Fishing the doldrums of summer can be very demanding. The air temperature is likely near the century mark, and you're either lobbing a 1-ounce Carolina rig or cranking nonstop to get every last inch out of that deep diving crankbait. Elite Series pro Dave Wolak says to quit beating your head against the wall and start beating the bank.
"There are a lot more shallow fish than people think," the North Carolina pro says. "Most anglers stick to the offshore, postspawn patterns too long. There's a time in the summer — now, actually — where most fish move back shallow, and the best part is that there is no pressure on them. It's like a spring pattern where they go back to the bank and into creeks."
Wolak rationalizes that the fish that have been out on deep points for the past few months are over their postspawn blues and head shallow to feed on bigger forage like bream and frogs. His bait selection reflects this idea.
At first light, Wolak will buzz a Yum Money Frog all the way from the bank back to his boat.
"A lot of the time these shallow fish are topwater oriented, which is why I go with the Money Frog. This is the same reason that Dean Rojas has had so much success with a frog," he says. "A frog is a big-fish topwater, and the Money Frog is like a silent buzzbait.
"It's good in open water as well as around targets. What happens is that when these lakes get drawn down this time of year, the undergrowth that they're used to is gone. They just roam around back there because if the back of a pocket is shady, it'll be cooler there than in the deep water on the main lake."
He goes on to say that the fish that are deep can be difficult to target because they're scattered and suspending.
Wolak's frogging setup is stout, given the hazards he's fishing near. He likes a 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy Pinnacle Perfecta DHC light pitching and flipping rod. He uses a Pinnacle Scion Select reel spooled with 56-pound-test Sunline PE braid.
If the bass are lazy or just not connecting with the Money Frog, Wolak has a finesse rod on the deck to mop up.
"There are times when you'll just get a blow up, or the fish will show itself while you're working the frog," he says. "This is why I like to have a shaky head on the deck as well. I can throw right back in there and pick those fish off."
Wolak opts for a 1/16-ounce Fin-Tech Title Shot Shaky Jig with a Yum Houdini Worm in tow. He likes green pumpkin and junebug. He throws it with a 7-2 medium action Pinnacle Perfecta spinning rod in conjunction with a Pinnacle Lucille reel spooled with 8-pound-test Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon.
Wolak admits that these fish on the bank may not be the largest specimens in the lake, but the upswing of that is that they are very patternable.
"If you start seeing fish or catch one, look at the area you're in and see if there are more like it on the lake," he explains. "Chances are that there are more spots just like it, so you can get a milk run going and be in fish all day."
Conversely, he says a strike from a traditional frog can stop the heart. If the bass want something slower than the Money Frog, Wolak pulls out a stop-and-go Trophy Series Scum Frog. He likes it because it is back heavy and can create a lot of commotion on top.
"If I get that Scum Frog going just right with a nice humping motion, you can see the missile coming after it. It's a colossal smash," he says. "That thing has the hammer of all hooks, too. A lot of the EWG hooks found on other frogs will straighten out if you're in some extremely thick cover, but those Owners don't budge."
This one-two approach to shallow fishing has long been a secret of pros. A lot of casual anglers won't think of throwing topwaters at high noon on a slick calm day, but Wolak says there's no reason not to. If the fish are there, they'll go after it.
"When everyone else is out there drop shotting points and throwing big worms on the river channel, you'll have this all to yourself," he says.