There's little question that largemouth bass are the nation's No. 1 game fish.
Tournaments these days around the nation can reach a million dollars, even more, and here in Ohio there are smaller tournaments every weekend, and thousands of anglers who just go out to catch some. But why not? They grow to 5 pounds or more, fight hard, leap high, and are a moderate challenge to catch. Which is why even those who know little about bass fishing would like to catch one. Or more.
Largemouth bass will bite during every month of the year, but summer is definitely prime time. They're active and aggressive in warm water, their metabolism is up, and they need more food, all good reasons to strike a passing lure. In fact, over the next few months you need remember only three things to give yourself an excellent chance of making a good catch: wood, weeds, and riprap.
Summer bass love stumps, fallen trees, and downed limbs along the shore. They're great places to ambush passing panfish, and in clear water I've seen as high as four finning beneath the branches of a single tree, all waiting patiently for customers. You can cast wood with plastic worms and many do, or throw crankbaits as close as possible and hope you don't hang up.
But the ideal way to work wood is to ghost along as quietly as possible and use a long flipping rod with a pig and jig combination on lines end. Black might be best, but brown is good, and sometimes other colors will work. The technique is not to cast your offering, but to flip it here and there around a tree, letting the lure sink, flutter up again, then lift it and try another limb. It's lethal.
Not every tree or stump will produce, though, and you should never waste time on those that won't. Look for timber with deep water very near by, places where a fish can swim a few yards, feed, and go back to their daytime loafing spots. Try wood up shallow branches or bays and you're probably wasting time.
Weeds are great too, again if they're close to deep water. Bass will nudge their way into beds of aquatic vegetation, and watch along open corridors or holes for passing food. Cast spinnerbaits in white or chartreuse in the channels and along the outside edges of weeds, flip unweighted plastic worms into the cover and retrieve slowly with lots of tip action, letting the worm flutter down in any hole.
Weedless spoons with porkrind work too, used the same way, and you might try a surface lure where the greenery is scattered. Hold that lure horizontally and cut off the forward facing hook of each treble. It's semi-weedless then, and will still catch bass.
Then there are riprap, shoreline areas where large stones are piled both above and below the surface to keep down wave erosion. Those big light gray rocks are magnets for crayfish and good hiding spots for aquatic insects and small panfish, so bass patrol them constantly, especially early and late.
Try parallel casting with spinners like my favorite pearl gray Roostertails, and crankbaits that wiggle madly and put out good vibrations. If it's late morning, then fish in deeper water just off the rocks with black or blue plastic worms. Simple formulas, but they'll get you bass.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected]. n If there is a trophy saugeye water in northcentral Ohio, it just might be Pleasant Hill Lake. The hybrid fish has been stocked in this MWCD lake since 1995, with as many as 257,000 stocked in 2000 alone, and stockings of more than 150,000 annually has occurred since then. Saugeye have been caught up to 26 inches in this 850 acre lake with recent netting surveys showing a strong 4 year old class of fish available to anglers.