It’s easy to get caught up in the season, especially if you are a bass angler. Most bass in each lake make predictable moves throughout the year, such as shallow to spawn in the spring. Most anglers make the same moves as they work to keep catching bass.
It’s no different in late summer, those dog days of late July and August. During this time, most bass are deep after recovering during post-spawn. They have congregated, in some cases in massive schools, on main-lake structure such as points, humps, and ledges. Many anglers are there, too, setting up camp on these summer haunts.
They are heaving crankbaits with giant lips, Carolina rigs with heavy weights, spoons, and other time-tested deep-water lures. “Most people think about fishing deep,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bradley Roy. But deep is a relative term. He said it might be 12 feet on one lake and 40 feet on another. Regardless, most anglers pound a magic depth range. And by late summer, the bass there feel the effects and are tougher to catch.
Roy looks on either side of that magic depth for late-summer bass. It’s a season of extremes for him and not just the daily high temperature and humidity percentage. He fishes super shallow water or finds bass deeper than others are fishing. Either direction, he heads, he feels he is fishing for the most unmolested bass in the lake.
The first late-summer option that Roy has confidence in is fishing shallow. He targets the bass that live in 3 feet or less water all year. There might not be many of them that cruise the banks, but there are enough. He remembers well when fellow competitors fishing shallow beat him in summer tournaments when he was fishing deep. He believes most anglers are so wrapped up in deep fishing this time of year that they forget about shallow bass. That means they feel less fishing pressure and can be easy pickings.
The 2004 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Wyle was a late-summer affair. Before it started, many smart bets were placed on the competitors most comfortable fishing deep water, whether with soft plastics, jigs, or crankbaits. After the final day, Takahiro Omori was crowned champion. He ran up the Catawba River, the main artery for the impoundment on the North and South Carolina line, and flipped and cranked shallow wood. A couple of anglers in the top 10 fished deep, but the rest were beating the bank.
This approach is junk fishing at its finest. “It’s going to be covering water as fast as possible and getting a reaction bite,” Roy said. He throws to laydowns, riprap, docks — whatever he comes across. He might use a buzzbait or popper to cover water in the morning quickly. He’ll switch to pitching plastics as the sun gets higher or crashing a square-bill crankbait through the cover.
Roy looks for specific sections of a lake to fish first. “If I am going to fish shallow, I try to get away from the main lake as much as possible,” he said. Any pressure that bass might feel from deep-water anglers drops the farther he gets away from them. While they might try some shallow fishing, they most likely are unwilling to run as far away from their main spots as Roy is. But he doesn’t head into the back of any creek. He seeks the ones that have the most inflow. “I think the creeks that have a better flow, which refresh with any rain, are the better ones in late summer,” he said. Even a trickle can add color to the water, improve oxygen and add more nutrients. All of those will keep bait and bass in that creek.
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