JEFF KNAPP: Bass season begins Saturday
With bass season opening this weekend, many anglers will be focusing on the sport these fine gamefish provide. With the spawning period now complete, bass will be settling into summertime patterns.
Here are two excellent tactics to try during the next three months.
SECONDARY POINTS: Expert bass angler Scott Kinard often keys in on deeper offshore structure, places he calls secondary points, when the summer heat kicks in.
“Some of the best areas to look for are roads, railroad beds and creek channels,” explained the Elwood City angler. “Find areas where these features intersect or make a bend and you’ve located an open-water secondary point.”
Discovering such spots can be time-consuming, a task that employs electronics as well as a lake map (if it’s available). It’s an investment well worth the effort, though, as many anglers shy away from such areas since they lack the visible features found close to the bank.
“I put the boat on a road bed or creek channel and run along it, using a GPS to mark any humps, bends or hard-bottom (rubble) areas. These are the high-percentage spots.”
With several spots marked, Kinard begins fishing with bottom-bumping presentations like a Carolina rig or a heavy jig (at least a half-ounce) tipped with a bulky crawfish trailer.
“This time of year bass are feeding heavily on crawfish so you really want to work those rubble areas,” he noted. “Fish underwater points from various angles and experiment with retrieves, lure colors and rattles until you find the right combination.”
Though Kinard prefers to fish heavier jigs and Carolina rigs on deep structure, under tough conditions — like the aftermath of a cold front, or during periods of excessively high fishing pressure — he will downsize.
“It can be good to have a shaky head or light Texas-rigged worm rigged on a spinning rod,” said Kinard. “I like to throw a small 4-inch straight-tailed worm under when the bite is tough, or as a follow-up after I’ve worked an area over with the bigger stuff.”
FROGGIN’ SHALLOW WEEDS: While weed edges and deep structure represent principal cover options that bass use in the summer, some fish stay shallow, particularly when there is significant shallow-water weed growth present. By mid- to late-summer submergent weeds like milfoil will often be at the surface, particularly in shallow areas. One of the more productive (and exciting) ways to target expansive weed flats is with a topwater frog.
“What I like to look for is a shallow, weedy bay or flat that’s being fed by an incoming creek,” says Cambria County-based tournament angler Chuck Aurandt. “Even though the water’s hot, the incoming creek will provide somewhat cooler water and oxygen under mats of weeds and lily pads.”
Aurandt has found that while the edges of these flats are targeted by anglers flipping jigs and worms, the interior tends to be left alone. This leaves a lot of water to hold fish, sometimes bigger bass than what are picked off along the edge.
Using either a white or black floating frog. Aurandt likes a sunny day to target shade-providing mats of milfoil and floating weeds like spatterdock and lily pads. He uses a 7ﾽ-foot medium-heavy power baitcasting rod with a relatively light tip, the reel spooled with 50-pound braided superline. He targets little points and troughs within a weed flat, oftentimes provided by the meandering of the incoming creek channel, Aurandt experiments with various retrieve cadences to find out what’s turning the bass on that particular day.
Aurandt has a couple tricks to up the hookup ratio on floating frogs, which can be the Achilles’ heel of the presentation.
“I trim the tentacles of the frog, which come from the manufacturer about 3 inches long, down to 1 inch,” he explained. “This provides less obstruction to interfere with a clean hookup. Also, I open up the gap of the hook. You are going to get a little more slop on the hook, a weed here and there, or the snagging of a lily pad. But my hookup ratio has gone up tremendously since I’ve started doing this. And you’ve got to let the fish take the bait. They’ll hold on to it. I even shoot a little fish attractant into the body of the lure to help ensure they clamp down and hold it.”