Late spring and early summer bring some of the best bass fishing of the year. These transitional months will find bass at various depths across most reservoirs in the country, allowing anglers to target them in a variety of approaches. Consider that in any given bass population, there are those later spawners that can still be caught shallow, as well as post-spawn fish aggressively roaming shallow flats seeking payback to the hoards of nest-robbing bluegill. Finally, there’s yet another population of bass that has packed up and moved offshore for the summer, and these fish will typically congregate in large hungry schools. Late spring and early summer offer truly magical bass fishing. Each of these populations will provide ample opportunity for a variety of lures and techniques, so let’s examine three key strategies from shallow to deep water.
A squarebill crankbait allows an angler to cover vast stretches of water in a relatively short amount of time with the classic “power technique” of chunkin’ and windin’. It’s a key lure to target those groups of bass remaining shallow, especially when using bluegill-patterned color schemes.
One such crankbait ideally suited for the task at hand is the LIVETARGET Sunfish Squarebill, available in two sizes: 2-3/8” or 2-3/4”. Both cranks will run approximately 2 to 4 feet deep, and both sizes perfectly mimic the small bluegill that makes up the primary forage of shallow bass. The LIVETARGET Sunfish Squarebill has that reckless, erratic action that perfectly imitates a sunfish that’s wandered into the wrong neighborhood and is trying to get away post-haste. The color scheme of the LIVETARGET Sunfish Squarebill is a virtual replica of the thousands of bluegill the bass are chasing and is offered in high gloss or natural matte finish – if the water is extremely clear, try the matte finish.
The primary approach with the squarebill is to fish it like a linebacker plays football: looking for contact by aggressively crashing the lure into any shallow cover, including bushes, rocks, stumps, or vegetation.
When shallow bass aren’t out chasing bluegill, they’re often buried up in shady hideouts; therefore, a change in approach to targeting the heaviest cover in the area is required. Perhaps the best “bite” in bass fishing is the hollow body frog, as these weedless surface baits can be placed where no other lure dare enter – often coming out of such places with a 5 pound bass attached. Hollow body frogs are also excellent choices for those late spawners that are still on the nest, and a frog paused above the bed can draw tremendous strikes from protective bass. Depending upon your body of water, cover types for this technique are shallow flats and points with brush, vegetation or even overhanging boat docks.
Hollow body frogs are often notorious for missed fish caused by the frog body interfering with the hook set, inhibiting the barb from getting through the bass’ jaw. One remedy for this issue is the soft, collapsible design of the LIVETARGET Hollow Body Frog. This is a highly detailed, extremely realistic design offered in three sizes: 1-3/4”, 2-1/4”, and the jumbo 2-5/8”. These frogs provide the classic “walk the dog” action with the slightest downward twitch of the rod tip and are available in ten colors, allowing the angler to choose from the bright whites and yellows to the darker tones in gray or black and everything in between.
Pulling quality bass from thick cover is not for the timid, nor should one venture into these areas without the proper line. Pair the LIVETARGET Hollow Body Frog with TUF-LINE 4ORCE four-strand braid in 50 to 65 pound-test weights. The TUF-LINE 4ORCE braid is a thin diameter line that easily cuts through shallow aquatic vegetation yet has the strength to pull over-sized bass from the heaviest of tangles.
Finally, one should gear up for those offshore bass, as early summer provides some of the best offshore fishing of the year. Many bass in a reservoir will abandon the shallows soon after they spawn and congregate in large schools on offshore structure. The appeal of the drop shot is the ability to present a subtle soft plastic lure around offshore targets with precision. Casting the rig and dragging it through brush piles can be highly effective, as can vertically dropping the bait to bass directly under the front sonar.
Small profile plastics with little to no built-in wiggle often produce best on the drop shot in clear water, as the offering closely imitates the buffet of small minnows found offshore. The LIVETARGET Ghost Tail Minnow just may be the ultimate small baitfish imitation. This soft plastic is available in 3-3/4”, 4-1/2”, and 5” lengths and comes in six color schemes that could easily be mistaken for the real thing when laying on the boat deck. Dress the Ghost Tail Minnow on a Mustad Double Wide Gap Drop Shot Hook (size 2 is usually appropriate), designed specifically for nose-hooking a soft plastic for the drop shot technique. This Mustad hook is small but powerful, featuring a needle-point and a wide bite for consistent hook-ups.
When vertically fishing the drop shot, a 3/8 to 1/2 oz slim profile tungsten drop shot weight attached 18” below the hook gets the rig to the bottom quickly, yet minimizes snags in rock and woody cover. When casting the drop shot, a lighter offering of 1/4 to 3/8 oz is often adequate. The Mustad Tungsten TitanX Skinny Drop Shot Weight is perfectly suited for either vertical dropping or casting.
Of course, the drop shot is best presented with spinning tackle, and most accomplished drop shot anglers across the country have adopted braided line as the mainline on their spinning reel, finished with a 10 to 15 foot fluorocarbon leader. The low stretch characteristic of braid provides solid hookups with a quick lift of the rod tip, while the fluorocarbon leader eliminates line visibility underwater. TUF-LINE DOMIN8 is a smooth-surfaced eight strand braid that casts well and is very quiet coming through the rod guides. Fifteen pound-test DOMIN8 combined with an 8 pound-test fluorocarbon leader is the ideal combo for clearwater bass.
Some of the best bass fishing of the year is happening right now, so get out and enjoy it before summer’s heat changes the equation once again.