Bass Fishing in Summer
Summertime is the ultimate season to get out on the water and spend time in the sun. This doesn’t necessarily mean bass fishing only, but also all kinds of water sports. This season is marked by plenty of boat traffic which isn’t exactly the best thing to have when out on the water targeting bass. For this reason (and several to follow), bass fishing can be difficult in the summer.
Water temperatures will also rise to their highest of the year during this season. Although we often associate warmer water with more actively feeding bass, water temps can get almost too high in summer. Warmer water means less oxygenated water and this will result in more lethargic bass that may be less willing to feed - especially in the day.
Because of these high water temps, bass may do most of their feeding in the later hours of the day or at night, where there is a slight drop in temperatures. This means that you’ll want to be out in the early morning during the summer, as well as the late afternoon as the sunsets. It wouldn't be a bad idea to throw a few baits at night either.
One key thing to consider with summertime bass fishing is that bass will be on the search for more oxygenated water and therefore cooler water. This is where they can gain more energy while being able to find more food. Bait will also move to these more oxygenated zones which also draws bass away from their previous spawning areas.
Let’s look into the key areas to focus on for bass fishing in the summer:
3 Key Patterns for Summer Bass Fishing
As mentioned, bass will search for cooler water when temperatures are seriously high as they are on the lookout for food as well as more oxygenated water. There are 3 key patterns to zone in on during the summer and in doing this, one can expect to catch bass consistently, even during the hottest hours of the day. Let’s look at these patterns:
The first to consider and arguably the most important is looking to fish deeper water. Bass will tend to move from shallower pockets into more main lake areas in search of cooler water. The deeper you go, the cooler the water and ultimately the more oxygenated water.
Bass can expect to find more food down here in the hot summer temperatures while getting away from the almost hot shallow water.
Another key feature in an area to look for is current. Flowing water will be way more oxygenated and bass again will find these areas for food as well as more energy for themselves.
Current can come in the form of many features. In river systems there will be areas where is faster flowing water, lakes can expect to see drains or small tributaries in the form of waterfalls entering the system, and bigger lakes will have heavy currents within the main channels.
One key thing to consider is that bass will not sit directly in the faster current but rather nearby where there is a slight drop in water movement, such as an eddy.
The final pattern for summertime bass fishing is locating heavy cover. Shade is crucial for bass during hot hours and they’ll hug it while trying to cool down. Shade may come in the form of a single tree next to a bank or it may even just be a patch of lily pads.
There will still be plenty of food in amongst heavy vegetation, even if it's not baitfish. If you’re fishing a bank in the hot hours of the day - target any shade you can find.
5 of the Best Bass Baits for Hot Summer Days
Let’s now talk about some of the best bass lures for summer fishing. I’ll mention 5 different lures divided into power and finesse fishing. Each lure will suit different zones better and I’ll talk about where each application is most effective.
Some of the best summer bass lures for summer are crankbaits, football jigs, Tokyo rigs, drop shot, and shaky heads.
Crankbaits are the perfect hard bait to throw when fishing deeper water. When you’re fishing deep, it can be tough to tell what kind of structure you’re fishing and the crankbait gives you the ability to cover water quickly while having a great chance of getting a reaction bite.
When fishing a crankbait, it’s important to consider the depth you’re fishing. As we know, bass will move deeper in the hot hours and it’s important to match that depth with selecting the right crankbait.
The longer the lip on a crankbait, the deeper it’ll run. These days deep diving crankbaits can run down to more than 20 feet which means you should be able to reach the bottom of most areas.
If you’re fishing 15 feet of water, for instance, it’s best to throw a crankbait that’ll get right down to the bottom or even run slightly deeper. One of the best ways to get a reaction bite on a crankbait is to create a sudden change of movement and this can be achieved by bouncing off structure on the bottom.
Crankbaits remain one of the best baitfish imitators and it’s important to match the hatch when it comes to color selection. Knowing the baitfish within the system you’re fishing will go a long way in the number of bites you get during the hot summer months.
Personally, I love fishing a deep-diving crankbait in the summer. It gives me the ability to cover offshore water quickly, while having the chance of getting that exciting reaction bite.
The football jig is different from the usual flipping jig which we have all come to love. The head design on a football jig is broader and bulkier making it more suitable for offshore fishing and deeper channels.
The shape of the football jig also helps keep the bait to the bottom consistently, keeping it in the strike zone of bass that are sitting right at the bottom of a lake in search of more oxygenated water. Another bonus of this type of jig is its ability to bounce off hard cover such as boulders and rocks effortlessly. The head will also give you as the angler a good feel on the type of cover you’re fishing.
Football jig fishing can be done in numerous ways as well. It can be fished slow along the bottom, with the angler giving slight rod twitches around cover points, but it can also be fished faster, making it a suitable technique for covering plenty of offshore cover.
This jig can imitate various forms of food for bass, but I’ve found it is an exceptional imitator of crawfish, especially when fished slow. Once again, it’s important to take note of the bait within your system when it comes to color selection.
In terms of weight, there are many options for the football jig. The weight should be chosen based on the depth you’re fishing. If you’re looking to cover seriously deep channels, one can look at a 1oz jig, but if you’re looking to cover shallow cover (which the football jig is also great for), then one can consider a ¼-1/2oz jig.
Trailers are also never a bad option for football jigs. Like flipping jigs, I prefer throwing on a creature-style bait as a trailer. Who doesn’t enjoy the movement of a few flailing limbs? I’ll often turn to a Rage Bug or a Fighting Frog for my football jig trailer.
The Tokyo rig is a power fishing technique that has started announcing itself to bass fishing within the United States. It combines two incredibly effective techniques, namely the Texas rig and the drop shot, giving the Tokyo rig the nickname: Punch Shot.
This technique is more suited toward fishing heavy cover - which is one of the key patterns to target for summertime bass fishing. The profile of a Tokyo rig is incredibly effective in ‘punching’ through heavy vegetation, getting your bait down into shaded water where bass love to sit in the warmer hours.
The unique part of the Tokyo rig is that the bait is disconnected from the weight and has more freedom of movement, especially when on the bottom. The weight sits just below the bait, giving the bait the chance to sit just above the bottom and have freedom of movement.
The advantage the Tokyo rig has over the Texas rig is the more lifelike movement once it hits the bottom. Anglers can give their rod slight twitches on the bottom and the bait will move freely while the weight sticks to the bottom and is partially not visible.
Another bonus of the Tokyo rig is the hook-up ratio increase compared to the Texas rig. The bullet weight on the Texas rig often negatively affects the way the bait is eaten, resulting in a poor hookset. The Tokyo-rigged is eaten more cleanly and you’ll land more fish when fishing heavy vegetation.
I’m going to once again emphasize the point that the Tokyo rig works best around thick vegetation. So next time, consider pitching a Tokyo instead of your go-to Texas.
Without a doubt an all-season technique - the drop shot. The beauty of the drop shot is that it can be fished in many scenarios such as deep water, current, and cover - the three patterns that sum up summertime fishing.
The drop shot is a finesse technique that will catch bass in the toughest of conditions. Bass struggle to resist the lifelike and natural flow of a drop shot rigged bait, making it one of the biggest money-making applications on the circuit. One thing to remember is that bass do become more lethargic in summer conditions and the drop shot is generally fished slow. This makes the drop shot a more appealing presentation to a lazy lunker.
The rig is reasonably simple in application. A soft plastic rigged on a finesse-style hook (or just about any hook to be honest) followed by a short leader with a weight at the end of it. This weight is almost seen as the anchor of the presentation as it remains on the bottom and is stationary while the bait is twitched and worked just above it.
Slight rod twitches are key with a drop shot. The crazy movement on modern drop shot soft plastics is capable of drawing a bass from pretty far away. For this reason, I love fishing a drop shot in deeper water situations where water clarity is high. This ensures the bait is visible from far and wide and I know I’m in the game at all times.
Drop shotting can also be done within areas where there is a fair amount of current (a summertime pattern). One can look to a heavier weight for this, such as a ½-3/4oz weight to ensure the bait is kept in the desired area.
It’s also important to note that a drop shot can be fished around vegetation. Although this is a light line technique, slight changes can be made to a drop shot rig in order to deal with cover that may cut us off.
Rigging a soft bait Texas-style will ensure the hook point is hidden and more snag-proof while using slightly heavier line (8-10lb) will give us the added comfort for dealing with vegetation.
Another finesse rig that never leaves my summer bass fishing tackle box - the shaky head. This is an incredibly simple application and it’s also versatile. There aren’t many bad places to throw a shaky head!
I like to fish a shaky head rig in deeper water around cover transitions (grass to rock, gravel to sand). The shaky head is designed to sit with the weight on the ground while the soft plastic almost stands up with the tail facing up. The light line nature of a shaky head gives the soft plastic a free-flowing motion which can get the most finicky of bass to eat.
The shaky head is rigged Texas-style, making it suitable for fishing around vegetation and other threatening cover. You don’t want to take the shaky head into seriously heavy vegetation, as it is a light line application.
Shaky head fishing is also awesome around current. This technique works like a charm in the fall and often you’ll get your bite on the initial drop. When fishing current, try to look for breaks in the flowing water. Bass will stick around these more quiet zones to rest as well as ambush prey that is moving within the current.
Jig head weight selection should be based on how deep you’re fishing or the type of water you’re fishing. One can look to go heavier (½-3/4oz) when fishing deep, or when fishing faster-moving water. This will ensure your bait reaches the bottom.
As always, color selection is key for any soft plastic. It's vital to match your selection based on water clarity as well as several other factors.
Summer can be a frustrating and tough season for bass fishing. We see the most boat traffic in this time and it can have its toll on the fishing. The most important thing to have going into this season, is understanding where bass are moving in warmer water and how their behavior changes.
The key zones to target are deeper water, current, and thicker cover. Putting time in these areas will greatly increase your chances of getting fish in the boat and making those long, hot days on the water worth it.