Late Summer Largemouthby Mike Mladenik
Mid to late summer is not the most popular period for many bass anglers even though they have many options. Whether you choose to fish for smallmouth or largemouth in the upper Midwest this can be a time of plenty both for big fish and action. As usual the key is concentrating on the proper water and using the proper presentations. While my clients catch many nice bass in August if we were to fish different lakes only a few miles down the road the fishing would be very tough.
For largemouth bass I have had my best success on medium sized natural lakes. These are the lakes that are hot in spring but not given a second though in August. The ideal lake will be less than 300 acres, have limited structure with distinct weedlines. It is also important to choose a lake with limited weed growth and avoid those shallow weed chocked lakes. In the Northwood's many of these lakes will have limited walleye populations and largemouth bass populations can be very high with a good ratio of big fish present. Due to the limited structure bass are easy to locate and you can quickly get on fish.
The time of day you fish the lake is important with early morning being prime and weeds being critical. Since we are dealing with lakes with limited weed growth finding the restaurant is not a problem. During the low light conditions bass will move into the sparse weeds to feed but move back along the weedline and deeper water as the sun rises. While they can be caught later in the day you will need to use different presentations.
As the sun rises it is hard to beat a spinnerbait or soft plastic jerk bait since bass are feeding on some type of baitfish. I use both and usually catch bass on both. If you are fishing with a partner then each of you should use different bait. When fishing spinnerbaits or soft plastic jerk baits I like a 6' 6" or 7' casting rod with a soft action. The longer rod acts as a shock absorber and will land more marginally hooked bass than fast-reacting stiffer rod.
When fishing early morning weeds minnow type jerk baits are preferred. They should be fished without any weight since you want the bait to ride over the weeds. Regardless the water clarity, sunny or overcast, I use minnow imitation colors. White and silver fleck are the top colors. Since bass are feeding on minnows in shallow water, you need to match the hatch as much as possible. Work the jerk bait with a series of fast short twitches. You want to get the attention of the bass and let the bass engulf the bait on the pause.
When rigging a jerkbait weedless I use only the new Sickle Hooks. These Sickle hooks have a 90 degree bend and ultra sharp point. Since I have been using sickle Hooks my hooking percentages have gone up. The unique bend also helps the hook stay in the mouth of even the of the most acrobatic bass.
Topwater action can also be explosive at the wee hours of the morning. If you are targeting big bass it is tough to beat a surface bait. Many northern bass anglers fail to use this deadly bait. While it may not work at high noon it will put huge northern largemouth in the boat during the wee hours of the day.
If overcast conditions prevail you can expect largemouth to we active in the shallow weeds throughout the day but once the sun is high look for them to relocate along the weedline. When fishing the weedline you will need to change to finesse presentations. Start off fishing upper edge of the weeds with a soft plastic jerkbait. Let the jerkbait slowly drop four to five feet than give it a few light twitches. If no strike is felt continue to let the bait drop and repeat the slow twitches. This takes patience but will catch big bass.
If the lake you are fishing has deep weedlines you will need to fish them accordingly. A few lakes I fish have weedlines as deep as 18 foot. To effectively fish these weedlines you will need to fish both parallel to the weeds and vertical. When fishing parallel to the weeds my favorite presentation is Carolina rigs. I work my Carolina Rigs with either lizards or four inch soft plastic jerk baits.
Small patches of sand grass which can be picked up with your locator can be sleeper areas for big largemouth. These small patches are usually well out from the weedline avoiding most bass fisherman. I ran into this scenario years ago when drifting slip sinker rigs for walleye. We marked fish in the grass but to our surprise they were big largemouth. Needless to say I have been fishing this pattern for largemouth and smallmouth bass ever since. Carolina rigs and drop shot presentations have proven most effective for catching these grass related bass. Largemouth will also attack tubes fished over the grass. These small patches of sand grass have been my little secret for years and they can be found in just about every clear water natural lake in the Northwood's.
A good evening bite also occurs in the shallow weeds. The evening bit may at times be more intense but it will be for a short period of time. On lakes with heavy boat traffic during the day the evening bite is excellent. You can work a weedline in the early evening and have little success but right at dusk the action can be incredible. The same presentations that worked in the morning are productive at dusk. However if muskies are present they tend to dominate the weedline before dusk. If you are looking for walleye they will move into these same weeds after dark.
These are just a few options open to bassers in the Northwood's. With most of the action and boat traffic on the larger lakes besides catching fish you will also get a bit of quiet and relaxation.