While writing this column for almost 20 years, I’ve amassed an enormous amount of notes about fishing, hunting and countless other outdoor topics I’ve featured here during that time.
I frequently consult those records as inspiration or reference for future columns and sometimes find the recollections they provide quite interesting. An example of that would be looking back at my observations just three years ago of the summer of 2016. Back then, I noted we were suffering from weeks of brutally hot weather and lack of rain, and I lamented those conditions had relegated trout fishing in most area streams largely exercise in futility. What a difference a year or two makes.
We’ve had no lack of water throughout 2018 and 2019 so far, but near-record high daytime temperatures forecasted for this weekend and beyond will likely impact the trout fishing as water temperatures in most streams will also rise. The ample flows we are still experiencing this summer have helped our opportunities for trout fishing. As water temps approach the 70-degree mark, however, trout go into survival mode, making fishing strategy a dawn patrol exercise most days.
I also love bass fishing, and being warm-water fish, bass are a much more reliable target species this time of year. Lake-dwelling largemouth bass are a great summer fish because they are usually receptive to a huge variety of baits, lures and angling techniques. Most of the time, I can catch more than enough bass in five to seven feet of water or less to keep me entertained in the summer by using a variety of soft-plastic baits, crankbaits and topwater lures. But even largemouths can only take so much heat, and the bigger fish will move to deeper water during extended hot spells like we are currently experiencing.
“Deep water” is a relative term and will vary for a particular body of water, depending on its overall size and average depth. On a small, shallow lake like Canoe Creek Lake, I would consider 10 to 15 feet as deep. On a massive impoundment like Raystown Lake, “deep” could be two or three times that, or even deeper. Regardless of what “deep” is on the specific lake you are fishing, there are a few dependable lures and rigs that will catch bass in the depths.
Jigs are one of the best bass lures for fishing at any water depth. For summertime bass, an assortment of jigs with silicone skirts is a good choice. For more action, adding some type of soft-plastic trailer to the jig is common. Use a jig heavy enough to maintain a good touch with the bottom. For moderate depths, jigs in the ™-to-¢-ounce range are a good choice. In deeper water, heavier jigheads up to §-to-1 ounce may be necessary. I’ve become a big fan of fishing jigs on 10- or 20-pound braided line with a 3- or 4-foot monofilament leader. Braid is extremely sensitive and has minimal stretch, making it ideal for jigging and setting the hook in deeper water.
Deep-diving crankbaits are a good choice for covering a lot of water when bass are holding deep. Look for baits that are rated to dive to at least 8 feet or more. In recent years, many crankbaits have been designed to dive 12, 16 or even 20 feet or more, giving anglers to prospect of probing extreme depths with these effective hard baits. In order to get the maximum diving depth from deep-diving crankbaits, make long casts and use the smallest diameter line practical, usually 8- or 10-pound test.
The Carolina rig is another method to cover water more quickly than with a conventional jig. Braided line is also ideal for Carolina rig. To make a Carolina Rig, thread an egg sinker or bullet-shaped worm sinker on the line. When choosing the weight of the sinker, use the same guidelines as suggested for jigheads. Some anglers then thread on a round plastic bead, ™-to-3/8-inch in diameter, behind the weight; I consider that an optional step. Next, tie a size 10 or 12 barrel swivel to the end of the line. To the other end of the leader tie short leader of a foot or two in 8- to 12-pound test and a hook appropriate for the lure you will be fishing.
A variety of soft-plastic lures can be fished on a Carolina rig, such as lizards, worms, brush hogs, creature baits and even tubes. An old bass-fishing buddy could always seem to put a few good fish in the boat by fishing a Carolina rig when things got tough. He taught me to drag the rig along the bottom with short sweeps of the rod tip. Using this technique and fan-casting an area, it is possible to cover water and find fish when other methods go wanting.
Going deeper for summertime bass takes plenty of patience and dedication, but that is often what it takes to find the fish and make them bite. Anglers who make the necessary adjustment to their tactics and techniques in those situations are often rewarded with some of the best bass of the season. And it sure beats complaining about the heat.
Walt Young is an outdoors writer for the Altoona Mirror.