Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Summer Dreams

I’m a true fan of top water fishing. I love to fish with anything from worms dug in my backyard to custom lures but top water for me is it. The skill in reading cover, conditions of the water and weather then even more skill in working that bait to tempt strikes is the challenge I want. I hardly ever claim to have a favorite in anything but in top water lures I have three, a #9 floating Rapala, Crippled Killer in small size and a Jitterbug. These have been around forever but have fallen on hard times as other baits take their place on the lines of fishermen. This works to my advantage, fish aren’t used to having them drug past their snout every day during warm weather when top water strikes can make your day. Another technique I rarely see anymore is buzzing a spinner bait just under the surface, creating a wake that drives bass nuts. And last to add to my chances on top water days I like to swim a worm rather than drag it along the bottom. All of this I learned long ago from Don McIntyre who was one of the best all around outdoorsmen I have ever known.

I hitched up the boat and headed to Priest for some bass fishing. It was mid summer, the forecast called for a blue bird sky, blistering hot temps and no wind. We, we being me and the twins Brian and Keith, spent all winter working building fishing spots with logs, stumps, rocks and brush piles to prepare for this time of year . When spring rolled around and waters began to rise we had close to 200 spots out. We had planned well, as the water got to summer pool no brush was more than a few inches above the surface. Any poking above the surface were cut off with hedge clippers to keep them hidden. We knew our lake well and none of the spots were wasted by being placed where fish wouldn’t use them.

My favorite area was and is mid lake on Percy Priest fishing out of Four Corners boat dock. I launched and headed to the Spot bank, my normal place to begin, it got it‘s name from the number of Cordell Spots we found there during low water. This is a chunk rock bank that takes hundreds of yards to slope off to 15 feet of water. About a dozen brush piles had been placed along here and a good rock fence runs just under the surface along a long section. I had rigged with 7 ¼” purple worms and a small Crippled Killer, these were about all I fished during the summer months since I never fished in more than 10 feet of water. Don, the twins’ Dad, had taught us three baits consistently caught big fish, spinner bait, top water bait and a worm, we used these to catch many a limit on local lakes. I know that part of it was learning to use a limited number of baits really well rather than spend all day changing and hoping, those ideas worked then and work now.

I pulled up to look for a dark spot that signaled a brush pile was there. The first few casts will be with a Crippled Killer but if it doesn’t bring a strike then it was time to throw a worm to see if that would work. This simple two bait technique caught fish when cranking was just exercise. The Crippled Killer is fished in a fast twitch pause method but pauses were very short contrary to what all the magazines tell us about slow, long pause top water. I want aggressive fish on top and the worms take care of the lazy ones.

Coming along side the first brush pile, I made a cast past it by several feet and started the retrieve. The bait walked and sputtered it’s way past the dark water marking the brush without a taker. After a couple of more casts without a hit I tossed a worm past and swam it by the pile. Just as it got to my side the line jumped followed by a solid thump. Dropping the rod tip, spinning the reel handle gave the fish a second to take and me a second to tighten my line. Pointing the rod tip at the running fish I set back and had a nice 2 pounder on. It didn’t take long to boat him since I fished 17# line on my bait caster/worm rod combo. While it might seem like a fish story saying I got one right off this was normal fishing these spots during summer the fish loved them. I got it unhooked, released and moved on.

A few spots later as the Crippled Killer spit and splashed to the edge of the twigs just under the surface I saw a flash of green and silver. I managed half a twitch more before water flew in sparkling crescents as a solid 3# plus largemouth blasted out of the lake. It crashed back down then put on a show of head shakes and tail walks, thinking it was far bigger than it was. I got it in, thanked and as I tossed it back in it was probably wondering about aliens and abductions.

I spent the day repeating this process at each brush pile, rock pile or log we had put in. While not all hold fish it is an effective way to target summer bass. The good part it allows you to catch fish during a part of the day when most people are out on the ledges or stump rows fishing deep so you have the shallows to yourself. They couldn’t believe I was catching fish in 3-4 feet of water on top. In fact when I went to the dock for a break I would change baits to fool anyone sneaking a peek into my boat. During the summer months this simple method of fishing has caught me many a fish. Hot water, aggressive fish and, in my case, man made cover allowed me to catch fish when other folks struggled or went to night fishing. This is keeping with my idea of going after fish where other people pass them by or simply refuse to believe that fish are in these areas.

These are all techniques that were used back in the day but have fallen out of favor in the run faster jump higher fishing of today. These techniques worked then and still do although most people spend time trying all of the new thoughts of pros rather than listening to the grizzled old guy at the dock that knows his stuff. Many days all I need are three simple baits which can be fished in many different ways to catch fish. Some times all you need to do is step back from the glitz to find things that catch fish rather than fishermen. Here are a few pics of the baits and rigging I use to go after shallow bass on miserable hot days.
This is how I rig worms for swimming. I usually use an 1/8th ounce egg sinker rather than a bullet style slip sinker but either works fine simply thread it onto the line. Instead of Texas rigging I use a 4/0 hook with a weed guard which I soften by bending the wire back and forth. This keeps it from hitting the fish in the mouth when they take the bait. Lightly clip the weed guard under the hook tip after threading the worm onto the hook. When I fish these shallow spots with a worm it never touches the bottom. You make a soft cast past the spot then add action by raising and lowering the tip of your rod a few inches, reeling fast enough to keep the worm at the same depth as you work it back. The more erratic the rod tip moves the better. You let the worm sink to different depths to find fish but don’t drag it along the bottom. Watch your line since it will jump several inches almost every time a fish hits before you feel it. This is old school rigging but still works for this technique.

The Crippled Killer isn’t easy to find in stores these days so I make my own out of cedar. The nice part is painting them in whatever pattern I want but most wind up in a standard shad. I buy all of the hardware in bulk since it is cheap then add it to the finished lures. It also lets me add larger props if I want to have a bait that creates more splash and noise.

Many days the things Don taught me 40 years ago work as well or better than anything new. Good techniques, old or new, are still good techniques to have in your arsenal. Take a look at how it used to be done, there are many surprises to be found.


jlecherd said...

Nice, thanks for the tips. They will be tried.[;)

Functioning said...

Great stuff as usual! Love that cripple killer!

FHC Outdoors said...

Great read...you paint the picture very nicely!

BrookfieldAngler said...

Very nice! I actually had a bit of luck on Percy Priest earlier this year. I was fishing the flooded grass with a Yamamoto Hula Grub and pulled in 3 keepers in a couple of hours. The wife ended up catching and releasing about 15 bluegill. She had fun!

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.



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