Once upon a time, I didn’t know very much about bass fishing.
And while that is still very often true, my outdoor writing career path has allowed me to spend a fair amount of time hanging around with those who do know a thing or two about catching lunker largemouth bass.
One of those anglers is Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour fisherman Kelly Jordon, a Flint, Texas resident who I first met in New Orleans back in July 2001 while covering the Bassmaster Classic for ESPNOutdoors.com.
In the years since then, KJ has gone on to become a good friend, someone that I’ve covered in a variety of bass fishing tournaments, shared some meals with, fished together for bass on occasion, and even a couple of times, spent some time deer hunting together along with my two sons.
All of the above includes a July day a number of years ago when Jordon convinced me to go out onto Lake Fork with him on a miserably hot Lone Star State afternoon.
“I think KJ’s suffered from heatstroke,” I thought as I pulled into the Lake Fork Marina 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 as he piloted his Skeeter bass boat away from the dock. “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, especially on deep diving crankbaits that were digging deep on offshore structure.
I’ve told that story several times over the years since. But it’s important to know that to this very day, Jordon still practices what he preaches, relying on a summertime combination of deep diving cranks, big jigs and huge flutter spoons to get the hot weather big bass catching job done.
In fact, KJ was up to his old tricks again earlier this week as he fished on a Texas lake known for cranking out a few bucketmouths, the midsummer heat not withstanding.
“Caught a big (one) out fun fishing today on the @luckycraftusa D20,” Jordon posted earlier this week on his Instagram account at @kellyjordonfishing.
That social media post showed a photo of the almost always smiling Jordon hoisting up yet another big largemouth bass somewhere north of eight-pounds.
“Nothing like cranking the big plug offshore for big Texas largemouth,” added the likable East Texas bass pro.
Mind you, Jordon isn’t alone in his ability to coax big East Texas largemouths from the warm water found during the dog days of summer. James Caldemeyer, a well known full time bass guide on Fork, has also had quite the month on his home water body as he leads clients to big bass riches while using a Ben Parker magnum spoon from Nichols Lures.
In fact, the Lake Fork guide’s own social media platforms are filled with photos of big bass that have been pulled from offshore structure.
But East Texas and it’s offshore bite isn’t the only place where big bass are coming from with some regularity this summer. That was apparent to me a few days ago when I got a series of texts from another good bass fishing friend who is finding success on a water body that is an easy drive from here.
While I’m not going to spoil his honey hole by divulging any specific information, here’s how our text exchange began as a series of grip-and-grin photos began streaming in.
“I just had a pretty dang good day of fishing!,” my friend excitedly texted. “Believe it or not, I actually caught about 30 bass today and lost about 10 more that came off. The biggest one was just shy of six pounds and I caught four other five-pounders.”
That’s a great day of bass catching action no matter the time of year, but especially so in the month of July. And while that might seem like an exaggerated fish tale of some sort, remember, this angling pal had the photographs to back up his bucketmouth bass claims.
On the road covering ICAST, when I was finally able to reply back, I asked if he was catching them deep.
“Actually, believe it or not, they were fairly shallow in about four-feet of water,” came his surprising reply.
“There is quite a bit of grass in that area and they were grouped up in it,” my friend continued. “I literally spent several hours in the same basic location as I continued to catch fish. There was even a time where I caught seven or eight bass in a row on consecutive casts.”
Why such a good run of big bass in a not so traditional summertime spot? Vegetation was one key, of course. But so too was a good wind blowing into the spot, which provided a bit of current. Ditto for a subtle breakline that was nearby. And, of course, there was a healthy supply of baitfish too.
“The fish were just sitting in the clumps of grass, ambushing the shad coming by,” texted my angling pal, who used a shad colored bladed jig most of the day. “There was quite a bit of shad activity where they were being chased to the top of the water.”
In case you think that’s an isolated example of big bass being caught shallow this summer, think again, albeit this next example coming from a spot well to the east of Texomaland.
That last example I’ll give came a few days ago as I fished in the fifth annual ICAST Cup, an FLW Tour produced media and celebrity event staged each July on Lake Toho in Kissimmee, Fla.
After a representative of 13 Fishing and yours truly put a trio of bass in our team’s live well that warm and humid Sunshine State morning, Florida big bass specialist Jessie Mizell put on a show and then some.
Mere moments after commenting that he wasn’t contributing much to our chances that morning, the 13 Fishing pro tossed a 10-inch Big Squirm plastic worm to a clump of grass and mussel shells sitting on a flat in only three feet of water.
Milliseconds after the brand new big bass bait — which, by the way, was in the Witches Brew color pattern and was officially introduced the next day at the fishing industry trade show — settled onto the shell bed, Mizell grunted hard and reared back to set the hook.
A wild rod-bending fight ensued, one that Mizell won a couple of minutes later as he wrestled the big sowbelly bass into the boat as we all high-fived, roared our approval and snapped a few photos.
While the huge Florida bass eventually tipped the FLW scales to 9-pounds, 12-ounces — making it the largest bass ever landed in ICAST Cup competition — it wasn’t quite enough to help us gain the tournament win.
Despite a fifth place showing with five bass weighing 16-pounds, 9-ounces, we still found ourselves a little less than four pounds below the winning weight of famed bass pro Peter Thliveros and his Lew’s Fishing teammates John Carman and Matthew Mattingly, who all weighed in five bass tipping the scale at 20-4.
While we left the weigh-in stage thinking about how we might have pulled off the win with a couple of decent kickers that never came, we were still smiling big.
Thanks to on the water proof that once again showed us all that catching big bass is still possible in the summer months, even as the dog days temperature readings of July make many anglers think otherwise.
But for those bass fishermen willing to pry themselves away from the comforts of air conditioning and a refreshing cold beverage, the truth is otherwise. And that’s the knowledge that even as an angler wipes the midsummer sweat from their brow, a genuinely big bass is still only a single cast away.
Along with the kind of Texas-sized grin that only the landing of a big Florida strain largemouth bass can provide, even as the searing summertime sun beats down from above.