The dog days of summer

We’ve talked about moon phases and how they affect smallmouth bass. Now, let’s talk about the dog days of summer and how the heat affects smallies. It’s very different.

Basically, here’s the deal: Smallmouth bass are more heat sensitive than largemouth. Even during the hottest days of summer you can catch a few good green fish shallow up in weeds, wood and under other forms of cover. They’ll tolerate high water temperatures. That’s not likely to happen with smallmouth.

It’s been my experience that the better smallmouth tend to drop into deeper water faster. Mostly they’ll hang around creek channels and sharp drops. I think that’s because of the cooler water but I also think it’s because of their natural fear of running out of water. Remember, water levels are usually dropping during the summer. Largemouth don’t seem to have that fear. And they’ll suspend more, too.

Largemouth are very cover-oriented. They seem to want something over their heads. It’s a part of their nature. Smallmouth don’t do that so much. They’ll move towards, and follow, structure but they tend to hold above it with little or no regard for what’s above them. Open water all the way to the surface is just fine with them. That makes a big difference in how we try to catch them.

The only brown bass you’ll catch up against the bank or under a boat dock at this time of the year are little bucks, and you won’t catch very many of them. You need to go deep and think about what you’re doing.

I find almost all of my daytime smallmouth bass with my electronics. The new Humminbird models are the best. You can follow channels and breaks and find big fish. Often they’re in schools of 100 fish or more. You can catch them, too.

The one thing that both species of bass have in common is that they are both cold-blooded. That means that the warm water of summer increases their metabolism and makes them eat more. In simple terms, smallmouth bass are more aggressive at this time of the year. They might be harder to find but they are not harder to catch. They’ll eat a crankbait with no mercy.

So, what I do when I’m fishing for big smallies during the daytime in late June, July and August is to find a wad holding somewhere over deep structure and then wind a crankbait right through the middle of them. If I can’t get a crankbait down as deep as I need to, I’ll swim a jig with a trailer.

Nothing I’ve said today goes against anything I’ve ever said about night fishing. I believe it’s the way to go when it’s hot during the summer. I love it. But I know that some of you don’t, or can’t, fish after dark. So, unless you’re willing to settle for little buck bass, try fishing deep for suspended fish holding over structure and remember that smallmouth bass aren’t largemouth bass.