Hot Summer Patterns
By Ken Cook
Last issue I introduced you to my Pattern Forecast service that can make finding a viable fishing pattern much easier. It is based on years of data that I have input into a database for retrieval to predict how and where bass can be caught at any month or season of the year. The data is broken down into lake types including lowland, upland, natural, riverine and tidal types. These lake types are quite different during most seasonal patterns based on their characteristics. If you would like a personalized Pattern Forecast from my data check it out at: www.kencookoutdoors.com
During summer all lakes are at their most active in growth and activity because all fish and aquatic life, except of course birds and mammals are cold blooded. That means their digestive system demands more fuel to grow and be active. All life depends on the sun as a source of energy to produce the nutrients required for its existence; therefore the presence of sunlight is paramount in the lake patterns, especially in summer. What this means to fishing patterns is that the depth of sunlight penetration is very important in determining the fish activity zone.
The depth of sunlight penetration in summer is dependent upon the level of color to the water. Biologists call it turbidity. Most water turbidity in summer is due to the presence of plankton suspended in the water column. These microscopic living particles are the basis of the food chain for all higher life forms including bass. If the water is “green” it is because there is a heavy load of plant plankton called phytoplankton blooming. Of course, there is also animal plankton called zooplankton that feeds on the plants. Both types of plankton are food for minnows and other aquatic creatures including hundreds of types of insects. All these small creatures are the food for fish including the top predators like our favorite bass species.
Since all this food is produced in levels of sunlight, then it makes sense that most food and prey are produced in the top layers of water where sunlight can reach the plankton to allow it to grow. Plants including plankton require sunlight to grow, so they must grow only in the top layer of sunlit water. These plankton also die and decay. This decay takes place mainly on the lake or at least below the sunlit portion of the water column. Growing plankton produces oxygen and increases the pH of the water allowing more activity. Decay produces the opposite effect by lowering oxygen levels and the pH as well. This produces the “activity zone” where most of the predators connect with the prey.
That is why it is very important to locate the activity zone of the lake in which you seek to catch bass. The first order of business upon searching out a fishing pattern is to locate the activity depth of the lake in question. I use my Lowrance LCX 113C HD to make this discovery. It just takes a few minutes idling around the depths of the lake to see what depth the most schools of shad and other fish are located. In summer it is usually a pretty definite depth range, especially in fertile lakes like most lowland and natural lakes. River lakes and tidal waters also carry large nutrient loads and thus have high plankton levels that prevent sunlight from penetrating deeply into the water column, so the fishing patterns in these types of lakes are normally relatively shallow in nature.
Let’s look at a Pattern Forecast for a Manmade Lowland lake in summer. We’ll call it Lake Ketchabigun! This lake is located in central U.S. where summer air temperatures are often over 100 degrees and the water is brownish green with about three to five feet of visibility. That means I can see my spinnerbait about three feet deep. That translates into sunlight penetration of six to ten feet because in order to see my spinnerbait, sunlight must travel through the water down to the target and return to the surface in order for me to see it.
Here’s the data summary for Lake Ketchabigun in August:
Main Lake 64%
It is obvious from the data that you need to be fishing some type of off shore, main lake structure this time of year. I have found that in this type of lowland lake, the creek and river channels are pretty well defined by good drop-offs and edges. The most active types of structures are usually convex in nature that is they stick up from the surrounding bottom contours. A common type of this structure is a stump row along a creek channel. I would concentrate on finding a creek channel where the submerged banks are about 8 to 10 feet deep. If you can find a junction in this channel edge, like a small ditch or fence row, you may find the mother lode of bass feeding and hanging out waiting for the next school of shad to come by. The convex structure helps by forcing the shad school to pass near to the cover where the bass hang out. This makes it easier for the bass to collect a meal without expending much energy.
The Pattern forecast points out the predominance of woody cover to the fishing patterns this time of year in this type of lake. Most of these lakes have submerged timber and stumps as a main habitat type. Therefore this becomes the best fish cover. If submerged vegetation is present, then it will be very important as well.
The Lure Pattern is dependent upon the type of cover and depth you must attack to catch the bass. Deep diving crankbaits like Rapala’s DT series are prime tools for reaching the depths along the structure. Plastic lures like Berkley Power worms on a Carolina rig or drop shot are excellent choices in summer as well, especially around vegetation. If the bottom composition is hard rock or clay, I prefer to use a Picasso Fantasy Football jig to maintain solid bottom contact. This lure type does an excellent job of imitating a crawfish, or even a bluegill.
Another good option this season is a topwater lure like a Skitter Walk or Chug Bug. This lure type works well if the activity zone is shallow in very fertile water. In more clear water situations, the topwater activity will usually be restricted to early morning and at night, but it is fun while it lasts. Keep an eye on your electronics and if you see shad schools near the surface, keep a topwater lure handy in case an outburst of feeding activity happens.
Summer is a great time to be on the water. Bass are bunched up on structure and when you find a school, you can load the boat in a hurry. I love this type of search mission. It makes all that sweat equity seem worthwhile when you locate a hungry school of fish that won’t let your lure through their zone.