Lynn Burkhead — Big bass possible, even when Texas summer heat is on

Herald Democrat
As August appears on the calendar this weekend, big bass are still a possibility for those anglers who are willing to venture forth onto good water bodies, even on a day filled with firecracker weather. Because after all, it's always big bass season in Texas, even when the summertime heat is on.

In case you haven’t ventured outside the last few days, the proverbial dog days of summer are finally here. And with August appearing on the calendar later this weekend, such temperature readings are right on time.

But believe it or not, while August brings the summer’s hottest thermometer readings with average temperatures nearing triple digits, the firecracker weather month can be surprisingly productive for those hoping to hook and land a big bucketmouth bass.

For proof, look only as far as the Texas’ “Top 50 Largemouth Bass” list, a vaunted roll-call list it takes a 15.45-pound lunker to make. Included on that list is one late summertime giant from Lake Fork, the state’s number four all-time largemouth, a 17.63-pound lunker landed on Aug. 29, 1990, by Jerry New.

Obviously, you can still catch a bucketmouth or two, even when the heat is on. And with that in mind, allow me to turn to some time-honored advice from my longtime bass fishing pal and Orvis endorsed guide friend, Rob Woodruff.

And believe it or not, even as a fly guide who recently moved from East Texas to the trout rich waters of northern Arkansas, he’s bullish on the possibility of big bass on the right water body, even at a time of year you have to be worried about getting too much sun.

“I caught a 10.33 pound bass in late July while fishing a Lake Fork pothole area in a hydrilla bed while fishing my Lake Fork Leech pattern,” said Woodruff. “It was real hot, 100 degrees plus on the thermometer and just a typical late July day. In fact, I was just fishing back in there to see what I could do.”

While fishing that pothole in the hydrilla near a feeder creek channel that had cooler, deeper water nearby, Woodruff tossed his offering into the hole and let it slowly sink. As the fly fell, a big bass finally couldn’t stand it any longer and inhaled it.

“There was just a flash and a boil and the fish was on,” he said. “I was surprised at how big it was. It ran into the weeds and buried itself. I scooped up about 30 pounds of weeds and bass and sorted through everything until I found the fish.”

While Woodruff admits that spring is often the best time of the year to catch a huge bass weighing 10 pounds or more — especially with fly rod equipment like the eight, nine, and 10-weight Orvis rods he employs — it obviously isn’t the only time either, whether you have a fly rod or baitcasting rod in hand.

Either way, regardless your choice of fishing gear, here are a few possibilities to consider for hooking and landing a behemoth bass as the dog days of summer arrive:

Shallow water — Woodruff says to fish such locations early in the day, especially near cover, structure, or vegetation using fly rod poppers, conventional Pop Rs, or buzzbaits.

Hydrilla or aquatic vegetation stands — Fish around the edges of these beds early in the morning, then over the top of them or back in the imbedded potholes later in the day as oxygen supplies increase. Good baits include flies like Woodruff’s SiLLi Shad or Swamp Rabbit, and conventional baits like pig-and-jig combinations, swimbaits, swim jigs, Fluke or Sluggo type baits, Texas-rigged soft-plastics, or shallow running or lipless crankbaits just tickling the top of the grass.

Shaded areas — Around boat docks, boathouses, or overhanging cover from laurel oaks or other standing timber, shady spots are tough to beat. That’s true early, it’s true late, and it’s even true when you can find such spots during the heat of the day. Use flies like Woodruff’s own SiLLi Shad or I.C. Fly, and conventional lures like spinnerbaits, tube jigs, jerkbaits, pig-and-jig combos, and of course, Texas-rigged soft plastics.

Deep water humps and roadbeds — Bass will often suspend over these deep water structures during the heat of summer. One key here is to pay close attention to where you catch that first fish.

“If you can catch them at 17 feet over one hump, you can usually find them suspended at a similar depth somewhere else,” said Woodruff.

For such locations, use flies like the Lake Fork Leech on a density compensated full sinking line, or conventional lures like deep diving crankbaits or Carolina-rigs.

Creek channels — Fishing this type of structure can pay huge dividends if you’re fishing deep diving crankbaits like a Norman DD-22 or a Strike King 6XD. Throw them out as far as you can, kneel down with the rod in the water, and crank them back. When the bait suddenly feels heavy, sweep the rod sideways, reel everything up tight, and hang on!

Deep water flooded timber — Sometimes, Woodruff has found that summertime bass will suspend near submerged timber. Often, while the timber will be in 20-feet of water, the bass will hold at a higher depth, say five to 10 feet below the surface of the water.

One thing to remember regardless of where an angler is targeting late summer bass at is to be patient and methodical in your fishing approach as the heat builds. In extreme heat situations like those found in August, bass can be sluggish, making a slow, deliberate presentation best on most days.

“I think you need to slow it down a lot at this time of the year,” said Woodruff. “Don’t run all over the place either. That’s especially true when you’re fishing a spot like a pothole in a hydrilla bed. Those fish are buried in the caverns back there and you have to entice them into striking. Use patience and baits that can move slowly and tantalizingly.”

Because if you do, with any luck, you’ll have to eventually wipe not only sweat from your brow, but also a silly angler’s grin from your face.

All after catching a late summertime bass, one big enough to have made you smile big weeks ago during the heights of spring.

Because both then and now, when you’re fishing somewhere in Texas, it’s always big bass season, even when the heat is on.