By Jody Only with Mark Lassagne
Put aside your frustrations, focus, and fish.
Although there are differences within every fishery, an important commonality is that they each hold one or more places that normally house quality fish. This big bass locale may be a known community hole or it may be a secret honey-hole – regardless, if it is a place that you want to target, you need to know how to find it.
“When you combine more than one big fish place, your chances of success increase dramatically,” said Lassagne as he listed five key factors that help him narrow down the big fish spots.
If you could only have one item in a lake or river to fish – weeds would be the best. Take a look inside a patch of hydrilla or under a hyacinth mat and you will find the basics needs of bass survival. Vegetation is inundated with bait fish, crawdads and a variety of other food sources. It also provides cover for shade from heat or warmth from temperature drops. And, don’t forget, healthy foliage also offers increased oxygen – another necessity of life.
Whether floating or submerged, you want green weeds as they are they oxygen producers. Once the vegetation turns yellow or brown, it is dying off and it will rob the water of oxygen, pushing the creatures the fish eat away from it.
Algae is another substance that can cause a lack of oxygen. Solid mats of algae will block out the sun ,causing the vegetation underneath to die, again robbing the area of precious oxygen. An exception would be an area with current, as the current will carry fresh water under the mat, bringing with it more O2.
The key to weeds or vegetation is to have some depth, combined with an irregularity. If you have a long straight weed line, the fish will be scattered, but add in a point, channel swing or that “something different” and you’ve got yourself a sweet spot. That mixture of vegetation, depth and an irregularity will be the makings for a good bass.
Vegetation can be fished by flippin, punchin, Senko or a frog over the top. If I had to pick one way to get quality fish in the boat it would be punchin’ submerged weeds. Isolated vegetation with a little depth is probably the best place to hold a summer giant and the best reason for a heavy duty set up. The combo I use for gettin’ through the thick stuff is an Okuma TCS 7.11 XH Rod combined with a Helios 7.3:1 reel spooled with 65 lb braid. My punch rig would include a 1 oz. River2Sea Trash Bomb weight, 4/0 Gamakatsu Heavy Cover hook with a green pumpkin Yamamoto Flapping Hog.
Ensuring there is deep water fairly close by like points, creek channels, channel swings, edges, and ledges is always a good bet. You can look for depth adjacent to shallow flats along transition points that the fish can move up or off of.
Deep water ledges can be key in the summer, but most times are best when combined with other key items.
In deeper water you may have to employ finesse methods to get bit. Points – and especially points with irregularities are the number one spot for deep water, summer bass.
Points with a cove or a creek are better especially on the deep channel side. When fishing a long break or ledge, you are again looking for the irregularities.
On lakes that are completely void of cover or vegetation, the bass will specifically seek out deep water, and so should you.
When fishing deep I’ll opt for a moving bait. I will begin with a deep crankbait, slow rolling a spinnerbait or dragging a swimbait. I may then move to a jig or weightless Senko. If I still haven’t found a productive presentation, I will go to a finesse method. When employing a finesse method, it is common to have to weed through smaller fish to find the kicker.
Current can come from a tidal flow, wind, a power-generating lake, or from the use of a dam or pumps. Current is important for a couple of reasons. First, it gets the summer bass moving and will put them places where they are much easier to catch.
Bass will position on the down current side of a point or break. Remember to combine the current with the cover for a better opportunity at bigger fish. Think dock edges, shade lines, drop offs, anyplace where a bass can ambush its prey and look for the side with moving water.
Studies show that bass don’t mind being in the sun; however, I have seen many more big bass under docks in the shade than most anywhere.
Shade comes in all shape and sizes. Shade lines act like a moving piece of cover. Bass see the shadow like it is structure. They will use a bridge piling shadow like it’s a stump on the shoreline or the shadow of a roofline of a dock, even that shadow descends 30 feet away from the dock.
If there are shadows in open water, small flukes or weightless Senko’s worked along the shade line edge work well.
Structure is the lake bottom and contours; cover can be flooded trees, a laydown, standing timber, a sunken barge, a dock, tires an old barrel etc. Cover can be good during low-light situations, but it can be even more effective when combined with other cover – like brush that is under a dock.
If you’re fishing cover with current, a weightless or nail-weighted Senko is very effective. This Senko setup will also work well as a follow up bait for a missed topwater bite.
When the bass want something moving faster, a ChatterBait or vibrating jig with a full-sized Yamamoto Swimming Senko is a good big fish bait. A high percentage color is matching a green pumpkin lure with a coordinated trailer.
Cover (specifically docks) can provide great big bass fishing all summer long. It might take a little practice, but skipping a jig under a dock can pay big dividends. If you’re having trouble skipping a jig, try a tube rigged on a darthead or a Texas-rigged Senko – weightless.
If you see big fish under the docks, they probably see you too; so make a note of where they are. Later, come back – being as stealthy as possible and skip a smoke or clear colored tube under the dock.
One summer at Clear Lake in California, we caught a 30 lb. bag (two days in a row) skipping a Damiki Mamba Jig under the docks, ripping the bait up very fast, letting it fall, then ripping it again. Other anglers who were just working the jig back slowly or in a normal fashion could only manage about 15 lbs. This showed its good to experiment with presentation and retrieve. Every lake is different, and every day the fish can be different.
QUANTITY VS. QUALITY
Nothing is more fun than a big bass crushing buzzbait in low light conditions. You won’t get a lot of bites once the sun comes up, but the ones you get are usually good ones.
When targeting “tournament quality” or bigger bass, that is something you must keep in mind. The bites will be less, but the fish will be bigger. Some days you may want to fish for quantity, but when you want to fish for quality – you need to get into that “five bite” mentality and know that if you grind it out, you just may get that 30 lb bag.
My name is Mark Lassagne (luh-SAYN). I live in Dixon, California, and proudly served our great nation as a US Marine. As a competitor, I love tournament bass fishing and have had some outstanding success competing up and down the West Coast. Besides tournament fishing, I own and run Bass Angler Magazine – a nationwide publication focusing on the how-to aspects of bass fishing.