Fire up dog day bass

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

As we get later into the dog days of summer, the crankbait bite on main lake structure slows down.

By now, the bass have seen a lot of crankbaits, and there is less current moving through the lake. The fish get in a neutral mode and suspend off the bottom.

When I see suspended fish on my graph or Humminbird Side Imaging unit, I dig for a 5-inch, flutter-style Strike King Sexy Spoon. You can use smaller, jigging-style spoons, but the shad are bigger in late summer, and that’s what the big bass target.

Flutter spoons emit a lot of flash and move erratically through the water column, emulating wounded prey. That can fire up a school of lethargic bass.

In fact, once you catch one on the spoon, the entire school often gets excited, and you can catch them on a crankbait.

I like to alter my spoon to maximize efficiency. First, don’t tie direct to the spoon; add a barrel swivel to the split ring at the front of the bait. That reduces line twist.

Secondly, I replace the stock treble hook with a larger, Mustad KVD Elite 1/0 treble that enhances hook-ups.

A common problem with big spoons is you will lose fish on them because of the way the bait flutters. It’s more difficult for the bass to get the hook in its mouth and you’ll snag some on the side of the head or outside the mouth. That makes them harder to land.

Rod, reel and line matters, too. I cast spoons on my medium heavy, 7-foot, 2-inch Quantum KVD Tour rod that has tip action and good backbone. I match it with my KVD Tour baitcast reel (7.3:1 gear ratio). You need the faster reel because when they strike, you need to retrieve line quickly.

I rarely fish line bigger than 14-pound fluorocarbon when fishing deep. The smaller line gives the bait a faster fall rate and helps trigger bites.

I’ll use different presentations. I have caught them by jigging the spoon vertically when I could see the fish on the graph in deep water beneath me, but most of the time I sit off the structure and make a long cast onto the top edge. I cast up current or across the current so the bait is flowing naturally.

When I make the cast, I keep some tension on the line as the bait flutters downward because a lot of strikes occur on the fall. When it hits bottom, I rip it up the approximate distance at which I saw the fish suspended on the graph. If they’re five feet or more off the bottom, the longer rod makes the job easier.

The first time I don’t rip it as hard, but will experiment until I see how they want it. If the fish are active at all, a slower stroke will catch them and it also makes it easier for them to get the bait in their mouths.

I will continue to hop-and-flutter the spoon until I know it’s away from the fish then crank in quickly and make another cast.

Be prepared to catch a variety of other fish, including catfish, walleye or big crappies. Anything that eats big shad will hit that spoon.

And finally, don’t give up on a school you know is there. The hardest fish to catch on a spoon is the first one, but once the school gets going, its game on!

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