Summer doesn’t need to be a punch in the gut for bass fishermen. Adapt your angling techniques and you’ll continue to slap bucketmouths into submission.
The difficulty of summer bass angling often derives from the water chemistry in the hotter months. Oxygen will diffuse quicker in warmer water, and it can also rise to the surface creating a separation between cold water known as a thermocline. The thermocline often becomes a congregating depth for plankton, baitfish and ultimately their predators. This zone is the coolest part of the water column that still has good oxygen levels during summer. The water below that zone becomes less oxygenated due to decaying organisms, which sink to the bottom and use up a lot of the oxygen. Temperature and light penetration can also influence bass to suspend at certain depths. In any case, we’re often forced to fish for suspended bass in the summer months, and catching them if often more difficult than when they’re positioned close to the bottom.
CONNECT IN VERTICAL COVER
The good news: Bass that are suspended still like to relate to cover when they can, and vertical cover is an easy way to find and catch suspended bass. There’s some sort of vertical cover in almost every lake. Trees, docks, bridges, grass lines and marina structures are all good places for bass to suspend. The biggest challenge is figuring out what the common depth is where these fish are suspending. For example, a marina that has an average depth of around 50 feet might hold fish that are suspending in depths of 10-15 feet.
Pitching to suspended bass on a standing timberline using a Flick Shake worm.
DEPTH AND PRESENTATION
Figuring this out takes a little patience and concentration, or paying attention to your electronics to find what depth is showing the most activity. One of the best presentations for catching suspended bass and figuring out their key depth is to use a soft plastic bait or a jig. Pitching these baits as tight to the cover as you can and then letting them sink straight down is a good way to run directly into a suspended bass.
A Flick Shake or weighted wacky-rigged worm are great choices for triggering bites from suspended bass in vertical cover. The action of the worm while sinking is hard for even a sluggish bass to resist. A 3/16- or 1/8-ounce jighead or weight will help achieve a slower sink rate. This gives the fish enough time to grab the bait as it passes by, but it’s not so slow that the fish has time to analyze the artificial meal.
Keep in mind the pendulum effect that happens when letting a bait sink after you cast. When casting out ahead, your lure will start to sink toward you if no line is let out and the line is tight. When using a spinning reel, this problem is easily solved by simply opening up the bail and allowing the line to spiral out until the desired depth is reached. With a baitcasting set up, you will need to physically pull the line off the reel to put slack in the line. If you’re fishing multiple pieces of vertical cover, it can also be efficient to use the trolling motor to push yourself toward the lure, putting enough slack in the line necessary to make the bait sink straight down and stay in the strike zone while it’s sinking. It’s very important to pay attention to line twitches and jerks or irregular activity. The bass will often hit a free-sinking bait while the reel is disengaged, so noticing a bite quickly to engage the reel and set the hook is key.
Presenting other hard baits, such as crankbaits and swimbaits with a horizontal presentation, will also work well once the key depth has been identified. This is also where practicing and knowing the sink rate and diving depth of your lures comes in handy. Casting out along tree lines and other groups of vertical cover and keeping your lures at that key depth will maximize your time in the strike zone.
The slow and natural sink of a Flick Shake worm is difficult for suspended bass to resist.
In clear-water fisheries, one of the funnest ways to catch suspended bass around vertical cover is using a topwater bait. Wake baits and walking baits around trees and marina docks are good lures to entice bass to come up all the way to the surface. A topwater bait technically suspends, so it can stay in the strike zone and give enough time for bass to shoot up from below and grab the lure.
A good thing about summertime bass is that when they suspend on these structures, there can be many of them grouped together in a school. It might take some boat gas and time checking out different areas, but when you find the right spot, it can be loaded! It’s not uncommon to catch over a dozen bass off one piece of cover during the summer school time.
If the bottom bite isn’t working out for you during summer, switch to suspended tactics to catch more fish.