An angler can drive himself crazy considering all of the lure options available for summertime bass fishing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re sweating heavily on the front deck, make sure it’s from battling bass, not fighting with yourself over which bait to throw. Pare down your choices to five of the most successful summertime lures and you can focus on fishing instead of which lure to throw.
Dredge Bottom With A Jig
Whether it’s for pitching to wood cover, punching weedy mats or casting to rockpiles, the jig is a mainstay in the summertime bass angler’s tackle box. The jig is one of the most versatile lures because it catches fish in all seasons and under almost all conditions. It can be bounced, dragged, twitched – even retrieved at a constant speed just under the surface. It can be paired with any number of soft-plastic trailers to customize the sink rate and add visual appeal.
As with any bait this versatile, there are a million ways to select, customize and retrieve a jig to make it more effective. We’ll start with selection. Head size and shape indicates its intended use. One that is almost pointed comes through vegetation better than other styles, and football-shaped heads like the Booyah Pigskin are intended for rocky bottoms because the shape keeps it from getting snagged in the cracks and crevices. Generally speaking, the deeper the water, the heavier jig you should use. Windy conditions also call for a heavier jig so the angler can keep in contact with it and detect strikes.
Many anglers use scissors to trim the jig skirt so it’s at the level of the hook bend. The same scissors are used to trim the weed guard at an angle from back to front, leaving five or six strands intact to prevent snags. Trailers can be traditional plastic or pork chunks, twin-tail grubs, soft-plastic craws like the Money Craw or a plethora of other soft plastics. Some anglers like a trailer that matches the jig and skirt color (black-and-blue jig with a black craw trailer), and others prefer to contrast the colors, such as a black-and-blue jig with a brown trailer.
Scratch The Surface With a Spook
The summertime topwater bite is pretty consistent in the early mornings, late evenings, nighttime and occasionally all day long under cloudy and windy conditions, and there is no more exciting way to catch bass than on top. The classic Heddon Spook gets the nod as the top lure in this category. It catches fish in all water conditions and types of water bodies, from rivers to reservoirs, ponds to natural lakes.
Most important with the Spook is the walk-the-dog retrieve. It takes just a little practice before it becomes second nature. Cast the Spook and allow the water to settle, then begin the retrieve. With a little slack in the line, twitch the rod sharply sideways. It’s a “snapping” motion much like the motion that brings a yo yo back up to your hand. The Spook should glide right or left. Twitch the rod again and the Spook should glide the other direction. It’s this side-to-side motion that entices bass to strike, and it’s accomplished with constant rhythmic rod twitches. Line is slowly retrieved as the angler twitches the rod. With a little practice and experience, the angler will quickly get into a rhythm that keeps the correct amount of slack in the line.
As with any other bait, sometimes fish want it quick and other times slow with lots of long pauses when the lure just sits on the surface. Experiment with retrieves to discover the best for that day.
Crank the Mid-Depths With a Fat Free Shad
When summertime bass are relating to structure or cover in 15 feet of water (plus or minus four or five feet), a Fat Free Shad BD7F can be your ticket to a big sack. Crankbaits are mistakenly viewed as “idiots baits” because anglers can simply cast and crank and catch bass. But to get the most out of any crankbait, the angler should pay as much attention to the retrieve as they do a jig or any other lure.
Deeper running crankbaits trigger fish to strike as they dig through bottom structure or bounce off cover. With the big exposed hooks that come on the Fat Free Shad, many anglers are reluctant to throw it where they need to – into thick cover, over rockpiles, behind docks, etc. The Fat Free comes through cover better than most think. When it digs into a brushpile, apply solid pressure on the line and normally the bait pulls free. If it’s stuck in rocks, first give the bait some slack and often it will float free and the retrieve can be resumed.
Anytime you’re fishing an area with a depth corresponding with the depth your crankbait runs (or shallower) is a good time to try one. A good example is a ridge that tops out at 12 feet deep. Cast beyond the ridge and crank it down to optimum running depth. Try various retrieves, from cranking the reel as fast as you can to an erratic stop-and-go. Give the bait a pause when you feel it really knock into cover or structure. Conventional thinking is that the bass sees the lure hit the object, then sit stunned while it regains its senses. This is often when a bass hits.
TheYUM Dinger is a soft plastic bait that’s forced anglers to reevaluate the way they look at lures. After years of lure manufacturers trying to make their product look exactly like something in nature – a frog, crawfish or lizard for example – along comes a lure that looks like none of those. And this “nothing” lure catches tremendous numbers of fish, often with little work from the angler. The Dinger is a versatile lure that can be rigged a number of ways and fished in many situations.
Most common Dinger rigging is the Texas rig, mostly because it creates a lure that won’t snag. A Texas rigged Dinger can be fished anywhere from weeds to wood, and because of the material and construction the Dinger often can be fished without a weight. Another popular rigging for the YUM Dinger is the wacky rig in which the hook is simply inserted through the center of the bait so both ends of the Dinger hang limp. This allows those ends to wiggle and sway as the bait sinks. It’s a great rigging for sparse weeds.
Pulling the Wildcard
The four lures previously discussed cover almost every situation a summer angler can encounter, so the final lure in this list of five is the wildcard. It should be a versatile lure that quickly locates and catches active bass. For summer fishing, the wildcard lure should cast like a bullet to reach schooling fish, make a big racket and attract attention like a bull in a china cabinet. That lure’s got to be the lipless crankbait. It fishes quick, is great in most water conditions, is perfect for finding active bass and can be retrieved in a variety of speeds and at any depth.
Lipless crankbaits like XCalibur’s XR and XRK One Knocker Rattle Baits, as well as the one that started the whole category and is still catching fish today the Cotton Cordell Super Spot, are sinking baits, which means they can be retrieved at any depth from top to bottom. It also allows the lure to be worked with a lift-pause or rip-pause retrieve that causes the crankbait to rise and then drop in the water column. In fact, the tremendous success of the lure is owed largely to the effectiveness of the rip-pause retrieve at Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Texas/Louisiana border. Anglers discovered that ripping a Super Spot or other lipless crankbait from emerging weeds in the springtime caught tremendous prespawners and the bait and technique spread throughout the country.
Often the best retrieve will be straight and fast. Anglers often cast the lure into shallow water and quickly engage the reel and start the retrieve while holding the rod tip high to keep the bait high in the water column. The tight wiggle, baitfish shape and loud rattles create a lot of commotion. In unfamiliar waters or at the start of a new day of fishing, many anglers use the lipless crankbait to quickly search areas for active bass. It’s also a fantastic bait for casting long distances for schooling bass.
Summer’s a great time to be on the water. Don’t let too many lure choices complicate matters. Keep it simple and start with these five lures.