Does your enthusiasm for bass fishing droop when the temperature soars? Do you start at 4 am and leave the lake by 8 am? This is the time of year when most people give up easy. Try these four live bait strategies and you will stay on the lake longer and catch more bass long after the rest of the crowd went home! The following four strategies should cover nearly every type of structure where large bass are likely to be during the "dog days" of summer.
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Flooded Timber: In flooded timber, I rig a live shiner under a bobber so that I can track the bait. A free-lined shiner is more apt to get wrapped up in the structure, plus that method of rigging reduces successful hook sets. You can set the bobber at practically any depth --- two or three feet in shallow water, up to seven or eight feet in deep water. I hook the bait up through both lips -- hook one through the dorsal fin area or the tail, and it'll get hung up. In midsummer, bass feed along timber fields that drop off into deeper water, so I concentrate near the timber edges.
Emergent Vegetation: If the weed beds I'm fishing have stalks anchored to the bottom, I'll fish a shiner rigged on a straight-shank, weedless hook about four feet below a bobber. If the water is clear, I'll actually camouflage the bobber by painting it brown or dark green to blend in with the cover. Bigger bass are getting smarter each year, and an inconspicuous bobber seems to make them less wary. I use only healthy shiners and I'm careful to balance the tackle with the size of my bait -- a 3/0 hook with a six-inch shiner, for example, and a 6/0 hook with a 10-inch bait. The shiner is hooked behind the dorsal fin so that a gently tug will entice it away from the boat, and it is pitched or flipped back into holes, cuts and points in the vegetation.
Lake Points...: On a lake point, I use a shiner on a free-line. The terminal tackle is simply a hook -- a sinker limits the bait's movement too much, and I want the shiner to be able to move around downwind or down-current from the boat to find where on that point the bass are feeding. Once I locate fish, I might add a sinker or even go to the Carolina rig to better control the bait. If I am fishing moving water, even if the wind is moving the water, I'll get many more strikes if I allow the bait to drift past the structure rather than trying to hold the bait in one spot. With your boat holding over the fish, cast your bait up-current from the fish and let it drift through the strike zone with the flow.
Inflowing Tributaries...: I fish a live shiner the way I do a lure in the mouth of a tributary -- parallel to the stream banks. Rigged with a small slip sinker, the bait is cast into the tributary mouth and allowed to drift back along the bottom. Though some people look at a shiner as something they're going to put in one area and let sit, I use that shiner like a lure, but I use it carefully -- I don't cast it a lot. The mouth of a creek can feature edges, drop-offs and minor humps, and all have to be explored with a drift of the bait to adequately fish the mouth.
Don't get hung up on using just one technique in these situations. Try more than one method to increase your success. For instance, in addition to fishing an inflowing tributary on the bottom, drift a shiner parallel to the bank under a bobber. That way you are presenting the bait to the bass no matter what level they are holding at.
My Dad "Stony" had a "Proven Method of Catching Fish" no matter what the weather or structure. I always practice it and recommend it to everyone. Stony's Proven Method? "Son, you got to keep your bait in the water." You can't catch a big bass if you are not out fishing.
Don't let the "dog days" of summer keep you from enjoying catching large bass. Try these four strategies the next time the temperature soars and you are tempted to stay home. You'll be glad you did.