IT MAY BE hard to describe the summer of 2020 as typical but we have not lost all of the experiences that exemplify what we have come to love about August in New England. Luckily, many summertime activities have remained constant. In addition to burgers and dogs cooking on a grill and early-morning sunrises, the days are still long, the nights are still cool, and outdoor adventures are available for everyone.
We have reached the point of this summer where water temperatures are probably at their highest in our lakes and ponds. This translates into a short-lived period where certain fish are at their most active. Specifically, large and smallmouth bass are aggressively feeding and enjoying what is, by comparison, a short growing season.
Since I was very young, August bass fishing has been one of my favorite activities. Early mornings are quiet, calm and the fish are almost always biting. Midday sun and heat make for sunburned shoulders while the bass hide in more comfortable conditions. As the sun sets, the wind dies down and the day comes to an end, bass get frisky again and strike at any food source that gets near them.
Based solely on their name, largemouth bass sometimes get the unfair stereotype of eating more or larger foods than their small-mouthed cousins. This assumption is partly true and I find myself casting large, heavy baits at them. They are often found in still water and throwing a loud bait is far from delicate. A heavy jig or spinnerbait might hit the water with a loud splash and seem ineffective, but this type of presentation often gets the attention of bass nearby.
I typically keep three rods locked and loaded for bass. Rather than change the lines or lures, I grab whichever combination seems most appropriate for the water I find myself in.
Fortunately, largemouth bass are not finicky in their food choices. There are a lot of baitfish swimming along and, by August, they have reached a size that makes them a valuable forage.
It is with this in mind that I chose crankbaits that approach four inches in length. A bait like this will get the attention of big fish, but I’m always amazed at those fish that seem too small to have attacked it. These fish can be very aggressive, regardless of their size.
Another favorite lure is a heavy jig decorated by some plastic bait that looks like a fish/worm hybrid.
Sometimes referred to as creature baits, these brightly colored creations can be bounced on the bottom, retrieved in swimming pulses, or danced through aquatic vegetation.
Another summertime standby is the wacky-rigged worm. In this approach, a circle hook pierces an evenly tapered worm in the center and is twitched slowly through bass cover. The worm moves more like a bird as it flaps through the water and the movement is, for some reason, irresistible to hungry bass.
In most events, I start and end the day with a topwater bait. Fished best on calm water, these floating lures can bring ferocious strikes from fish who often leap out of the water in their aggressive approach to feeding. Catching any fish on the surface is a lot of fun.
Summer means many things to many people. This year, I’m glad to have bass fishing as a familiar favorite and a reminder of the resiliency of nature and a reassuring sense of normalcy.