Late summer bass fishing can be some of the most frustrating days you will spend on the water all year. Generally the fish are transitioning and can seem to be neither here nor there. While small fish can be caught randomly roaming shallow water and eating shad, the big ones often seem to be nonexistent. Covering water, casting fast and moving reaction baits will catch you fish, but if you are going for the big ones – searching for a trophy – your approach needs to be different.
On lakes such as Guntersville or any lake that has an abundance of weed growth or matted vegetation, giant bass can be found hiding in the shade of these thick mats. They are generally there to feed on large bluegill that wonder through the grass, as well as any other creature that comes in range. Targeting this thick matted cover is a great way to catch a big late summer to early fall largemouth bass.
Hollow-body frog lures such as the SPRO Bronzeye Frogs work great for covering water and locating big fish buried deep in the grass mats. Just fire the frog as far across the mat as possible and slowly twitch it along the surface of the vegetation. Fishing this way is extremely exciting, knowing that at any moment a 6-plus-pound bass could crash through the mat and eat your frog.
Your work doesn't end at simply getting the fish to attack; the true test is first being able to hook the fish and second is being able to drag it out once it is hooked. This technique takes nerves of steel to not immediately set the hook when the blow up happens. The key to consistent hook ups is letting the fish take the frog and making sure the fish actually have it in their mouth before you set the hook. The simple truth is you will always have some of the fish miss the frog or come unhooked while hauling them in. While it can be heart breaking, it is worth it for the excitement as well as the potential of a giant.
One thing I like to do is always have a back-up flippin’ bait ready to go. Often if the fish shows itself but doesn't get the bait, you can quickly flip in a heavy-weighted bait and punch it down into the fish's territory, triggering the fish to strike. I love flipping a green pumpkin Bass Pro Shops River Bug rigged with a 4/0 Gamakatsu Heavy Cover Worm Hook and a 1 and 1/4 oz BPS Tungsten flippin weight pegged so it will not slide up the line. Just pitch it up high and let it crash through the thick cover.
The equipment you use is very important when fishing heavy cover. I use braided line from 40- to 65-lb. test and a heavy or extra heavy 7' 6" rod accompanied by a high gear ratio reel with a lot of power to winch the fish out of the cover. Often you will drag the fish out as well as 20 or more pounds of grass with it. Give it a try, and you will most likely get hooked on the challenge and potential of fishing super-heavy cover.
If you are not comfortable or do not have the equipment to handle heavy-cover fishing then there is another way to still have potential for giant bass, and that is fishing deep offshore structure. This is where you will have the opportunity of getting into a school of fish where you can catch numerous fish in a short period of time. For tournament anglers, this is one of the very best ways to win a tournament in late summer.
Finding these deep schools in the late summer can be difficult at times, and seem like your searching for a needle in a hay stack, but it can be done. Having good-quality Lowrance electronics makes this hunt a whole lot easier. I will generally check places near the main river channel or a creek channel that still have shallow water or a flat nearby where they can pull up to feed. The fish could be anywhere from 10 feet to 25 feet and once found can be caught on a wide variety of lures.
Reaction baits such as deep-diving Spro or Strike King crankbaits are always a good option for triggering a fish and firing up the school. What I mean by firing up the school is that often once you have made one of the fish bite, then it will ignite the rest of them into a feeding frenzy for a short period of time. You really need to be ready and know exactly what cast to make in order to take advantage of the opportunity before it's too late. Schools of bass can shut down as quickly as they turned on, so be prepared and pay attention to your boat positioning.
Once the fish have slowed down, I like to switch my presentation to a slow presentation, using Carolina rigs, Texas rigs, or football head jigs. Working these through the school will usually get you a couple extra bites once the main frenzy is over. On my rigs, I like to throw big worms or brush hogs; while small fish will still bite these, they are also a great bait to trigger a big one into biting.
So decide what sounds the most enjoyable for you and go give it a try. Whether that means a fist fight in shallow water or a more relaxing slower technique on deep structure, give it a shot. You will be amazed at the size of fish you can catch even when the fishing is tough if you try these two things. If you have any questions or need to get geared up for a fishing trip, there is no better place to go then Bass Pro Shops. I'll see you on the water!!!
by Joey Nania
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