I know you love the spawn. Everyone loves the spawn. Fish are aggressive, you can see them so they’re easy to locate, and it’s the time of year that most people will post photos of huge fish. It’s particularly fun for those of us from the north, because it tends to mean the ice is gone and we can finally get out on our favorite lakes again. But as much as I enjoy that time of year, it’s when the weather gets hotter that my limits get better. So why is it so many people dread those dog days of summer?
When it’s the end of July and temperatures are climbing to triple digits I tend to slow down. A lot. This isn’t the easiest thing for me to do, which is why I often keep a spinnerbait tied on just so I can burn it three or four times every 45 minutes to keep me from working too fast, and that also allows me to try to grab any reaction bites that might be nearby. It’s a great time of year to be aware of the moon phases and the stage of the crayfish in their malting. Red is a great color in the full moon, while blue and green pumpkin is better in a new moon. A wacky rigged Senko is a great bait this time of year, and I prefer to fish it weightless or with a small drywall nail in the end of the bait. Throw it and try your best not to move it for at least 30 seconds, then twitch it a little, and leave it alone for 30 seconds, twitch it, etc. It’s a lot easier to start really slow, and speed up, than it is to try to slow down. If they’re biting on the drop or lift, you know they’re slightly more active than if they’re biting when you’re deadsticking the bait. I also find that this is a really great time to throw smaller finesse baits. Small 3 inch worms rigged on a shaky head or drop shot can be deadly. The drop shot can be particularly effective, because most people don’t throw it or have never thought to throw it in 5 feet of water. This bass was caught in 5 feet of water on a dropshot Sunday evening at 6 pm.
Gear: 7 foot medium Dobyns Champion spinning rod, Quantum Smoke PT spinning reel, Bass Attacker Lures Bass Snax green pumpkin, 8 lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon line, Trokar Dropshot hook, 3/8 ounce tungsten dropshot weight.
Let’s agree to skip the subject of dock fishing all together. I will concede that you can always find fish on docks, but everyone knows that. While it’s not as easy to find schooling fish or fish located in deeper water offshore, it is more productive when and if you can. PLUS you won’t have nearly as much competition. Trust me; your favorite dock is also the favorite dock to at least 10 other anglers. When I’m looking for areas to target I look for outside weed lines or isolated weed beds in 5-7 feet of water, where there is deeper water within 100 yards. Deeper is completely relative to the lake I’m fishing. In places like Oneida, deeper is the 10-15 foot range, but that might increase to a 20 foot ledge if it’s really hot and we haven’t had rain for more than a week; but if I’m fishing Cayuga, deeper is 20-25 feet. So the depth relativity that I’m talking about really is subjective to the overall depth of the lake your fishing. I’ll start by flipping a crayfish style soft plastic Texas rigged with a ½ oz bullet sinker around the outside of the weed bed before throwing it inside. I usually keep two set ups so that I can alternate between having one rigged with the weight pegged, and one rigged without so I can quickly alter between the two different presentations.
In lakes that have significant algae bloom you’ll hear a lot of guys say they struggle to fish in the “pea soup”, referring to the millions of green dots in the water. Don’t be afraid of the bloom. Smallmouth LOVE algae bloom. Look for isolated rock piles in ten feet of water. This requires doing some research and finding them BEFORE the bloom starts, or being really good at reading your graph (and even then, marking these rock piles in clearer water will be a huge help). Set your drop shot up with a foot between your hook and sinker and slide it further down until you find the stage the fish want that day. You can also replace your weight with a shaky head or Texas rigged tube to try to entice bottom feeders (I strongly urge you not to try this on Ontario, Erie, Oneida, Champlain, or the St. Lawrence River, as our small mouth up north tend to have a bit of an attitude problem and you’ll have your hands full trying to fight one 4 pounder—God help you if you double up).
This is also a good time to “line down”, meaning use lighter line with a smaller diameter. Lots of people fish when the weather is nice. So that means fish have seen lots of baits by the second week in August. Instead of running a 10 pound leader, run 8 or 6, and use lighter line when cranking or throwing a dropshot. This is even more important in clear water lakes like Cayuga where visibility can often exceed 20 feet on calm days. I’m not telling you to abandon your braid all together, but if you’re not getting as many bites you can always tie on a 2 foot leader quickly and see if you don’t get more of a response. It’s a great time of year to go back to basics. Make your lure presentation as natural as possible. It’s also a good time to try throwing silent crankbaits when fishing lakes that are highly pressured.
I hope that helps you a little bit. I strongly encourage you to start keeping a journal if you haven’t already. Weather Underground (www.wunderground.com) is a great resource for obtaining weather information so you can easily merge barometric pressure, temp, rainfall, wind, and other useful information into your log. This has really helped me catch more fish and is more useful year after year. Good luck!