It has been said that on hot, bright days if one wants to catch fish--more
specifically the many members of the sunfish family--one must think like
a fish in formulating a plan for fishing.
However, I maintain that the angler fishing for the sunfishes (this
includes black bass (largemouth and smallmouth) need only to think like
a human because the two forms of life are much the same, at least in terms
of their activities on hot, bright days of summer.
The hot-weather bass fisherman needs only to follow his own whims and
fish accordingly. Some folks have to be active on hot, bright days. But
the man who has his druthers often sits in the shade and sips lemonade
in the hot part of the day.
Letís say, for example, that our hypothetical angler lives to see the
explosion of a bass smashing a surface lure. He starts fishing at mid-afternoon
(hottest, brightest part of a summer day) and whips the shallows of his
favorite fishing hole to a rich, creamy lather with his favorite (killer)
surface lure without a bump.
The guy made two tactical blunders. First he went to the shallows in
the hot, bright part of the day. Secondly, he fished a surface lure.
In analyzing this set of bass-fishing circumstances, we must remember
that bass, like other children of Mother Nature, reserve the right to act
uncharacteristically whenever the mood strikes them. But generally the
hot, bright part of a summer day is siesta time for bass. They normally
are in deep water and--perhaps even under some kind of deep cover--when
these conditions prevail.
Under those conditions, our anglerís best bet would have been to wind-drift
the deepest water available (or cast to it from the shore) with deep-running
plugs, a jig-worm combination, or live or artificial night crawlers (fished
very slowly) on or close to the bottom.
Later in the day--say half an hour after the sun no longer falls directly
on the water--there will be time enough for fishing surface lures. Jitterbug
time comes first to the breaks (the point where shallow water drops off
into deeper water) of an impoundment. But as the light of a bright day
starts fading, bass will leave the depths (and their hiding places) to
look for a variety of foods in the shallows.
Bluegills are prone to lie very close to the banks, often in only a
few inches of water. Bass are not often that shallow, and they tend to
cruise the shallows, rather than park very close to the banks.
However, if there are beds of aquatic weeds in the shallows, both bass
and bluegill will use this cover for bushwhacking bait fish and other life
of the food chain.
SLOW AND SLOWER are the watchwords for fishing surface lures for bass
as the day ends--or after dark.
Rocky Haulk, one of my boyhood bass-fishing mentors at dear old Crothersville,
always allowed a surface lure to sit motionless on the water until the
rings it created on the surface were gone. Then he would twitch the lure
gently, and hang on.
Rockís theory was that bass cruising for food as light failed, seldom
made a mad dash to the spot where the lure created a surface disturbance.
Instead, Rock said, they would sidle over to the area and often would
hang suspended under the lure to determine if it was din-din. The slightest
twitch of the lure would often bring either a smashing strike, or the fish
would ease up under the bait, and without ceremony, slurp it in.
In the latter case, Rock said, it is necessary to set the hook because
if the lure does not feel right, the bass may spit it out and go looking
for something more edible.
Bluegills will do roughly the same thing, at times even when the day
is bright, over deep water. Here again, if the Ďgill merely sucks in the
lure, the angler must set the hook.
My father, the late Jacob W. Scifres, used the same tactics for fishing
live minnows and other natural baits late in the afternoon. He would suspend
his bait about a food below a bobber and wait for a cruising bass to find
He would start close to the breaks with is lures suspended two feet
or so below the surface, and move into the shallows as darkness came.