The summer months are considered by some anglers as the toughest in which to catch a good sack of bass. But this time of year is always my favorite to fish tournaments. I've had a lot of success in tournaments during the summer and it's because I like to fish structure in deep water. Without a doubt, how you structure fish in deep water is the question I am asked most by other anglers, both competitors and non-tournament fishermen.
The first thing you have to do, above all others is to get the proper mind-set. Stay in deep water the whole time you're fishing. You can't give up after just a few hours or even two days. If you want to be successful in the summer though, you must go deep, stay deep, and don't leave.
My most successful fishing spot on Richland-Chambers (Texas) was found after spending four days without a bite. Now can you honestly say you'll go to a lake and spend three or four days just looking for and fishing deep structure? You must do it even without a strike and stay even if fishing is tough. But the reward can be a 30-pound sack of fish at weigh-in if you do exactly that.
One of the factors you have to take into consideration before you go deep is the lake itself. Not every lake is suited to deep-structure fishing.
When I decide to use this approach on a lake I have a tournament on, I'll check first to see if it has stripers. It's been my experience that striped bass will out-compete bass for the baitfish on a piece of structure. And when the stripers show up, they'll move the bass off. I've had this happen to me at Texoma and Whitney. Both lakes have good populations of stripers. They are the dominant species in both lakes. Of course that's not to say there aren't bass deep because I've caught them off structure in Texoma and Whitney, but I have had the stripers take over the spots where I was catching bass, too. This has to be factored in to deep structure fishing when you're at lakes with large striper populations.
Another factor you'll need to consider is that lakes with grass will also fish differently. Bass relate to the grass so well that more of them stay near it than move to deep structure without grass. If you're faced with a lake like this, you must change your approach to deep fishing. In a take like this I'll look for the grass as deep as I can find it and fish the structure that it's located on. And remember even though bass relate to grass very well when it comes to deep-water fishing, you still have to find the contour changes.
Now, let's go to the lake - or at least get ready to go. The first thing to do is get a good topo map. This is going to be your street guide for bass. Without it, just stay shallow. All the normal types of structure you read and hear about of course have potential. There are points, tank dams, roadbeds, and drop-offs. These will get you started in the right direction, but the key that I believe is the most important part of deep-structure fishing is that there is only a small portion of the structure that will hold fish.
The best way to find these small areas is to fish long and hard. For example one of my best spots on Richland-Chambers is one-half mile from shore just off a point and it's about the size of a dining room table. I weighed in three bags of bass over 30 pounds from this one small spot. How did I find it? By using my graph, and believing what it read. There are no shortcuts to fishing deep structure unless you have someone who can personally show you the exact spot, but then it won't be your own, it's just a borrowed honey hole.
There are other factors to consider as well. When using my graph and just idling around looking, many times I'll look for suspended fish. This means they are inactive, but it also means that there's probably some type of structure nearby they will utilize when they become active. I'll also look for schools of baitfish on a hump or drop-off. Even if you find the best piece of structure in an area, it won't be good until the forage shows up. No forage, no bass, and no bites.
There is a drawback to deep-structure fishing and that is that it has been my experience that it's do or die, feast or famine-type fishing. Either you'll catch them or you'll zero, but that's the price you must pay sometimes to get those wins.
I know what my daughter Bree and I will be doing at the family championship this fall. We won't be there to place, we'll be betting to win and even though it can be tough this time of year you should be betting to win also. I hope these summer bass fishing tips will help get you there.
Good luck and God Bless.
Bill Wilcox is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Yamaha Outboards, MCMC, BG Products, Pro Rule, Johnson Fiberglass, Brown's Automotive, Continental Batteries, Kistler Rods, Swamp Hog Lures, Strike King Lures, and Fun-n-Sun Sports Center.