Catching Big Bass
The Spring into Early Summer Bite
By Bruce Callis Jr
As we move from spring into summer, the fishing can become very difficult if you don’t know what to look for or what to throw. As the days get longer, the sun warms the water and once it reaches a certain temperature, bass tend to move deeper in search of cooler water. But for now, it can be both a fest and a sense of futility. It is all about knowing what the bass are doing.
Until the water temperatures rise close to 80, the bass are going to be chasing bait fish in the shallows. Yes, some will be moving off into deeper water, but a majority will still be just where we want them. The dog days of summer will be here soon enough, so make sure to take advantage of the easy pickings.
There are plenty of baits that will work and it is up to us to use what you are most comfortable with. If pitching and flipping is your things, then that should be your first choice, because it is what you have the most confidence in. But what baits are really the best to use and catch them with?
A crankbait is something we can use all year long. And right now is the time to throw it in the shallows. The secret is to make contact. Be it bouncing off laydowns, stumps, or just the bottom itself, you need to be making it work for you. I like to use a variety of squarebills and diving crankbaits, depending on the cover and depth. If I am coming through rocks, I want a bait like the SPRO Rock Crawler that is made to come through rocks. It is made to bounce off the rocks and when it changes direction from the deflection off the rock, that is generally when it gets hit. The SPRO Little John is another great bait for this. Just make sure whatever crankbait you use dives to the deepest depth you need. If the maximum depth of the bait is 3-5 feet, then you don’t want to be throwing it in 8 feet of water, it just won’t hit the bottom. I generally use a deeper running bait, so I know I am always going to be making contact. If I am sitting in 10 feet of water, I want it to hit the bottom at 12 feet and I will stay in contact from the shore out.
If I am coming through stumps and laydowns, I generally want a squarebill. Here I want to use the Fat John 60, the Fat Papa, or the SPRO Essentials Hunter 65. These are made to bounce off the wood. The Little John will also work great, just remember to work it through the wood and not force it through it. The more you use it, the better you will become at knowing it’s wood and not a bite. When it hits a piece of wood, the bait will deflect and bounce off it. It is at this moment that a lot of bass will strike.
Topwater is another great choice for right now. We all know that a frog is great up in the lily pads and across grass, and can be very deadly. But for now, a buzzbait is going to be a better choice. It covers a lot of water and can be used around cover or over open water to draw up big bass on cloudy days or early morning. It is something that will cause a violent reaction. Traditionally, it was a bladed bait with a skirt, but today, we have learned that by replacing the skirt with a soft plastic such as a swimbait or frog can up the chances for a reaction strike.
A spinnerbait is a year round bait, but it can really shine right now. It can be worked in the shallows and around cover. There are 3 basic blade combinations of spinnerbaits, and they all will work. The first is a willow leaf blade, and be it a single or double willow blade, this is the one moves the fastest through the water, and it will stay higher in the water column. A Colorado blade creates the most vibration and is easier to work deeper. The third option is a combination of the two, a tandem blade. This is generally two blades either matching or a mix of the two. A willow leaf blade as the larger of the two with a smaller Colorado blade behind it is a great choice for more flash and a small vibration for the bass to hone in on. And water clarity also plays a part in which will work better. For dirty water, more vibration can be the better choice.
Soft plastics can and will work year round. Pitching and flipping to laydowns and around docks can produce some big bass, but it isn’t a fast technique. Also, grass beds can be a great place to work as well. The basic is a bait rigged on a hook with a weight attached above them and a rubber stopper to peg the weight to the bait. This is the basic Texas rig and has worked to catch many big bass. The weight can be small to slow the fall, or heavy to punch through thick, matted grass. There are other ways to rig soft plastics, and each has it’s time and use.
A jig is considered by many to be the best big bass bait. It can be used year round and on a variety of structure. It can be dragged along the bottom or swam through the water column. A swimming jig can be cast around structure or through standing grass and reeds like a spinnerbait. The trailer can change the action depending on the conditions, You can use a swimbait with a paddletail or a creature bait with appendages that produce vibration. Many pros have made a lot of money using the jig year round.
A vibrating jig is also a great choice. It is a mixture of a blade and a jig, much like a swimming jig. It can be used like a spinnerbait around cover and lily pads. And it can also be used like a jig, worked off the bottom, letting it fall to the bottom and pulled up to make it hop and vibrate. It is something that requires some use to get use to.
One of my favorite baits year round is a lipless crankbait. And it can produce big bass at any time. It can be worked over grass beds, ticking the top of the grass and ripped free, which sometimes creates the perfect opportunity for a big bass to slam it. It can be thrown up in the shallows and worked out, but it is not for the faint of heart. It takes a little practice to make sure it does not sink to far before starting your retrieve. And it is great along drop offs, as you can work it down them or along them. This bait has produced some of my biggest bass when nothing else has worked.
And we can’t forget a paddletail swimbait. It can be fished anywhere, depending on how you rig it. One way it one a jig head. This is more for open water, as the hook itself is exposed, which offers a greater hook-up ratio. But you must make sure that the hook is in the middle of the bait and the bait itself is straight, with no humps or twists in it. The other way is on a weighted swimbait hook. Depending on the conditions and depth you want to fish, you can go as light as a 1/16th ounce to a 1/2 ounce weighted hook. Again, being sure to keep the bait as straight as possible and the hook in the center line of the bait. This technique allows the bait to be worked shallow and around structure a lot easier.
The dog days of summer are coming and the bass know it as well. They will start to transit to their summer haunts soon, and we need to take advantage of the shallow bite while it is still available. Not saying they won’t be shallow in the summer, as some will always be up shallow. But by knowing what baits will work and by fishing our strengths, we can catch them anywhere at any time. Also, knowing the best colors to use at a certain time of year can make a difference. And we also must be open to change. Whether it be color scheme or just a bait itself, we need to open to make that change. Nothing makes for a bad day like being too stubborn to admit we don’t have the right bait on.
These are some of the choices available to us and it isn’t a list of what will only work. If I missed a technique that you find very productive this time of year, leave a comment belong the story and let everyone in on it. Beginners will be glad to hear them as well as some of us old anglers. Knowing and teaching others is by far the best technique we can utilize. Now get out and find some of those big bass.