Day 1: 50 fish, including 20 3-plus pound smallies, spots and largemouths. Our best five went about 19 pounds with the biggest at 5 1/2 pounds.
Day 2: 65 fish, including one 5-pounder, four 4s, 10 3s, and a bunch of decent bass. Most fish were largemouths, but we also had one good smallie and one good spot. Our best five went a little over 20 pounds.
Day 3: 61 fish with a few 3s, some 2s, and a 6-pounder. Our best five were about 17 pounds.
On the first day there was a good shad spawn going on in the main lake. We targeted fish busting shad for the first couple of hours, though once the sun came up the surface activity subsided. We continued to target the same areas, but instead dropped to a depth of 10 to 20 feet using a Revenge Deep Runner spinnerbait in a shad color with silver and gold willow blades. We’d cast the spinnerbait and let it fall to the bottom, then reel it back slowly until a fish to loaded up on it. The spinnerbait bite lasted an hour or so before tapering off. After that we pitched dropshots and worm-dressed shaky heads to the bank, working them down to about 20 or 25 feet. The worm bite lasted most of day but slowed down in the end.
On day two we focused our efforts in the main lake. There was a slight breeze blowing and we couldn’t find a shad spawn, but, it being summer, I pretty much throw topwater every morning looking for a big bite anyway. We only connected with two fish this day, but one was a 4 1/2-pounder.
After the sun got up we tossed spinnerbaits and jerkbaits. We got a few on the spinnerbait and none on the jerkbait of any quality. After seeing only small fish on subsurface reaction baits, we went to the same drop shot and shaky head as the day before. And suddenly, the action heated up. By mid-morning we were fishing deep main lake points, catching both a largemouth and spot over 3 pounds each. After hitting a dozen main lake points we moved north looking for a slightly deeper water (10-20 feet) on the flats and the fish were stacked there. We landed about 40 fish between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., including a couple of 4s, a 5, and quite a few over 3. Most were largemouth but a few nice smallies were mixed in.
We launched near the dam on day three and ran to some steeper banks dotted with rocks and brush. We quickly got a 3-pound largemouth on a white Yamamoto D Shad in followed by a 3-pound spot on a DUO Pencil. After that it got a little tough. We jumped around from point to point and cove to cove through the narrows and only landed 18 more bass. Eighteen fish isn’t bad, but they were small and much harder to catch than the bass in the main lake.
We fired up the Mercury and headed to the main lake, avoiding areas we had previously fished. I like to keep things fresh unless in a tournament, and in that case I’ll pound it.
Using the drop shot and shakyhead, we hit main lake points and coves from 5 to 20 feet and landed 43 additional fish by 3 p.m., including a 6-pounder.
As summer progresses the bite will slow; a decent day will yield 10 to 20 bass rather than 40 to 60. You’ll have to move around and hit more of the high percentage spots until you find some active fish.
For example, we fished laydowns in the main lake during the mid-summer. I could see fish on my Garmin
7612, but they weren’t biting. So, I lowered the Aqua-Vu and there were about 20 bass just outside the laydown. With this knowledge, we then slowed down and scaled down our baits, fishing them where we knew the fish to be holding. Still no luck.
We then ran to the next tree. There were fish there as well but no takers. Now that we knew where the fish were, we ran similar areas. Switching up to a 1/6-ounce ball head jig with a 2.8 shad-colored Keitech, I let the swimbait fall slowly to the bottom. Once on the bottom, I would life and drop. Wham! A 3 1/2-pound spotted bass inhales the small swimbait, followed by a 2-pounder. Believing the fish to be suspended and wanting a small slow-moving bait, we continued on with the Keitech, but included a 5-inch wacky Senko to our presentations. We hit another tree, and bingo, we got one close to 5, a 3-pounder, and another small keeper.
We were now starting to figure things out, but unlike in the early summer, the fish are finicky and only biting in certain areas. With this knowledge we can hit these high percentage places, making a few casts before moving on, covering more water and catching more fish.
Once we edged towards the afternoon the fishing changed yet again and we were no longer catching them outside the tress. On the prowl once more, we headed toward the western shoreline and started working points with a spider grub and a wacky Senko. This worked well for the smallmouth and we landed about 10 fish during the mid afternoon, many of them in the 3- to 4-pound class.
Fishing changes constantly. Paying attention to the seasonal patterns and keeping an open mind will help you to become a better angler.
Mark Lassagne is the creator of Bass Angler Magazine, a professional tournament angler, and guide on Berryessa and the Cal Delta. More about Mark can be found here: www.marklassagne.com.