By Todd Reed
A smoldering ninety-degree day with ninety percent humidity is probably not on the top of anyone’s wish list here in Iowa, but that is what we get many days. The first few weeks of August can be just about unbearable, but for those who love to bass fish, it’s a great day to go spend it fishing.
With “heat indexes”, or “real-feel” temperatures reaching far past 100 degrees, there are certain things a bass angler must do to ensure a good, safe day on the water. The first and foremost is to take care of yourself. I have found a few simple things that keep me fishing in these extreme temperatures. Anyone in the medical or sports profession field will tell you that hydration is most important during extreme heat. This should be number one on your list of things to pack for the day. Sports drinks are good, but there is simply no substitute for an ice cold bottle of water. Your body needs a lot of water, and when you are sweating while fishing in these hot temperatures, you will need plenty of it. Be sure to stay away from alcohol, and soda. You will also want to have plenty of ice to keep things cold for the entire day, and keep fluids going through your body. Another simple thing to do is to have a small towel with you. Soak the towel in water and hang it around your neck to cool off. Place the towel back in the cooler, and repeat as many times as you like. (Don’t overdue this, as extreme cold can cause some to get light headed for a brief period of time)
With our bodies ready for a day of fishing, now it is time to focus in on where those bass are at this time of year. It is no secret that bass love to feed at dusk and dawn during the hot summer months. This is absolutely true, and this is a great time to catch a lot of bass on topwater baits. During these low light times of the day bass tend to feed very shallow. Buzzbaits, popper and spook baits all work very well at this time of the day for bass. A favorite thing of mine to do is to put the Minn Kota trolling motor at mid-speed and cover as many flats as I can that are located near deeper water. I always start with a buzzbait, and if the bass are not responding, then I slow down a bit to fish the poppers and spook baits. If you are fishing from shore, look for slow tapering banks that you can walk and cast your topwater baits along.
As the sun begins to shine, and the temperatures start to heat up for the day, then it is time to focus on deep water. I always refer to a lake map to see where the main lake channels are and any deep water points that are available in the lake. Fish like the deeper water in the hot summer months because it will be cooler. Deep diving crankbaits, jigs, caroling rigs, and finesse baits like the shakey head or drop shot can all be used during this time of the day to catch bass. Again, I like to focus on those deeper banks, or following the channel for the deepest water. Deep water doesn’t always guarantee you the bass will be there, especially in the hot summer months. Lakes all across Iowa will undergo a phenomenon called a thermocline. A thermocline is formed when the deep water in a lake becomes a territory where fish cannot live for long periods of time. This is because the layer of water at the bottom of the thermocline will be colder and will hold much less oxygen. The low level of oxygen will keep bass out of that area. It is always best to find the thermocline and fish near it or above it. You don’t want to spend your time fishing below it. The only real way to know where the thermocline is located is with a depth finder. When idling over deeper parts of the lake, you will see a faint, steady line at a determined depth of water. It will almost appear as if your depth finder is not working properly. It is correct, and that line is showing you where the thermocline is, and will help you fish above it. Normally, the thermocline is steady throughout the lake, so no matter where you are fishing, fish above it.
Summertime fishing doesn’t always mean that you have to fish really deep when the sun comes out. If the lake/river you are fishing contains any aquatic vegetation, you have to take a close look at it. Weeds provide so many things for bass, that they are constantly around them. The first and most important thing they offer is oxygen. Plants give off oxygen and can be the healthiest and cleanest water in the system. Aquatic vegetation also gives bugs, and smaller fish a place to hide, thus drawing in the bigger bass to feed upon them. Lastly, weeds provide a canopy, or shade for bass, something that can cool the water temperatures, and gives the bass a good hiding and ambushing place to wait for their meal. The typical lures that I mentioned earlier will not be productive here though. You will need to adjust things in a major way. When fishing around, and in weeds, the first thing I advise is to have braided line on your reels. I also like to use the fastest gear ratio Quantum Reels that I have, both of these factors will allow you to get the bass our of the grass when you feel a bite. Each angler is different when they approach weeds, but for me, the best choice is an Optimum Baits Furbit Frog. These frogs will float on the water surface, and the bass will explode on them all throughout the day. Another technique I like to use in and around the weeds is a swim jig. It is best to keep this bait moving along the pockets of grass and along the edges. Lastly, when I know bass are present, I will pitch a Texas-rigged tube bait into the grass and await a tap on the line. These three baits are fantastic in and around the weeds and should be used throughout the day.
The dog days of summer do not spell the end of bass fishing until fall. The bass will continue to feed, at a high rate, and plenty of bass can be caught on those 100-degree days. Take care of yourself with good hydration, stay as cool as you can, and apply these tips to make your dog days of summer the best ever.