making some casts.
Depending on the lake, a good school of bass can range from half a dozen to a few dozen or more, holding relatively tightly in one spot. Be forewarned that locating small schools of bass using electronics is not very easy. It can simply require “time behind the screen” (see image above) to recognize the exact signatures that make up a single bass or two, holding near or within the various types of deep-water structure. However, if you are lucky enough to live on, or fish regularly, one of those lakes where the bass like to “stack up” on the deep stuff, finding these schools becomes much easier. When bass are grouped up, they will look like a pile of “boomerangs.” With today’s advanced “down-scanning” technology, schools of bass become even more evident, but will appear as “blobs,” rather than the boomerangs on traditional sonar.
SUSPENDED VERSUS BOTTOM-HUGGING BASS
Suspended bass can be some of the toughest to catch. If you are reading bass that are suspended high off the bottom, or far away from cover, it likely means that those bass are in a “recuperating” phase and are not hunting or feeding at that time; these fish are likely resting. Conversely, fish that are seen hugging a few feet off the bottom—or directly on the bottom—are much more likely to eat. Bass that are hugging very close to the bottom can often look like a pile of rocks huddled together. If you see this on your graph, get ready to catch fish!
BEGIN YOUR SEARCH NEAR FAVORED SUMMER STRUCTURE
Points. One of the best places to look for offshore bass is on points. Looking at a good topographical/depth contour map such as those found in your ScoutLook Fishing app, or a digital map on your onboard electronics, will help you locate points that extend into deep water away from the bank. Some points can extend hundreds of yards out into the lake! Bass will follow these points out much like underwater highways, and stop and hold on areas of cover, or a specific depth that is holding baitfish.
Ledges. Lakes that are built on large river systems will usually have fish-holding ledges extending out to the main river channel. These old river beds create ledges that can be very productive in the summertime, especially when the lake is generating current. When current is generated, bass will use this to their advantage to ambush baitfish that are being pushed by the water flow. The best-producing, fish-congregating areas are predictable: bends in the river bed, smaller creekbeds, and points along the ledges. When the water is moving, things can get crazy; when this occurs some river-system lakes such as Kentucky Lake, are known for having schools of bass the size of a football field in the best areas!
Underwater Humps. Productive humps can be a little more difficult to find, but I like to look for the humps that will at least reach the point of the lake’s thermocline, if there is one. Finding a hump that has a hard bottom, and/or some type of cover such as grass or brush, can also be very good. Humps can be very hit or miss, but if you find one at the right time when fish are feeding, it can be fast and furious.
Road Beds. Road beds are natural fish-attracting areas offshore, especially in lakes that don’t already have a good hard bottom. Not only will fish be attracted to the bed’s hard bottom, but there are often standing or submerged trees that line the old roadbed (see a good example of standing road bed-lining trees captured with help from an aerial drone above), and sometimes even submerged bridges that also provide additional cover for bass.
Once you have located a key area where fish are hanging, it’s a good idea to mark a waypoint on your electronics as well as on your ScoutLook Fishing app. Having done this, as well as logging each catch into your ScoutLook Fishing app, will enable you to instantly see the time and specific weather conditions of each catch. This of course allows you to determine productive patterns, enabling you to return and cash in on these summertime spots when conditions are right, time and time again.
Keep Proven Deep-Water Lures Rigged & Ready
My favorite “go-to” lures that I keep rigged-up for deep structure fishing include a deep-diving crankbait, flutter spoon, lead-head swimbait, and Carolina and drop-shot rigs. These five setups will cover most of the situations for deep-water bass fishing. I prefer to use the moving baits (spoons and crankbaits) when bass can visibly be seen feeding at the surface, or when the fish are creating “up and down” streaks on my electronics. Dragging a soft plastic using the Carolina rig, or fishing vertically with a drop shot rig (such as the Crosstail Shad rig shown above), can be key when fish become lethargic and are not willing to strike more-active lures.