If your fishing has slowed down, you’re not alone.
This late-summer period can be tough for everybody. It’s still hot, but summer is winding down. Bait is everywhere, so getting your lure noticed can be a challenge. Soon the thermocline will start to break up, and the groups of fish that were so predictable through the dog days will scatter, making them tough to find and even tougher to catch.
This is the time that tournament weights tend to fall off, and lots of anglers start thinking about deer hunting and food plots. And it’s the time when I rely on three very basic patterns to get me through the tough fishing.
The first involves topwater fishing in super-shallow water. That’s easily the most exciting of the three patterns, and I cover it extensively (with lots of fun fish catches) in my latest installment of Project E. I hope you’ll check it out.
I’ll cover the other two patterns here. They involve flowing creeks and key man-made cover.
The creek pattern is pretty simple. You start by finding a creek with moving water. I like to go as far up the creek as I can go…and then some.
A lot of these creeks are spring-fed. They’re super clear and a lot cooler than the main lake or river. Sometimes I’ll run up the creek as far as my outboard will take me and then get out my push pole to get my boat over a gravel flat or shoal. Quite often there’s some deeper water upstream that basically never sees an angler.
Don’t think these creek bass are small. They’re not!
You’ll find some that are fully grown up these creeks, and you can definitely find the kind of fish you need to win a tournament. In fact, a couple of years ago I ran into some college bass club anglers who were about to fish a tournament on Kentucky Lake. They were struggling and asked if I had any tips. I told them about this pattern, and they wound up winning the tournament by a big margin!
My go-to baits on the creek pattern are topwaters like the Berkley Drift Walker and 60mm Bullet Pop in shad patterns. I also like finesse jigs like the E Series Finesse Jig from Andy’s Custom Bass Lures. I rig the jig with a 2.5-inch Berkley Power Chunk in green pumpkin and cast it to deep holes and laydowns.
Another pattern that has saved many a day for me in the late summer involves manmade cover and structure like boat docks, floating tire reefs and bridge pilings.
As the thermocline starts to break up and the lake starts to turn over, the bass don’t have any boundaries for where they can go. They could be in a foot of water — like the bass in my super-shallow topwater pattern — or they could move into 30, 40, 50 feet of water or more.
Targeting suspending bass is usually a tough path, but if they’re relating to some vertical structure it can help to put the odds in your favor. My favorite baits for these suspended fish are topwaters and swimbaits.
Lots of times you can get these suspended fish to come up and destroy a Berkley J-Walker or Berkley Cane Walker. Those walking baits can really “pull” bass up from the depths, and the strikes are explosive.
If the fish won’t come up for a bait, I go below the surface with a swimbait like the 5- or even 6-inch Berkley PowerBait Hollow Belly Swimbait on a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce jighead. I like the bigger bait because I want my lure to stand out from the real baitfish and get noticed. I want my bait to be filet mignon, not just a New York strip steak.
When fishing the swimbait, I’ll make a long cast and count the bait down gradually — one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand. I’ll count the next cast down to five and the one after that down to seven. I’m very gradual with it because I don’t want the line to go through the fish before the lure does. I want the bass to feel the presence of the lure before anything else.
I hope you’ll give these patterns a try. They’ve worked well for me over the years, and I know they’ll work for you, too!