It’s that time of year again when stifling humidity and severe afternoon thunderstorms are the norm. Often referred to as the dog days of summer, uncomfortable heat coupled with the longest days of the year can indeed make it extremely challenging to score on many of Florida’s famed lakes and rivers. Lunker largemouth that were easily accessible during the spring and early summer have since disappeared from their typical haunts. The consensus among most bass anglers is that extreme temperatures completely turn off the bite.
This misconception is simply not the case, and over the years I have come to realize and truly believe that the poor fishing attributed to the so-called dog days of summer is, in fact, nothing but an urban legend. In reality, the struggle associated with bass fishing under the sizzling summer sun really impacts the uneducated bass angler more than it does the coveted bass. The fact of the mater is that largemouth bass metabolism cranks up into high gear when water temperatures rise. And truth be told, if you know where to look you can certainly coerce some of the feistiest bucketmouths of the year.
If you have an advanced side imaging or down imaging sonar system, locating these prime structures will be that much easier.
When the months of July and August roll around, largemouth bass have already spawned, aquatic growth has fully matured, baitfish are flourishing and landlocked waters are at their peak level of activity. What more could you ask for? With warmer water temperatures and increased body metabolism, largemouth bass are extremely active during the summer and must consume approximately twice as much prey than most other times of the year. So where do you start to look in hopes of having an exceptional outing? Bass fishing during the blazing heat of the summer is a lot like Florida’s unpredictable real estate market—location…location…location.
You’ll have to establish prime feeding grounds by searching for underwater structure as well as top cover like lily pads, hyacinths, coon tails, eelgrass and fallen timber. You’ll need to find a solid piece of structure with sufficient size to support a large school of actively feeding bass.
Even more important, ideally there needs to be a small drop-off adjacent to this aforementioned structure. It’s best to target the outer edges of weed beds, moving with the shadows as the sun changes angle. Docks also offer a shadowy overhang that should never be overlooked. If you have an advanced side imaging or down imaging sonar system, locating these prime structures will be that much easier. You’ll even be able to pinpoint single fish and suspending baitfish. However, once you’ve found a hiding spot you’ll have to select a worthy offering.
During the coming months I throw a wide variety of presentations depending on the time of day and prevalent weather conditions. In the early morning hours, when air temperatures are coolest and there’s little to no wind, I’ll work a topwater plug or popper. Utilizing a 7-foot rod with 10 lb. braided line you’ll have deadly accuracy and can fish lures along cover.
One of my favorite tactics when fishing early mornings requires the help of a fishing partner. It’s what I like to call “buzz plugging.” To accomplish this untraditional, yet highly effective technique one angler throws out a topwater buzz bait while the other throws a topwater plug in the same general vicinity. Ideally, you want the plug to follow a few feet behind the buzzbait. When presented properly, it shouldn’t take long for one of the lures to get whacked. If you’re really lucky you may even be rewarded with a solid double header.
Once things start to heat up around mid-morning, bass typically follow two patterns. Some move to the cool sanctuary of deeper water, while others travel back under the deep cover of thick vegetation. A great technique for mid-day is what I like to call punching. Due to the abundance of thick vegetation in many of Florida’s freshwater hotspots, this technique can be extremely effective. For this approach you’ll want a stiffer rod and a reel spooled with heavier braid. Rig a 3/0 worm hook with a 7-inch worm and ¾ oz. bullet weight. Look for the smallest openings in the thickest vegetation—holes about the size of a grapefruit are ideal. What you want to do is cast just beyond your target and drag your weedless worm across the cover. Be sure to keep your rod tip up high and when you reach the hole, drop it. The bullet weight will help penetrate the target zone beneath. At this point let the worm drop to the bottom and wait about 10 seconds before slowly lifting and twitching the rod tip. Strikes are often explosive, and with this stout rig you’ll be able to muscle them out of the thick vegetation with confidence.
It’s definitely hot in the summer, but just because you risk getting sunburn don’t stay at home and sulk in the air conditioning. Bass must actively feed throughout the summer months and you never know when that trophy 10-pounder will be hanging out under the next lily pad. Contrary to popular belief, bass fishing under the sultry summer sun isn’t a worthless effort but rather a very rewarding experience. Just remember that it is imperative you dress appropriately, apply sunscreen often, and drink plenty of water. See you on the lake.
Largemouth bass actually use a sense of touch to determine whether to reject or swallow an object. This explains why these inquisitive fish usually hold onto a soft-bodied artificial worm or crawfish imitation longer than metal spinnerbaits or hard stickbaits.