I witnessed a unique sight several days ago while bluegill fishing with Jace, my grandson. The water was clear in a lake north of Kansas City and a big school of largemouth bass swam by, at least 20 2- to 3-pound fish.
Bass swimming in schools is not unique, especially in the July heat, but conditions have been unseasonably cooler than in past years. Fishermen were recently using early morning and late evening spring tactics by casting plastic worms or crankbaits toward shore to catch numerous bass.
I caught a 4-pound female on a plastic lizard. The female had spawned out days before and was hiding under the shallow edge of a parked pontoon. She hit toward dark, and I realized she was hiding in about 2 feet of water the next morning when it was light enough to see.
Here is the unique part of this fishing report – bass are generally deeper this time of year and searching out the thermocline, where more oxygen is present. The typical July sun will suck the oxygen out of shallow water. Bass hate bright sunshine and require oxygen.
Professional bass fishermen know this and usually fish deeper water in July. The exception to this is topwater fishing late in the evening, early morning or all night. Bass sometimes move into shallow water to feed on hapless critters and fish, while some stay deep and feed on schools of shad all night.
This is why you must always pay attention to weather conditions before planning your bass fishing strategy. Several days of cold weather that takes over summer heat a few days each year can produce a shallow bite. Cold rain off a wind-swept rocky point is an exceptional place to throw Zara Spooks, a favorite topwater lure.
During the evening I love to fish the old fashion Jitterbugs around shorelines, especially when submerged weeds are present. This is especially good in spring and fall.
During the hottest summer days I love to fish submerged humps or other structure that is close to creek channels. I learned this trick from Glen Freeman of Converse, La., a guide on Toledo Bend Reservoir on a 100-degree day several years ago.
We fished a Shimano Crucial 5-foot-9 medium weight bass rod with a Shimano Chronarch 100B bait-casting reel that day, with a Little George, a heavy lure with a spinner on the end and a treble hook underneath.
“All right, now we are going to fish 20-plus-feet-deep flats, drop-offs and humps,” Freeman said. “The key is how you fish this lure in reference to where the fish are suspended. Cast it past them and slowly jig it through their school, occasionally letting the lure drop.”
This was a slightly challenging tactic for submerged bass because a Little George is heavy and sinks quickly. Practice eventually showed how to keep the lure in productive water by monitoring reeling speeds and keeping our rods high.
We started moving around deep tree stumps while Freeman studied his Lowrance LMS 332c monitor. The colored screen soon showed black blips over a yellow bottom at 20 feet.
We stopped and cast the Little George where Freeman thought the little black blips should be suspended. Soon, a bass slammed his lure as another found mine. The bass were small and soon were swimming back to their haunts with sore mouths.
By day’s end we had fished other deep humps and channels with great success. Several bass between 3 to 6 pounds were caught and released.
So pay attention to weather patterns, no matter what the calendar says. This is confusing weather to both bass and anglers, so don't be afraid to experiment and try different tactics when your first choices fail.
Summer bass have to eat sometime, the question is where?
Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org