Bass are the game fish most synonymous with the hot and sometimes humid days of summer.
Both largemouths and smallmouths do fine in the tepid water temperatures so typical of this time of year, but during the summer, bigger bass tend to be easier to catch during the low-light periods of dusk or dawn or after dark. And for bass anglers, those are also the most pleasant times to be on the water during a typical summer weather.
That doesn't mean, however, that you can't catch bass during the day in the summer; you just have to make some adjustments in strategy and tactics.
I personally believe that bass do a lot more feeding during the day in the summer than most anglers are willing to give them credit for. Just because they aren't eating what we might be throwing at them doesn't mean they aren't eating.
Because nature provides bass with a veritable bounty of food sources in the summer, these highly effective predators don't have to work too hard to make living right now.
That is why so-called finesse fishing can be the most successful approach. To catch bass during the day, think: subtle, slower and smaller.
The fish seem to know instinctively now that it is not necessary to chase their food all over the lake, but rather to wait and ambush prey. In simplest terms, the fish are conditioned to wait for an easy meal, so give them what they are looking for.
Choose lures that can be fished slowly and precisely around the cover or structure where bass are likely to be hanging out. Soft-plastic baits such as worms, tubes and lizards are all excellent choices for such work.
Downsizing your lures can also increase fishing success in the summer. Instead of 6- or 7-inch worms or lizards, go with four-inch baits.
This summer I have been doing quite well with the so-called teaser-sized tubes, which measure about 2 3/4 inches long in comparison with the conventional 3 1/2-inch tubes. A Mizmo teaser in a color they call "Irish Coffee" has been magic on river bass during the past month or so.
The Cotton Cordell Big O in the 1/4-ounce size has been a favorite summertime crankbait for at least 20 years. This shallow-running lure is about 2 inches long. When I need a smaller crankbait that dives a little deeper than the Big O, I now go with the Strike King Bleeding Bait in the size they call a Mini 3.
Last summer I discovered another deadly summer crankbait. The Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Micro Light is just 1 3/8 inches long, weighs just 1/6 ounce and comes in none great colors, but this tiny lure has proven to be super effective for river smallmouths.
I even caught a 21-inch brown trout on a Micro Light in the Juniata River last fall after the river waters cooled off. I do, however, find the hooks that come on the Micro Light a tad small for targeting bass, so I replace them with size 10 trebles.
It might seem more logical that the bass would prefer a bigger meal at this time of year when they are chowing down the heaviest. For sure, there are times when a bass will successfully attack and eat almost anything it can swallow. But I think there are several reasons why summer bass are more easily tempted by smaller offerings.
The water in rivers and many lakes tends to be clear in the summer, giving bass a better look than usual at any lure they see.
A bigger lure will be even easier to see, and possibly easier to detect as a fake and something to be avoided, especially on those waters that see a lot of fishing pressure.
The young of the year minnows, frogs and other aquatic critters that bass eat are often still not full grown by midsummer, so the bass are seeing a lot of smaller prey. Therefore, using smaller lures matches the size of more natural foods this time of year.