Kenneth Kieser: How bass beat the heat
Hot weather has returned and the bass fishing may not seem as good. There are several reasons why you might catch less fish over the next couple of months. Water temperatures rise, but bass still feed.
Problem is, warmer water does not contain oxygen that bass require. Fish become sluggish and inactive when the sun drops water oxygen levels.
During warm months most lakes develop a thermocline. The top layer of water differs significantly from the lower, colder water. The top layer of water may be 15 feet deep. Water below that depth may drop 10 or 15 degrees.
High oxygen content exists just above where the cold and warm water meet. This can be the key to success. The thermocline is generally the same depth over most lakes, including ours. Find areas where the thermocline meets weeds, rocks bars, structure or cover and you will likely find fish. Many of today’s graphs show these temperature differences, or you can vertically jig until fish are found at a specific depth.
Fish early in the morning or late evening while temperatures are comfortable and fish are most active. Bass search for shade and cool temperatures when water temps are in the high 70s and 80s.
Bass feed throughout the day and night. They are feeding opportunists when food is handy.
MIDDLE OF THE DAY: I discovered this years ago with professional bass fisherman and fishing rod engineer Bob Pingle. He invited me to fish Bull Shoals Lake in summer when temperatures averaged 95 degrees and occasionally climbed higher. I thought we were going to night fish, but started casting about 1 that afternoon.
Pingle graphed out a submerged creek channel about 12 feet deep. Buoys were dropped every 15 feet, and when finished, we could see an exact outline of how the long creek channel twisted and turned. We fished salt impregnated tube jigs slowly across the creek channel at different depths.
Bass were suspended in the thermocline at about eight feet and grabbed our jigs on the drop. Bites were light taps, sometimes only one tap easily was detected through our lightweight rods and thin 8-pound monofilament line.
By day's end we had caught and released 27 largemouth and Kentucky bass. We constantly caught bass until evening. That was my first taste of THINK SMALL: You will see clouds of newborn baitfish this time of year, the reason why small lures catch big bass.
“Bass are opportunistic predators,” said Gene Gilliland, Central Region Fisheries Supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Small baits are often attractive, no matter how big the bass is. Largemouth especially focus on certain size available baits. For example, if 3,000 two-inch minnows are around, bass may feed only on that particular size, no matter what swims in front of their face. Two- to 3-inch shad tend to be the optimum size for most bass.”
RAIN DANCE: Cloud cover during hot weather may make bass active. Look for creek channels on cloudy, hot days, then fish the flats that move into shore with tube jigs and crank baits.
SHADOW DANCING: Hungry bass occasionally leave the comfort of cooler water to find bait fish. Several years ago, B.A.S.S. tournament angler, Brent Chapman and I found several bass waiting in the shadows of trees to ambush whatever swam past on a 100-degree day. Bass avoid bright sunlight and were laying behind thin trees in slim shadows
Most bass hit 10-inch purple plastic worms with a piece of split shot. We cast out lures past the shadows then slowly fished them back and almost predicted a strike each time the worm reached these crazy productive areas. Chapman caught a 6-pound largemouth bass using this technique.
TOPWATER: Some oxygen content is maintained on the surface in spite of direct sunlight, explaining why bass can be caught on topwater lures during evening hours when the water surface is still warm. We have enjoyed good success during late evenings, overnight and early mornings fishing topwater Zara Spooks, balsa minnows like Rapala’s, Rebels, buzz baits and black Jitterbugs.
“Walking the dog” with a Zara Spook during early morning or late evening sometimes seems almost surreal, especially when light fog hangs over the surface. Bass hit with what seems like the power of a freight train, sometimes coming completely out of the water with your lure. Buzz baits or balsa lures are famous for big hits too.
DRESS FOR SUCCESS: The right clothing is important this time of year and there are many good versions of sun protective clothing on the market. Many clothing brands have full-lines of UV shirts that block harmful rays of the sun and keep moisture away from your body, keeping you cooler.
Shirts, sun gloves, hats and a good buff that wraps around your neck and over your face are important for protecting skin. Use a quality, high-SPF sunscreen and reapply throughout the day. I had skin cancer and make no mistake, you don’t want it!
We sweat and burn a ton of energy while fishing, so drinking a lot of water is important. In addition to water, try drinks that replenish electrolytes. Pedialyte, coconut water and Gatorade work well. Avoid sugary drinks and alcohol, both can lead to dehydration.
– 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.