I was excited about being given the opportunity to fish with one of the nation’s top longtime professional bass fishermen, Larry Nixon of Bee Branch, Arkansas. I was prepared to get up and be ready to fish at 4:00 a.m. to catch that early bite. But the day before our excursion, Nixon stopped me and said, “Current won’t start being pulled through Pickwick Lake until 10:30 a.m.”
I always had been a fish early, fish late summertime bass fisherman, because of the temperatures. However, I followed Nixon’s advice, and by mid-morning the next day we went out into the blistering-hot summer weather with not a cloud in the sky.
What I learned about summertime bassing from Larry Nixon
First, we fished around an old duck blind at the mouth of a creek. Nixon caught several two- and three-pound largemouths, and I caught a six-pounder. Next, we moved out into the main river channel and started casting crankbaits upstream and reeling them right on the edge of that creek channel. For 30 minutes, nothing happened.
Then as Nixon said, “Get ready, John. The fishing is heating up. You see that current hitting the buoy marker,” the tip of Nixon’s rod dove underwater. Nixon dropped to one knee, reeled, and said, “John, it’s a good one. Get the net!” I dipped up a 6-1/2-pound smallmouth that resembled a brown tiger with stripes and bars. We got Nixon’s smallmouth in the boat, and I took some pictures.
Then I cast a deep-diving crankbait upcurrent and reeled it fast to get it down close to the bottom. My rod almost bent double, and I went to my knees. “Get him, John,” Nixon yelled with a big grin. His rod quickly loaded up again with a 4-1/2-pound smallmouth. After fishing for about four hours, we caught and released some of the biggest smallmouths I’ve ever reeled in.
According to Nixon, “When current starts coming through a lake, especially during the hot summer months, bass holding in the deep, cool water will move up to the edges of creeks, creek channels or river channels and onto the flats to feed. The current brings cool, highly-oxygenated water through a river or a lake and causes bait fish to move out of deep water into shallow water to feed. Then the bass will feed on the bait fish. Even in 100-degree weather, if there’s a strong current coming through a lake that begins to flow downstream, the bass will become extremely active and feed heavily. When the current slows down or quits running, once again, the shad and the bass will move from the shallow water to the deep water and not feed as actively.”
How hot weather affects bass fishing
Don’t be surprised if you plan a summertime trip with a bass fishing guide, and he says, “We’re not going to go out on the lake until later in the morning.” That guide has learned what professional bass fishermen always have known. Regardless of the time of day, if you start fishing just before the current starts running through the lake and fish until the current slows down or stops, then you’ll usually catch more bass than if you’d gone to the lake before daylight, fished until 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., come in to dodge the heat of the sun, returned late in the afternoon, and fished until dark.
Which lures work best
Several lures produce bass best when the current’s running in the summer. Cast a deep-diving crankbait upcurrent, crank it down quickly until it hits the bottom, and use a steady retrieve with the current back to the boat. Shad and other bait fish run the flats and the edges of the creek channels from upcurrent to downcurrent.
The Carolina-rigged plastic worm is another productive option for fishing the current. The 1/2- or 3/4-ounce jig with a crawfish trailer also causes big bass to bite in hot weather. To have great days of bass fishing during the Dog Days of summer, bet on fishing the current.
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Image by John Phillips