I can tell that summer is here because the outside temperature causes me to look for my way out of the sun and under the big oak tree over my back deck. Either that, or the air-conditioning comfort of my home by about 11 a.m.
The years have taught me that the temperature usually has to get up into the mid-to-high 90s to motivate me to seek shelter out of the sun. Summer is here and will probably remain for two or three more months at least, but we can still go fishing.
When it’s as hot as it has been for a while, the water temperature in the lake will reach up into the high 80s to low 90s. It’s normal to see that until October sometimes.
One fact of fish life is black bass and other pan fish around here prefer water temperatures in the 65- to 70-degree range. That is ideal, but they can, and do, function quite well when the water temperature goes up.
They also do not like to be in the direct rays of the hot sun. If the water is clear, a black bass near the surface can actually absorb radiation from the sun and become hotter than the water surrounding them. That tells us if we are going to fish for those critters right now, we are going to have better luck where they can get out of the sun.
Early morning, before the sun comes up, will be the best fishing. We need to be around brush piles, underwater structures, weed beds or anyplace where they can hide and await a transitory meal to swim by.
Another method to try for that early-morning bass out of the brush is to run a spinner bait across the top of submerged weed beds. If that doesn’t shake them out, run the spinner bait along the edges of the weeds or brush. This should be done with a 3/8-ounce spinner bait with willow leaf blades. If that does not work, don’t give up. Try other blade sizes and colors to provoke a strike.
As the sun comes up, you might consider switching to deeper running crank baits, like a DD22 or Chrome colored Rat-L-Trap, and varying your retrieve. Let the lure get down toward the bottom and retrieve it with a jerky motion, all the way back to the boat. As it reaches the boat, pull it back to the surface with a fast, straight-up retrieve.
Then there are the soft plastics, over road beds, as well as the brush piles and weeds. Weedless Texas rigged worms, with action tails, in Watermelon are good. Work them over the road beds starting past the bed and retrieve well past the other side. Carolina rigged worms will also work when the noise is needed to provoke sluggish bass into a strike. Besides the greens like Watermelon seed, dark blues, like Plum Blue or a Tequila Sunrise, are also well to keep in mind.
With the soft plastics on weeds, you can use light weight, about 1/8-ounce, and drop it right on top of the weeds. Let it sink until it stops. It is light, so it will almost always stop somewhere in the weeds. Keep your line tight so if a bass takes it, you will feel it. Once the worm stops moving, pull it up to the top of the weeds, move it slowly across the top for a few feet, and then let it settle back down again until it stops. Be alert to a strike while the worm is settling down in the weeds.
After the sun is up high, keep in mind that the bass will be down deep out of the sun’s rays. Because the lake has stratified, that will be in the range of 16-22 feet deep and back in the brush or in the shade of structures or weeds. You will probably have to go to larger weights to get to ideal fishing depths.
The bass are not afraid of hot weather. They will live, eat and adapt to the weather conditions. Vegetation emits oxygen and provides shade, so you can bet that is where the bass will be.
The rest of the challenge is how much discomfort we as anglers will tolerate. Noel Coward wrote in 1931, “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun,” and it could well be true. I know this is one fisherman that heads for the shade and a cool, refreshing, liquid restorative come 11 a.m. or 95 degrees, whichever comes first.
Forget the fish a moment and think about yourself. Protect your skin against sunburn and continually drink water to keep yourself hydrated. If you wait until you are thirsty, it is too late. You are getting dehydrated, and you cannot catch up with your body’s needs while still in the heat and sun.