Pleasure boaters give you strange looks when you’re fishing on a 100-degree day. Everyone knows you can’t catch bass or walleye in that heat. Everyone knows it but the fish.
I am writing about catching summer walleye and bass in this column. Recently I am finding both species around the same rock structures. I have written about midday summertime jigging in this column over the years because it works, but here are a couple of twists on this technique.
First, I won’t tell you that fishing midday when it’s extremely hot is better than early morning or late evening, because it’s not. But why stop fishing because it’s lunch time unless you are hungry? I don’t and consistently catch quality fish while most anglers are waiting for fall temperatures.
Expect the unexpected
During a recent bass fishing trip, I watched a school of bass busting the surface on shad after a big cloud bank and brief rain moved in. This surface disturbance happened to be close enough for a cast, so I threw my purple Gitzet tube jig in the middle and retrieved it just under the surface. I caught eight bass before they moved down deep.
Topwater would have worked well in this circumstance, but I only brought tubes and jigs. However, topwater is excellent during early morning or late evening and overnight during the hottest weather. But the sudden front and weather break to slightly cooler temperatures seemed to bring everything to the surface. Then the front passed, the sun broke through and the bass and shad dove deep to parts unknown.
But normally during a hot summer day...
Jigging or tubing for walleye and/or bass is a key technique for summer days if you want to catch limits of big walleyes while your buddies sit in air conditioning. The trick is movement and finding rocks. The bass are there too, unless they are chasing shad.
Minnows or other baits stay around rock ledges and rocky bottoms when it’s hot. Send vertical fish jigs or Gitzet tubes jigs between 10- to 25-foot depths and then drift while occasionally twitching or rising and dropping the lure. You might try popping the rod too, so your jig rises a couple of feet, and then let it drop while maintaining control of your line. Some bites are extremely light, so be ready. The professionals call this “snap jigging.”
Snap jigging means different things to different people. Some call it snap jigging, others rip jigging or hopping, popping – it’s never exactly all the same. Put 12 snap jiggers in the room and you’ll get 12 different versions.
Snap jigging is the art of “popping” a jig to rapidly dart up, then slowly descend back toward the bottom. Fast, escaping baitfish action draws walleye or bass attention because an easy meal is getting away, and fish often strike on the drop, especially when the prey seems wounded.
Usually the physical movement is a quick wrist flick like snapping a yo-yo back up to your hand, but with plenty of intensity, depending on various factors including how aggressively the fish are biting. During the early season a softer, shorter snap that doesn’t pull the bait too far from the fish can work.
Jig weight is based on where the fish are. At the earliest stages of summer most veterans are still using 1/8-ounce jigs. That’s the weight most snap jig at least 65 percent of the time.
But when walleye or bass move out to depths of 10 to 12 feet, use 1/4-ounce heads. If it’s windy, we might go as heavy as 3/8-ounce. At 12 feet you need lighter line to rifle casts farther from the boat so it swings back into that close, comfortable range best for controlling the jig. Try tipping with minnows, bringing the hook out in the center of the skull. When rigged perfectly, the mouth of the minnow is against the round ball of the jig.
A walleye expert once told me ...
Use any lure you want for summer walleye, but use a Johnson Silver Minnow tipped with a leech over and around rocks if you actually want to catch fish. Nightcrawlers work well off a Silver Minnow or jig too, but bluegill will pester you too death.
Many experts find walleyes or bass doubling back into the shallows in the summer, especially around shallow rocks in 4 to 7 feet of water. This is especially true on wind-swept lakes with a lot of sand, grass and few taller weedlines, When this occurs, throw a jig minus the bait or the tipped Silver Minnow.
So, don’t stay home because it's summer. The fish always feed – just figure out where and when.
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