Late Summer Tactics

By Mike Mladenik - August 1, 2006
By August most waters reach the maximum water temperature and water usage by watercraft enthusiasts is also at its peak. Fish are feeding on a regular basis but you would never know it by listing to anglers. The "Dog Days of Summer" Syndrome takes the blame for many an empty live well. The key is to find a place where fish are active and you can escape some of the boat traffic. Fishing a river in late summer will give you the best of both worlds. Smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike and perch are all active during the late summer period. While all species may be active it is the smallmouth fishing that takes center stage. Besides the numbers big fish are also common. These river fish have big shoulders and have much more power than lake smallmouth.

While smallmouth may be abundant in the river, anglers still need to concentrate on the most productive areas. One area may hold lots of fish but few hawgs. Another area may hold big fish and they may be tough catch. While there are stretches of river that hold both numbers and big fish, they are few and far between. The amount of current flowing through the river will also play an important role in determining where you choose to fish. Once stretch of river can be hot for a while and cool down as the conditions change. Under normal summer conditions most smallmouth action will occur right in the middle of the river. Anglers who target the shorelines will catch smallmouth but in lesser numbers. While fishing the mid river areas we will watch shoreline anglers drifting by not aware what they are missing. The mid river rocks are home to thousands of crayfish which are the preferred forage of smallmouth and an occasional walleye.

On some days you will need to move often while on other days you can fish in one or two places and catch smallmouth throughout the day. Crankbaits are the most effective bait when searching for active smallmouth. With crayfish being the preferred forage crayfish imitation baits are tops. The new Yo-Zuri Live Bait Crank series is ideal for this situation. The Floating/Crank 1 which is a medium diver has already produced lots of smallmouth this season and I can't wait for the late summer bite. Red Craw and Hot Tiger are top colors. The big bruisers will hold tight to the bottom and you will need to put the bait in there strike zone. If water levels rise which is common after heavy rains you will need to change your fishing accordingly. Smallmouth with either move out of the deep holes and hold tight to shoreline cover. Smallmouth relating to shoreline cover are the easiest target. Under these conditions spinnerbaits or soft plastic jerk baits are the bait of choice. Both baits can be worked tight to wood cover and the shoreline.

Most years there is a good topwater bite in August. Under stable weather patterns or prior to a weather change, surface baits like the Yo-Zuri Live Bait Popper and the Live Bait ZZ Walker should supply plenty of topwater action. The ZZ Walker can be worked like a Zara Spook but the soft body will allow more hook ups. Use both the popper and walker since different fish can prefer different bait. For crankbait and surface baits, I use both spinning and casting equipment. When using a spinning rod I prefer a Lamiglas XMG 50 series EXS 703. This is a seven foot rod 3 power rod with an extra fast tip. I spool my reel with Yo-Zuri Hybrid Ultra Soft. Ultra Soft line is a blend of both fluorocarbon and nylon. It is made specifically for spinning tackle and besides being more supple it is abrasion resistant, waterproof and has less stretch then monofilament. My favorite casting rod is a Lamiglas XC 665 spooled with 12 pound Yo-Zuri Hardcore X-Tex Cobra line.

Boat control is important and will depend on the current and the type of boat you have. You can either slip in the river using your outboard, electric trolling motor or anchor. On many occasions you may need to utilize all three methods. I have my best success slipping downstream using my electric trolling motor to slow down my drift. Using this method I can easily target both shoreline structure and mid river rocks.

The smallmouth bite on a river in August can be awesome. Plan to fish with both topwater baits and crankbaits and you should be able to find a pattern. Leave the lakes and flowages to the pleasure boaters and jet skies.

Author Mike Mladenik
Mike Mladenik
Mike has been a Wisconsin Fishing guide for 25 years, authored several books, and has his own Television Show "Fishing with Northwood's Guide Mike Mladenik". Sponsors include Sylvan/Smokercraft Boats, Yamaha Outboards, Zieman Trailers, Lamiglas Rods and Peshtigo River Rentals. For more information go to his website www.bigsmallmouth.com