Three Ways to Catch Bass in the Dog Days

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by Lynn Burkhead

Kelly Jordon Casting for Summer Bass - photo by Seigo Saito

Kelly Jordon Casting for Summer Bass – photo by Seigo Saito

I guess I should be honest from the start.

Honest about the fact that the months of July and August – every triple digit doggone day – are far from being my favorite stops on the annual run through the calendar.

Once upon a time, I used to shy away from fishing during the “dog days” of summer.

Until Palestine, Texas resident – and former Lake Fork guide – Kelly Jordon finally convinced me to go out with him on a miserably hot Lone Star State afternoon.

“I think KJ’s suffered from heatstroke,” I thought as I pulled into the parking lot – a deserted one at that – on a day where the thermometer topped out at 105 degrees.

But Jordon, the only professional angler to have wins on the Bassmaster Elite Series, the FLW Tour, and in Major League Fishing, assured me that heat or no heat, we were going to wear them out.

“Burkhead, the hotter it gets, the more I like it,” grinned KJ. “It gets these fish grouped up on offshore structure and when you catch one, you’re about to catch a bunch of them.”

More than 35 fish later – up to eight-pounds, no less – I was convinced that maybe I had something to learn about catching bass in hot weather.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that anglers like Jordon and Alabama’s Timmy Horton seem to revel in the heat.

No matter how hot it gets, they go about catching big sacks of fish on offshore structure while flinging deep diving crankbaits or magnum spoons like the new eight-inch Ben Parker Magnum Flutter Spoon from Nichols.

If that’s not enough to get me out the door to catch hot weather bass, then a conversation I had with Michael Iaconelli just might be.

Ike, the well known New Jersey bass pro that captured the 2003 Bassmaster Classic with a dramatic last second largemouth, won the biggest title of his career in the broiling heat of a Cajun Country summer.

That bass gave Ike just enough at the weigh-in scales to nip legendary Texas B.A.S.S. pro Gary Klein by less than a pound.

That fish – pulled from the steamy waters of the Louisiana Delta on August 3, 2003 – serves to illustrate Iaconelli’s contention that just because the dog days of summer have arrived, that doesn’t mean that anglers should sit in front of the A.C. sipping ice cold lemonade.

Kelly Jordon with a Nice Summer Bass - photo by Seigo Saito

Kelly Jordon with a Nice Summer Bass – photo by Seigo Saito

“Absolutely (you can still catch bass in late July and August),” said Iaconelli. “It’s all about pattern fishing, just the summer patterns. While everybody is jet skiing and waterskiing and the air temp is 100 degrees and water temp is 90 degrees, you can still catch them.”

To do that, Ike practices three key fish-catching principles when the red liquid threatens to blow the top out of the thermometer again.

“The three things I keep reminding myself of during the summertime are deeper, thicker, or current,” said the seven-time winner on the BASS circuits.

Ike’s prescription of deeper water has a couple of reasons that are easy enough to understand. But a third reason isn’t as readily apparent.

“Bass are going to go deeper to be cooler and to get more oxygen content, but more importantly to follow the food source,” said Iaconelli, who has won more than $2 million in career earnings. “The shad (they feed on) are going deep for the same reasons.”

In other words, follow the food – even in late July and August – and the fish will be there.

“An analogy (I’ve given during) seminars is back home, we (once) had a Wendy’s three or four blocks away from where I lived,” said Ike. “But they moved it about four or five miles away. I didn’t really want to go four or five miles, but I love Wendy’s, so I did.”

“Bass are going to do the same thing – follow the food – and in the summertime, that is going to be deeper.”

The next summer pattern for Ike is thicker, as in thicker cover.

This pattern is the same bass-catching blueprint that Takahiro Omori, the Japanese-born BASS pro and Emory, Texas resident, used to capture the 2004 Classic title on North Carolina’s Lake Wylie a few summers ago.

“In my Classic win and in Tak’s Classic win, where were they?” said Iaconelli. “They were in shallow water under thicker cover.”

“That’s the second summertime pattern – find the thicker cover. Bass like the cooler water, the shade, and the ambush point which thick cover provides.”

Bass seek such thick cover for cooler temperatures and the higher oxygen content that such spots can help provide but also for the shallow water smorgasbord that waits.

“Take a look into that thick cover in the summertime and knock around a bit and you will see bluegills, crawfish, minnows, and such,” said Iaconelli. “Even in the summer, they’ll stay shallow if food is there.”

Where do you find such thick cover? Aquatic vegetation like hydrilla, milfoil, lily pads, cattail beds, and even the Louisiana Delta’s Roseau cane are spots that can provide shady ambush spots for a summertime bass.

And don’t forget to look around boat docks, marina slips, tire reefs and near submerged timber too.

Mike Iaconelli at the 2014 Bassmaster Classic - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

Mike Iaconelli at the 2014 Bassmaster Classic – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

Iaconelli’s third summertime pattern– finding and fishing some sort of current or moving water – was one factor that helped him win the 2003 Classic in a shallow lagoon not far from where the Mississippi River spilled into the Gulf of Mexico near Venice, La.

“My win incorporated this third summertime pattern, but Jay Yelas’ (2002 Classic) win is probably a better example of how the presence of current can help,” said Iaconelli.

Why? Ike says that game fish will key on the cooler temperatures and higher oxygen content that moving water can bring.

Not to mention the food coming downstream on such aquatic conveyor belts.

Take Yelas’ winning pattern for example. For those who need a memory boost, the Oregon based pro ran away with the 2002 Classic by keying on moving water below the Logan Martin Dam on Alabama’s Lay Lake.

When the dam’s turbines began to churn each day, Yelas used a black, brown, and pumpkinseed 5/8-ounce jig to fool a number of big bass into taking the bait.

So effective was the pattern that Yelas landed two six-pound bass and one five-pound bass from the current flowing beneath the shade of a single overhanging shoreline tree.

That trio of fish helped Yelas weigh-in a three-day total of 14 bass at 45-pounds, 13-ounces, more than enough to beat runner-up Aaron Martens’ tally of 15 bass at 39-pounds, nine-ounces.

“It’s like the fish are so competitive that they leapfrog each other up to the head of the current to get that bait that is washing down,” Yelas told Bassmaster.com right after his win.

Such current that anglers can target results from such things as power generation, downstream water flow, and of course, wind conditions.

But there’s also another way current can be found in the late summer.

“Take fishing in Texas on Lake Lewisville,” said Iaconelli. “On a still hot day with no wind and no water moving, you’ll see water skiers out there.

Mike Iaconelli On Stage at the 2014 Bassmaster Classic - photo by Dan O'Sullivan

Mike Iaconelli On Stage at the 2014 Bassmaster Classic – photo by Dan O’Sullivan

“If they’re constantly moving through a (particular) spot, that produces a little water movement (and) that can stir the bait up, and boom, the fish start moving (and feeding).”

What’s the moral of that story?

“You have to always be aware of water movement, regardless of how it is created,” said Iaconelli.

Aside from these three patterns, Iaconelli also recommends that summertime anglers try and fish on cooler days or during low light periods. There’s little doubt that the fish will be a little bit more active during such reprieves from the searing summer heat.

But in Iaconelli’s mind, any day that an angler can get out on the water – even on those sizzling dog days of late summer – is a good day to go out and try and catch a bass.

“Even if that’s the only time you have to fish – during the heat of summer – I’d rather go fishing than water skiing,” said Iaconelli.

“It’s part of the puzzle (of fishing) to me and I enjoy going out there and figuring out how to catch them even when others aren’t doing it.”

Take Iaconelli’s recommendations to heart and you just might join him in catching a few late summertime bass.

While all of your fishing buddies are sitting in front of the A.C.