Summer Schooling: Now in Session
Summer's dog days are in full force pretty much everywhere once July rolls around, leaving anglers and bass scurrying to find the nearest shade. As a professional angler, I even have a hard time finding motivation to get out on the water when it's 100-plus degrees outside ﾗ but hooking up on a bunch of schooling bass can quickly take your mind off of the heat.
Schooling bass are always fun to target, but figuring out what triggers a feeding frenzy can be difficult to decipher. There are a few tactics that always seem to work, but I've found one that is simply can't-miss. It doesn't take being an Elite Series pro to master; all it takes is some patience and time on the water.
I use an old technique that has been around for quite some time. Swimming a lightweight jig through the strike zone may not seem that old, but it was perfected in a time when power fishing was king.
The key to this presentation is focus. The technique is designed to find bass suspended in the water column or hanging just above the bottom. Finessing fish is exactly what I do during months when fishing is slow and power fishing has run its course. It is key to fish smaller areas of water and focus your attention on the technique rather than covering miles of water in search of a few small bites.
The areas I key on are shaded areas around boat docks, bridge pilings and shadows. Once I locate suspended fish, whether by using my electronics or swimming the jig, I go to work.
I position my boat according to where the shade is, relative to the structure, which is what will keep the bait in the strike zone the longest. If I position my boat on the shade side and cast toward the sun, allowing the bait to run toward the front of the ambush-positioned bass, I'll be in good shape.
Starting out with a 1/8-ounce darter head jig with a thin-wire 2/0 or 3/0 hook, I thread on a Berkley ® PowerBait ® 5-inch Hand Poured Curltail Worm, exposing the hook on the top side of the worm. When it comes to selecting lure colors, I always select colors based on where I am, but in July I usually throw something like warmouth or holographic shad.
Using a 7-foot medium action spinning rod and a reel spooled with 6-pound Vanish ® fluorocarbon line, I fish that Curltail Worm by making very long casts. I engage the spool once the bait hits the water and leave the rod tip pointed at about 11 o'clock. I let the weight of the jig swim the Curtail Worm through each water column picture a pendulum swing. Once the bait hits the floor, bring the bait in and make another cast. I don't want my lure to come in contact with the bottom partly because I don't want to spend all day retying new jigs and it doesn't make much sense to do so since the fish are suspended.
Cover the entire shaded area and make note of every fish, keeping track of the depth where these fish are located. This will help you get a handle on when to anticipate future strikes.
Don't forget to try this technique in the heat of summer rather than burning all over the lake locating small pockets of fish. Slowing down and focusing on the technique and body of water will produce better results and allow you to add another tool to your bag of tricks.