Summertime: The Bass And Grass Connection
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Summertime: The Bass And Grass Connection
Few conditions offer the bass angler a greater challenge than those found in the dead heat of summer. Bright skies, uncomfortably warm surface temperatures, lack of a constant food source and a breakdown of oxygen content cause many fish to seek deeper more comfortable conditions which can make them tougher to catch. Shallow water patterns can become tricky under these conditions because finding a factor that will hold bass in the shallows becomes very difficult. My approach to summer bass fishing involves searching for shallow water patterns. I have always felt these fish are easier to catch and more predictable. To me, the key to any shallow water summer time pattern is grass. To understand why grass beds are so productive in shallow water, we must first look at the factors that keep bass out of shallow water during the hot months of the summer.
Bass, being cold blooded creatures are greatly affected by extreme water temperatures. In the winter, cold water makes them lethargic and slows their metabolism so their periods of activity decrease. In the summer, when water temps. can reach the high 80's bass tend to seek milder water temperatures just as you or I might choose an air conditioned room opposed to being out in the hot sun.
A source of fresh oxygen is another factor that Bass need to feel comfortable. In the summer, ideal oxygen contents often exist at thermocline depths which can be from 10 to 20 feet deep. Shallow water regions are often lacking an oxygen content that is desirable for bass, which again will drive them to deeper water.
As natural migrations take place during the course of a year many shallow areas also become devoid of forage, which will cause bass to leave an area. Bait fish do move to the backs of coves, but often are fast moving and the bass that are shallow in the area are likely to follow them rather than stay in once place.
Having covered the reasons that bass will leave shallow water during the summer, we can now begin to build patterns that will help us locate the kind of shallow water that bass will stay and flourish in. As I mentioned, a grass bed in just the kind of cover that will keep bass in shallow water. To understand why grass beds attract bass we need to go back to our high school biology class and understand the relationship that green plants have to the production of oxygen. Grass beds undergo the process of photosynthesis which means that grass takes the energy from sunlight and transforms it into oxygen. As a result, the water around shallow grass beds usually has a much higher (and comfortable) amount of oxygen in it.
In the Summertime, grass beds will grow to the lakes surface virtually blocking all light penetration below. As a result, grass and other brush cannot grow below the surface, so what we end up with are these huge grass beds that have seemingly endless caverns below them. Since no sunlight penetrates, this water is also much cooler (5 or 6 degrees cooler,) than the normal surface around the lake. The final key about grass beds is that they are home to thousands of crawfish and smaller minnows. When you add the three components together, higher oxygen, cooler water and food, it is no wonder why bass like to live in and around these grass beds.
In fishing shallow grass bed patterns two factors come to mind. Calm, clear conditions and those that involve wind. When the sun is high and there is no wind, grass beds can become tricky. Bass tend to bury themselves deep into cover when the sky is bright and there is no wind. Flipping a jig with an pork chunk behind it will work, but you have to work every little opening in the grass just like a surgeon! You must work hard and this can be frustrating, but you will get bites. Another technique is to fish a moss frog or floating rat across the top of the grass beds to draw a fish up through the mat. Use heavy line and a flipping stick for this technique.
When the wind begins to blow, turn up your trolling motor and cover ground with a spinnerbait. The wind causes the bass to move to the edge of cover so that they can take advantage of forage stirred up by the wind. In very clear water, I will opt for an Excalibur Minnow jerk bait. Lots of rattle, lots of vibration are needed. You want to alert the bass that your bait is coming so that they can get ready!
During the heat of Summer, water temperatures can reach the high 80's making the shallows a very uncomfortable place for bass. Bright skies, hot water and an environment devoid of food will often cause bass to return to deeper water where the comforts of life are available. When this happens, shallow water patterns can be easier to find. Simply limit your shallow water fishing to those shallow areas that provide living grass beds. Remember, on bright, calm days, you will have to go after those fish because they will be up under the thickest cover they can find. On windy days, spinnerbaits and jerk baits will take fish that move to the edge of cover to feed.
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