By Lawrence Taylor

It doesn’t matter that much if you’re fishing a giant Southern reservoir or a natural Northern lake, it’s hot out there. Even though we’re experiencing a relatively cool summer, it still can be sweltering above and below the waterline.

The bright sun and hot water push bass to cooler, shaded areas, current funnels or as deep as they’ll be all year. Here are three spots you can check if you insist on fishing the big lake during late summer.

Shade
A bass’s eyes are sensitive, and super warm water (anything over 80 degrees) makes them uncomfortable, so just like any living thing it finds the coolest, safest, most-comfortable spot and waits out the heat. Bass will eat during the day, but usually stay quite lethargic.
boat dock

(Left: Big, isolated boat docks on points over deep water hold bass during summer.)


Two sometimes-productive shady areas are marina docks and grass mats. Productive docks feature maximum shade and ample depth and cover. Bass will suspend under the docks and conserve energy, but can be caught on a variety of baits skipped up under the platforms and into the corners of boat docks.

Three lures for skipping under the docks or pitching to the corners cover top to bottom: Hollow-body frogs like the BOOYAH Pad Crashers cover the top and skip easily under the floors. For bass that won’t hit the top, a slow-sinking plastic like the YUM Dinger skips well and works the mid-depths for suspending fish. A traditional jig-and-trailer doesn’t skip as well as the two mentioned previously, but are the best you can get for flipping and pitching to corners or other promising-looking spots. They’re great for working bottom cover anglers often use to attract crappie.

Many Southern anglers gravitate to lakes with lots of matted grass during the summer because they know that’s where the fish are. The problem comes when there’s more mats than you can fish. Two lures come into play during this time, a hollow body frog and a heavy “punching” rig.

Fishing the frog is easy – make a long cast and work the frog back on top at a medium speed with a few pauses thrown in. Alabama guide and tournament angler Jimmy Mason throws a frog on Lake Guntersville and other 'Bama grass lakes, but dispite the excitement of a bass blowing up through the grass, he prefers punching the grass near the outside edges.

Mason's punching rig features a big, 1- to 1 ½-ounce sinker pegged to the hook and a slim, crawfish-imitating soft plastic like the YUM Craw Papi or Money Craw. You need something without a lot of extra appendages to catch on the weeds so it sinks through the weeds and gets to the more open area underneath.

Punch the weedbeds at the edges and in any gaps or holes in the weeds. Fish the frog everywhere. Listen for the little smacks of bluegills eating insects off the top as one key you’re in a fishy area.
punching rig

(Right: Mason's punching rig for Guntersville grass.)

Current
Fishing a riverine-type environment, it’s pretty easy to see the productive areas. Look for anywhere current sweeps in hard to the bank or flows over jetty rocks.

In reservoirs with hydroelectric dams, the most obvious current is right at the dam. It can be an intimidating place to fish if generation is high. Key areas at a dam include the seams created where current meets slow-moving water. Fish often hold inside the current and ambush baitfish that get caught in the flow. A good bait to work in this area is a YUM Money Minnow on a jighead.

The dam is not the only area in such a reservoir that holds feeding fish. Check with the Corps of Engineers to determine the flow for the day. When more gates are opened and generation begins, it triggers those fish holding deep and prompts them to move on up to shallower flats to feed.

Deep Water
With little current generation, big schools of bass hold as deep as they can. The keys to catching these fish are the bottom depth and the depth of the thermocline. The short version is that the thermocline is the layer of water with the quickest temperature change, and below that line the water lacks the oxygen levels to support bass.

In clearer lakes the thermocline will be deeper. In dingy water it can be as shallow as 8 feet or so. Determine the depth, and then think about cover or structure at that depth. It may be long mainlake points or bay brushpiles, but when the thermocline and cover or structure intersects, there will be fish.

Vertical jigging with a Cordell C.C. Spoon is a good tactic when hitting thermocline-cover areas. Another is a drop-shot rig, especially if you see plenty of bait and a promising specific spot (such as a brushpile or small ledge).

These three areas can produce bass during a hot summer day to make all the sweating worth it.