Swimming Into Summer
By Don Payne
In a previous article, I began to tell a story about fishing swimbaits. The crux of the article was that swimbaits aren't just for the spawn any longer; they can and will produce all year long.
It's tough to mention everything a person needs to know about using swimbaits at one time, so after discussing in detail the aspects of wintertime and springtime swimbaiting, it's time to get to the heart of the opportunity - summertime and fall fishing.
To fish swimbaits in the summer requires some extra planning and at least a couple of different baits tied on at all times. Two factors dictate which baits I use, and when I use them.
Summertime means increased temperatures and increased boat traffic. I will use the Basstrix and Osprey swimbaits in the early morning in shallow water, but as the traffic increases and the sun rises I switch to an Optima swimbait and search out and target the fish in deeper water. You can throw an Optima a half a country mile and fish it very deep.
As usual for swimbaits, I use a 7-foot Muskie-type Berkley Series One rod, with no lees than 25- pound line, and a high-speed reel; the high-speed reel being the single most important element to my rig. Many times, when you slow roll the bait across the bottom you'll suddenly lose the feel of the bait. It's just not there! That's when you must reel fast and get ready to set the hook because that trophy fish has taken the bait and is swimming it back to you. You must get control of the line before setting the hook so the reel speed is crucial.
During the summer, the bite seems more like a reaction bite. But, it's a deep reaction bite. This time of the year, many of the lakes are being drawn down to provide irrigation water. This creates a current in the main lake that the shad will follow. As luck would have it, baitfish very rarely find themselves alone. Where the shad go, so do the trout; and guess what, there is always a big bass around waiting to enjoy a trout dinner. Bass just love trout, what can I say? It seems they will go completely out of their way to eat them.
My methods for fishing deep summer water are to find the unusual bottom structures most likely in very deep water, and then plot my attack. I like to find deep rock piles and throw the swimbait to the opposite side of the rocks, count it down and slowly bring it back over the rocks.
You'll first feel the weight of the bait as it reaches the bottom, and then you will feel the rocks. You may not feel the strike, or even anything at all, just like I said before. But when you lose feel, reel up and set hard. The bass will find your bait on the rocks and as soon as the bait breaks free of the structure, the bass will slam it.
Most of these fish are going to be found 50 feet down and even deeper this time of year. If you have a hump that is down 60 or 70 feet, and the water is a couple of hundred feet deep all around it, you will find big fish in a virtually untouched area. These are the fish you are after: the huge fish that haven't seen a lure.
The little, run-of-the-mill fish are going to be closer to the bank near more shallow humps because that's where they need to be. Bait is more plentiful in the shallows and the smaller fish gravitate to those areas. Big fish only need to eat once a week, especially if the meal is a tasty trout. The trout go deeper in the summer and provide the big bass with all the food they need.
Another method I use is to take a big Optima swimbait and park my boat right over a deep hump and let the bait fall to the bottom and hop it. It's kind of like a big spoon. The bass will react to the bait and the action can be incredible.
Moving towards late summer and early fall, lake stratification and oxygen content dictate where fish are gong to be found. Many times, the oxygen levels this time of year are not good. So, the shad are going to seek out any areas of moving water, anywhere they can find more oxygen.
The bass act lethargic, they don't seem to want to chase very much, and they begin to act like middle-of-the-winter fish. This is the time to find the old river channels, look for balls of shad and trout, and experiment, experiment and experiment some more, to find those big bass that will feed on the trout. Your fishfinder becomes a very important tool this time of year, to be able to isolate the different species on the screen and count down the swimbait to just the right level.
Later in the fall, as the water cools, and becomes more oxygenated, the shad, and therefore the trout will start to move back to the shallower water. At this time of year I like to use the swimbaits on windy days when the light penetration isn't as good. The bass begin to prepare for winter and enjoy stalking big trout, trapping them close to shore.
Never give up on swimbaits in the fall. They may not produce a ton of strikes, but the fish you do boat could possibly be the largest bass you have ever latched on to. Good luck!
Reprinted with permission from Bass West Magazine