Some tips for catching shallow water summer bass

Published 1:24 pm Monday, July 3, 2023

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When I checked the thermometer, just before predicted thunderstorms arrived, it read 86 degrees.

That’s hot, especially hot if you’re a fish that can’t retreat into an air-conditioned man cave when the mercury is towering.

And in turn, that makes it a little tough on the fishermen who are chasing them, especially bass fishermen. And especially those bass fishermen who like to fish in shallow water.

Marty Stone is one of those guys.

A successful former bass pro who grew up in Rockingham County, graduated from Appalachian State and lived in Kernersville and Fayettevill before recently moving to John H. Kerr (Buggs Island) Lake near the Virginia border, Stone’s idea of a depth finder is sticking his rod down in the water until it touches bottom.

That’s how shallow he wants to be fishing.

Now the lead commentator on Major League Fishing’s television show, Stone said that fishermen who love shallow water don’t need to panic just because most of the bass in the lake have moved deep to escape that layer of hot water close to the surface.

At least not yet.

“I’ll tell you, we’ve had a lot of rain, and most of our lakes are full, and the water hasn’t really gotten blazing hot yet,” Stone said. “And not all of those bass go deep in the summer.”

Stone has a multi-pronged game plan for summer bass.

First, he expects to find a decent topwater bite at first light.

“I would be looking around rocky corners, rip rap, the ends of sea walls,” he said. “You want to fish for a reaction bite. You fish a walking bait or a popping bait – even a buzzbait will work. And you don’t use a pop-pop-pause cadence. You want to work it fast, to get that reaction bite.”

Second, Stone knows that the water under boat docks and piers is a little cooler because of the shade. “Fish the shady spots around boat docks,” he said. “That bite can last all day. You can swim a jig or flip and pitch soft plastics. That’s pretty simple.”

Third, Stone knows that bass are attracted to places where they can readily find food. In the summer – especially around the full moon – that means bream beds. The feisty little sunfish set up it the shallows, finning out dish-shaped beds in shallow water where they lay and fertilize their eggs. A sprawling bream bed might contain dozens of fish – and bass know it.

“For the most part, the big mass of bluegill haven’t gone to the beds yet,” he said. “The bass will really key in on those bream beds.”

Expect bass to be outside the beds in slightly deeper water, waiting to slide into the shallows for a quick meal. Stone said to fish a topwater popping bait – “especially a popping frog” – swim a jig or fish a soft-plastic stickbait (think Senko) rigged wacky style, with the point of the hook through the middle of the bait, leaving both ends to wobble as it falls through the water column.”

Last but not least – especially when it gets “really hot” – Stone said to head up the river in a reservoir or look in the backs of “active” creeks that have current.

“A lot of bass go to those places,” he said, explaining that current both cools the water a bit and delivers a lot of dissolved oxygen, which will allow bass to be more active in hot conditions.

“It’s really River Fishing 101,” he said. “There are a lot of baits you can throw: shallow-running crankbaits, swim jigs, even buzzbaits. And you can pitch or flip soft-plastic baits around any kind of cover that breaks the current.”

Record blueline tilefish

Anybody know what a blueline tilefish looks like?

Well, if you answered in the negative, you’re not alone. It’s an extremely tasty bottomfish that lives in extremely deep water off the south Atlantic coast, often out into 100 fathoms or better, and typically on steep ledges.

And you thought grouper and red snapper liked deep water.

Well, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has certified a new state-record blueline tilefish that was caught on June 11 near Tower B offshore of Nags Head. The fish weighed 17 pounds, 1.9 ounces, was 36 inches long and 20½ inches in girth, and it was caught by Thomas Adkins of Sutherland, Va.

Adkins was using cut bait, a Trevala rod and Shimano 700 reel when he caught the fish, on an outing with his father. The previous state record was a 16-pound, 8-ounce fish caught off Oregon Inlet in 2004.