Fishing in summer and early fall can be very frustrating because several patterns can emerge at one time, making bass hard to locate. At this time of year, fish tend to suspend in open water, or roam and chase schools of shad.
While fishing your favorite summertime spots, keep an open eye for signs of active schools. Minnows skipping out of the water usually mean bass are chasing shad just under the surface.
To get the most out of my summer fishing trips, I have a plan of attack in place when targeting summer schooling fish.
Top water baits are extremely effective when bass group together and herd shad to the surface and literally work into a feeding frenzy. I prefer a “walk the dog” retrieve, presenting the bait in a back-and-forth type of motion. Using a loop knot on the front of the bait allows it to corner turn and glide from side to side much better than a conventional palomar knot.
The top water baits I have tied on and ready to cast when schooling fish are active are Spooks and Lucky Craft Sammy’s. They’re great baits and work really well, but experiment with size and color to determine what will work best for that particular day.
Being able to cast long distances is definitely important. More often than not, schooling fish bust the surface just outside of normal casting range, and a long cast can also help insure that you don’t spook the school, possibly causing it to disappear.
Using the longest medium action rod possible, braided line and a heavy lure can generate an extra 15 to 20 yards while still allowing for a good hook set.
Braided line is also essential because it floats, keeping the bait from sinking and killing the action.
When the school dives and the surface activity dissipates, the top water bite becomes less effective. At this time, I pick up big spoons like the Strike King in 4 or 5.5-inch sexy shad. I rig it on 7-foot or longer medium to medium heavy action Carrot Stix rod with 15- to 20-pound test fluorocarbon line. Use a reel with a high retrieval speed, 6:4 to 1 gear ratio like a Team Lew’s or Tournament Pro.
I throw the spoon around areas where the school recently appeared allowing the bait to flutter down on slack line. When the bite comes, you’ll feel a tick and the line will jump. When this happens, start reeling fast.
With the spoon, bass tend to jump a lot and with only a treble hook using a medium to medium heavy action rod will allow you to fight the fish and still keep a good hook set.
Again, when the bite dissipates, just be patient and wait for the school to reappear.
Try these tips for the summer schools and I guarantee you will catch more fish.