I realize that the official summer fishing season is still about a month away according to the calendar. However, with some hot weather arriving this week, the fish will begin thinking about where they will locate for the summer months. They move to summer locations based on water temperature and not the calendar.
Due to COVID-19, I have spent some time fishing and some time thinking about the upcoming summer fishing season. I love fishing in the summer.
Now that the spawn is over for all the fish species that inhabit Lakes Oconee and Lake Sinclair, what techniques can anglers use to catch those fish from their summer hangouts? Over the next few weeks, we will look at largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and hybrid/striped bass and see where they spend the summer and how anglers can catch them in those locations where they take up residence.
This week we will look at the largemouth bass that have been in shallow water spawning and then resting after the spawn and have been relatively easy to catch for the last few weeks in shallow water. Anglers using the same techniques they have used before, during the spawn and shortly after the spawn, will still catch a few largemouth bass but there are better ways to catch largemouth bass with summer approaching.
Now that fishing for largemouth bass is about to enter the early summertime period, how do anglers continue catching those fish? To catch largemouth consistently during the summer months, the angler must adapt his/her methods and understand where the largemouth bass spends the summer.
Basically, a two-part approach will allow anglers to continue catching largemouth and in some cases in greater numbers than was the case during the spring. First, understand that largemouth will still frequent shallow water especially during the first hour or two of daylight during the summer months. On cloudy days the fish will remain even longer in the shallows feeding as long as baitfish are present.
A good starting point for anglers is in shallow water around grass, brushpiles, docks and boathouses. Those places offer shade and food. Plastic baits, topwater plugs, and crankbaits will catch those shallow fish. As the sun begins to get higher in the sky, those shallow fish become uncomfortable due to the light penetration of the water. With no rain in the forecast, both lakes will begin to clear increasing light penetration in shallow water.
The waters of Lakes Sinclair and Oconee do not stratify, so the fish can be just about anywhere in the water column as long as baitfish are available at that location. The one thing that will cause largemouth to leave the shallow water areas is light penetration. If the largemouth cannot find comfortable surroundings that include shade and baitfish, they will move to deeper parts of the lake.
Start your day by spending an hour or two concentrating on shallow water with the baits I mentioned and then head for deeper water. That deeper water may be off a point, near or on a hump or on a ledge. I would suggest you concentrate your efforts in water that is eight to 24 feet deep since those depths seem to whole the most fish day in and day out during the summer months.
Next, anglers should look for the presence of baitfish in those locations. If baitfish are not present, you pretty much are wasting your time fishing a location even if it looks good on your depth finder. Do not worry about water temperature because the water temperature will be about the same at two feet as it is at 25 feet.
The tools you need to fish deeper water are your depth/fish finder (with GPS) and some buoy markers to mark and study underwater spots. Largemouth bass will group together in large schools during the summer so if you can manage to locate a school, you stand a chance to catch a bunch from one location.
Lures for catching deepwater largemouth during the summer include Carolina rigged plastics, crankbaits, spoons, football jigs, shaky heads, and Texas rigged worms. My favorites are the Carolina rig and the crankbait. I use the Carolina rig to search out areas especially when the fish are less aggressive. I turn to the crankbait when the fish are really active.
One ingredient that will greatly improve your chance of catching summertime largemouth is the presence of current. The current generated in both Lakes Sinclair and Oconee from the pump back facilities at the Wallace Dam just about ensure that some current will be present each day during the summer especially during the weekdays.
The baitfish and the largemouth bass will relate to underwater structure differently depending on which way the current is flowing through the Wallace Dam. A few feet of movement by the baitfish and largemouth and where you are placing your bait may be the difference between success and failure. You have to be aware of what the current is doing to be successful during the summer months.
Catching largemouth bass from deep water during the summer months can be both challenging and rewarding. I know I am a little early discussing summer fishing but get ready because a little hot weather will move us right into the summer fishing season regardless of the calendar.
Good fishing, stay safe and see you next week.
Outdoors columnist Bobby Peoples can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.