Summer strategy for the shallow-minded

Despite the calendar, summer doesn't want to give up the fight. But I am! I want to throw in the hook ... if not my sweat-soaked towel!

Why, the other day, a buddy and I had to keep two fire extinguishers in the boat just to put out our simultaneous combustions!

But, seriously, I have to confess to a pattern I've been enjoying — and I mean really enjoying.

Shallow has been "it" — so shallow I can't believe I'm not seeing the dorsal fins of some of the bass we've been catching.

"Catching?" you say.

Oh yeah, catching ... and lots of 'em.

Honestly, in extreme heat — and I'm talking heat indices in the 100-degree-plus range and temperatures gauges reading in the 90s, we've boated bass shallow.

The most recent success was on a flat (1-2 feet deep) in the Tennessee River backwaters. Of course, we fished the deep water all around the flat first. I kept noticing shad flickering atop the flat of a long hump. Finally, I convinced my fishing partner we needed to give it a try and boom! We found cooperative fish.

Why? Well, my fishing partner kept asking that, too. And here's the answer: oxygen content. In the heat of summer, phytoplankton, through the process of photosynthesis, often creates a thin layer of oxygen in the shallows. Of course, in extreme heat, increased oxygen in the water is a very valuable commodity to fish.

Now, we didn't catch many big fish, but we caught lots of 'em. And who is going to argue with that on a day hot enough to melt the metal flake off a bass boat?

We fished so shallow we had to tilt the trolling motor to maintain mobility.

In decades of casting, I have many examples of this pattern working. Again, it's the sun and the phytoplankton combining to create oxygen that sparks it all. Don't expect it to work on cloudy days, and note the process reverses itself at night ... minus the sunlight.

But on dead-of-summer sun-scorching days, going against what you think you know and fishing extremely shallow in extreme heat pays off.

I first got the notion, if not nerve, to try it many years ago when talking to an old Mississippi River trot-liner. We were both fishing an oxbow, and I confessed to have not caught Jack (or Tim or Bob, or anything else). He said I was fishing too deep.

"Now how does an old catfisherman know that?" I thought.

Well, the answer was he knew at what depths his trotlines were producing (which was shallow).

I moved shallow and caught 11 bass before I had to leave. Ten consecutive trips followed where I averaged 40 bass ... all extremely shallow. I've been a believer in going shallow when summer sizzles ever since.

So, as summer lingers, maybe you should consider these thin-water thoughts — even if they come from a somewhat shallow mind!


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