For bass fishermen, this is “pick one, any one” time when it comes to lure selection. Yes, softies like plastic worms, twister tails and crawdad look-alikes can buy bites just as well as they do all season long.
Speeding a noisy spinner bait over the weeds may also be the ticket at any time or day. And certain crank baits pulled through the mid-depths can be as effective as anything. But without argument, the dog days of summer is the best “top-water” time of the entire year and that is right now.
During the heat of the late summer bass like to hide in weeds, under junk and anywhere else they can find shade and an occasional snack. And as the sun dips low each evening, and right through the darkness of night, those same fish are all eyes, all mouth wide open, and all in when it comes to really active feeding.
So a lure that passes overhead, makes enough noise to be noticed, and resembles something good to eat, is the right lure. And even if the biggest bass in the neighborhood is already stuffed, it may just be annoyed enough at the disturbance to take a whack at it.
Indeed, this is the part of the fishing season when top-water lures reign supreme.
How well I remember fishing with my dad and his buddies on night-time bass outings. They would rig their bait casting rigs with big Jitterbugs and Hula Poppers.
That was 60 years ago when those two lures where the leading top-water lures of the day.
The men would toss their lures, or plugs as they called then, into the darkness of a mosquito filled air, with no unseen target in mind.
They knew the bay we anchored in was shallow and lined with a wide border of lily pads where the bass hid during the day.
And they also knew the fish would be on the hunt for something to attach and swallow.
Silence. The only noise on those chilly, black nights was the buzz of insects and the steady gurgle of wobbling Jitterbugs being drawn back to the boat. Those things and the exciting, unmistakable and noisy splash as a Jitterbug would meet its fate.
Then the whispers would turn into low voices as the men would encourage the lucky angler to reel faster, not to lose their unseen tugging prize, and some other perhaps unprintable things.
Double “D” flashlights would flash on and off as the dark night was lit enough to get fish and landing net together, then darkened again so not to alert other prowling fish.
If my dad was the lucky catcher, he would pull hard on his fat cigar till it glowed like a blacksmith’s forge, creating a blanket of smoke that quieted the mosquitoes for a few minutes.
We didn’t have spray cans of high powered repellants or battery powered invisible insect screens then, just that ever present cigar.
Long-time angler and nationally known Jitterbug maker Dick Kotis used to insist that if any technique was best for top-water anglers, that the best part of a retrieve was a total stop, a pause when the lure simply sat perfectly still.
Kotis said that he liked to rest the lure not for a few seconds, but for as long as he could stand it. When in fact, it was as long as a bass could stand it.
The strike will come just as the lure starts moving again, that’s the trigger, he insisted.
That’s advice that’s just as good today as it was decades ago.
While most anglers consider top-water fishing to be an evening or night-time activity it can be just as lethal in broad daylight, especially in the dog days of summer.
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