Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chasing the deep fish of summer

As temperatures rise, big fish go deep. This is about as technical as my summer fishing gets. As the bluegill spawn starts to wind down, the shallow water becomes less of a smorgasbord. Predators will move away from the shallow the water following the baitfish to deeper havens. Submerged structure points are primary targets along with the weed-villas forming in the middle of the lake. My shore casting is less than 25% in most cases and my game changes to the deep end of the pool.

(Above: Deep bucket pulled out of the slop. This fish hit a 6” solid black stickbait fished weightless. Cast to the edge of the weed villa and let fall effortlessly to the bottom. The bass hit about halfway down and then went straight into the weeds.)

The first thing I look for is structure and then I look for baitfish. Leaning on the fish finding unit can be key to locating some crucial areas such as submerged rocks and other things below that you would not see otherwise. Even if I don’t get “fish-blips” on the screen, tasty looking spots will always get a cast or two.

Approach to the structure is key especially in smaller lakes without substantial depth. Summer bass are fairly easy to spook so barreling right to the woodpile or weed bed is going to cost you. I like to fish ahead of my direction and explore the water with a good search bait a few yards in front of my target while slowly moving in. This allows me to pick off fish in the area while setting up my position on those key structure points. It doesn’t always work out that way as my patience fails me at times or on a lake I don’t know very well. However at the very least I can make mental note of the area where I did spook that big fish for a return pass later or another day perhaps.

(Above: This fish came out of nowhere on a spinnerbait search cast through a school of baitfish suspending in the middle of nowhere for no good reason.)

My deep diving arsenal is nearly the same as my regular bass slinging stuff and fairly basic. Plastic stickbaits, lightly weighted grubs, a few swimbait patterns and the occasional spinnerbait cast or off the wall creature pattern. Single hook option is what I prefer in most summer-heavy cover situations. The spinnerbait makes a good search cast option when you see fish suspending in the open water. Matching colors to baitfish patterns such as bluegill or shad makes your presentation virtually irresistible. Crankbaits are something I am using less and less because of so many hooks to dig out. A lipless crank is ideal in some deep-water situations so I will have a few on standby in the tackle bag.

(Above: This is a sample of one of the big baitfish presentations that I use. Sometimes a plastic trailer can dress up a sexy skirted spinnerbait to be even more delicious.)

In the rod department I like a 6’6” or 7’ heavy action stick. The heavy action helps me pull fish out of the weed-villa and other thick cover. My preference for line is very light. This can get me into trouble in the summer time as line strength is also crucial against heavy cover. I tend to upgrade from 6 to 8lb test (Hi-Seas Grand Slam) or 15lb Fireline braid for thick conditions. This is the same stuff I use for my fly-bassin’ lately. Note: Whoever is leaving huge wads of braided line out at Ward Pond should probably just give up fishing altogether. Perhaps look at other sports like basketball or shuffleboard.

The shallows may still offer a decent fish or two, as some fish tend to associate to shallow\shoreline areas out of personal preference or just plain habit. Look for deeper areas of water near cattails, wood structure or that layer of filamentous algae forming a large sheet for the fish to hide under. This is where a large fish might be hiding out to ambush prey in the shallows. I don’t mark the shallows completely off my list but as said before it is not the bread and butter of my summer bass fishing.

Smaller bass will often group up in the shallow water that is open and has less cover. These little fish are hungry and ultra-aggressive I tend to avoid these schools of smaller bass but immediately fish the water several yards deeper. My theory here is that the larger fish use the smaller ones to herd prey to them. The larger fish will often move in early morning or late evening to try and pick one of the smaller bass off especially if it is injured.

(Above: Just as soon as I get all yackity-shmackity about deep fish, a big chunk comes along in the shallows. There is always an exception to the rule.) 

Hopefully this post helps some folks find the deeper fish that dwell in summer while allowing me to milk a few recent bass pictures.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

1 comment:

bluecollarguy said...

Good writeup-I'm gonna be digging through your archives for this kind of info as i'm back in the float tube game this year after a long hiatus, and i've been shorebound for bass for so long that it's a whole new strategy! But i'm looking forward to figuring it as i know there's more to it than just finding the weedlines.