When summer sizzles, the metabolism of bass goes into overdrive as they try to eat as much prey as possible in a most-energy-efficient manner. Such feeding brings the potential for outstanding catches. That doesn’t mean, however, that bass are feeding with abandon and easy to catch. They’re surrounded by potential prey, so they choose optimal times and situations to feed, in order to conserve energy in warm water.
This situation emphasizes the need for careful fishing plans by summer bass anglers. Selecting lures carefully and presenting them skillfully can make all the difference these days. To verify the need for a proper approach, check the standings of top-tier pro tournaments. While the top finishers have toted impressive sacks to the weigh-in stand, check further down the standings. Way down there, with a mere handful of small bass caught over the course of several days, are knowledgeable anglers who have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment. It can be a humbling sport. So, the Lindner Media staff have put our heads together to bring you some recommendations that will work in a variety of summer situations in waters across the land.
Artificial baits made of plastisol and other soft, lifelike materials have been deadly for summer bass since the time of Nick Creme, the inventor of the first plastic worm in the early 1950s. Their versatility is one key to their value, as not only are there countless shapes and colors, but also dozens of ways to rig them effectively. On the finesse end of the scale, you find the Neko rig, the drop-shot rig, the Ned rig, the shaky-head worm, and more. So-called “Power Fishing” calls for big sinkers and softbaits that can be fished fast and punched into the thickest cover that we often find in summer.
One new rig that’s won us over for its effectiveness and versatility is the Tokyo Rig, available from VMC. It’s a product of a visit by VMC pro-staffer Mike Iaconelli to Lake Biwa in Japan, where he witnessed the effectiveness of a down-sized version of this setup. It’s unique in that the weight hangs below the hook on a short piece of wire that pulls it straight down. A split-ring attaches the hook to the wire and weight, giving the lure extra action and also making hooksets more efficient since the sinker doesn’t impede bites. Several hooks styles are available including round bends for worms and stick worms, short stout ones for flippin’, and wide-gap offset-shank hooks to accommodate beaver-style baits, tubes, and crawbaits.
The Tokyo Rig very versatile, effective in thick vegetation as well as over hard-bottom areas and in trees. Adjust your sinker selection depending on the thickness of cover and the depth you’re fishing since this rig works with weights from 1/8 to over an ounce. One of our favorite lures got it is the Craw Tube from Big Bite Baits. It’s hollow like a tube and ribbed for a soft consistency that also makes it easy to set the hook. A pair of claws enhance the lifelike illusion. This rig also works well with smaller swimsuits, such as Big Bite’s Cane Thumper, allowing you to work any depth range.
Once vegetation cover reaches its peak, bass have lots of locational options, from deep to shallow. One that always offers a chance at a lunker is fishing the thick lily pads, algae mats, milfoil and other grasses that grow to the surface. One of the most exciting ways to catch bass is a weedless floating frog. Its stout double hook stays up and out of the cover, allowing you to work the bait over the top of the gnarliest stuff. We’ve lately enjoyed outstanding success with several different models of Terminator frogs. The Walking Frog is specially weighted to allow it to easily pivot back and forth, an action that’s almost guaranteed to draw strikes when you fish this frog across an open pocket in the lily pads of mats. Bass often follow a frog as it walks cross cover, then blasts it once it hops off the edge. Always be ready for the bite, and count to three before setting the hook. When a big bass inhales a frog, the body is squeezed down, so it gives the lure a lifelike feel to the fish, while exposing its super-sharp VMC hook. The Walking Frog also works in open areas below willow trees and boat docks, where you can shoot it with a side-arm skip-cast. It’s available in two sizes: a 3-inch model that weighs just under 3/4 ounce, so it casts far with ease. The smaller version is 2.5 inches long and weighs 1/2 ounce, an excellent choice when bass may not commit to the big bait.
The Popping Frog is a great complement to your frogging’ arsenal, as it has a cupped face that produces a strong splash when you give it a sudden pop. Then let it settle and see what happens. This sudden noise often makes nearby bass come to attention, as they may think another fish is feeding and they want to join the action. This frog also walks well, so it’s a versatile choice when the cover isn’t quite as dense. It weighs a bit over 1/2 ounce and also skips well. Both frog styles are tail-weighted for easy casting and to make them sit nose-up, the natural pose for these amphibians. It also keep them from catching grass on the nose. Needless to say, stout tackle is required for froggin’ duty. Lindner staffers never drop below 40-pound test and prefer 65-pound Sufix Braid for tough slop duty. This smooth line helps in casting and also slices through the vegetation as you fight fish to the boat.
While frogs are unmatched in thick cover, topwater lures fill the bill on more open areas as they summon up the aggressive nature of largemouth and smallmouth bass. To cover water and locate fish, we’ve been impressed with Rapala’s Skitter V, with a V-shaped belly that allows it to pivot back and forth with ease, and it also glides well when given slack line. As with other topwaters, it’s best to try different speeds and actions, as bass can vary in their aggressiveness. Skitter V is deadly at a slow pace and well as a frenzied staccato cadence.
For times when you need to fish targets, such as the edge of a lily pad field, a series of stumps or snags, or a pocket in a weedy spot, a popper allows you to tease fish out of the cover. For river smallmouths or picky largemouths, choose a subtle model like Rapala’s Skitter Pop, made of balsa for a delicate action. Its custom lip allow it to make a gentle slurp on the surface or a significant splash, depending on how hard you pop it. To summon lunkers near thick cover, try the Cover Pop from Storm Lures, a big bait at 3 1/8 inches. Cast it next to logs, fallen trees, or boulders and give a sharp tug that creates a major splash. Bass in a feeding mood can’t resist this big meal that looks so vulnerable. It’s weighted to pop and turn, but hardly moves forward, so you can work a key area slowly and hit every angle.
This bass classic has fallen somewhat out of use, compared to its immense popularity in past decades. But it’s no less effective, as the combination of flash, vibration, and color are tempting, while the design lets it work through thick vegetation and fallen trees and brushpiles. And perhaps because bass haven’t seen so many of them lately, spinnerbaits seem even more effective in several situations. Terminator’s new Pro Series Spinnerbait has been designed with lots of input from the pro staff of top tournament anglers and weever been highly impressed when trying them out. They’re built on a frame of fine 17-7 stainless steel wire that allows an ideal balance of strength and vibration. When you consider the different lure weights and blade styles available, you have lures that are effective in cover from just inches of water to as deep as want to fish. To fish clear shallow water, models with willowleaf blades score, while bigger Colorado blades create lots of thump so they work especially well in murky or deep water, as well as at night. Experiment with retrieve cadences, but for most summer situations, a slow and steady retrieve gets it done.
A weedless jig should be among your top picks at any season of the year, especially in northern waters that lack shad and lakes with lots of vegetation where crayfish thrive. Jigs are especially deadly where bass focus on these big bottom-dwelling prey. Put a chunk or craw trailer like Big Bite’s Chunk, Fighting Frog, or College Craw on the back and get to work. The Chunk, shaped like a traditional pork chunk, gives a jig a more subtle gliding action that scoots into cover. The Fighting Frog has a bulky body and thinner claws so it matches a heavy jig to punch through thick vegetation. Finally, the College Craw is more lifelike, with claws that flap as the lure falls or is pulled ahead, with tempting action and vibration. For years, Terminator’s Pro Series jigs have been a favorite, since this head style works well whether you’re flipping, pitching, or casting to targets. It’s balanced to come through vegetation as well as brush and it’s available in weights from 1/4 on up to a full ounce, so you can match its fall rate to bass depth, positioning, and aggressive. They come in lots of colors to imitate crawfish, as well as preyfish and even feature color-matched weed guards.