Archive for summer bass fishing

Swing Jig Bass Fishing on Table Rock Lake

Swing Jig Bass Fishing on Table Rock Lake

By Marc Rogers

At times, anglers find techniques that work and then get stuck in a habit of utilizing the same lures, with the same retrieves during most outings. These habits make it difficult for anglers to break out new lures and use new techniques. Once an angler moves from tried and true lures and techniques, they often develop the same habits with the newly learned methods and the cycle starts all over again. In the past, I too, have allowed myself to become a victim to these habits. In fact, at times, I still struggle with this problem.

Recently, I broke down and discovered a relatively new technique for catching bass. The swing jig is my latest newly discovered bass fishing technique. The Gene Larew Hard Head, developed by Tommy Biffle and first produced by Gene Larew Lures, was the first of this style of jig heads and has been duplicated by many lure companies. The new jig head was developed to be paired with the Gene Larew Biffle Bug.

During an August outing on Table Rock Lake with my family, I decided to test and become proficient with this rig. With children on this trip most of the daytime hours were spent swimming and pulling an inner tube to entertain them. Therefore, most of my fishing was going to be done at night while the rest of my gang was sleeping.

It was during this mini vacation I discovered how effective the swing jig could be at catching bass. The bass were in a typical summer pattern, holding in deep water. The Smallmouth bass were positioned in the main-lake areas near submerged bluffs and steep banks close to standing timber. The Smallmouths, during the daylight hours, were staged at 25- 40 feet, but after dark many moved into shallower water and were feeding at night.

Summertime night fishing can be slow, but this trip was quite different. I had three nights of consistently catching Smallmouth bass while experiencing little boat traffic and escaped the hot daytime temperatures. The Midwest Fishing Tackle Swing Jig paired with a Gene Larew Biffle Bug was the key ingredients to my success these August nights.

Each night I set out to discover the potential of this new rig and become better at using it. The swing jig is amazing, and most any soft-plastic lure can be presented using it. My focus was the Biffle Bug rigged on a 5/16 ounce head with a 4/0 VMC EWG hook. When trying to become proficient with any lure, I make it a point to fish with only that specific lure. This forces me to experiment with the rig and become creative in my offering.

While presenting this rig, I found it difficult not to hop it along the bottom like a jig or Texas rigged worm. Within the first hour of fishing, however, I discovered the swing jig is most effective when it is dragged slowly while in constant contact with the bottom. The lead head will hit and deflect off rocks and other debris at the bottom of the water column. The deflection of the lead head enables the soft-plastic lure to exhibit an erratic behavior similar to a crawfish.

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The bites I received were very light and often came when I offered a slight pause in the retrieve. Often times I did not realize my lure had fooled a fish until I started the retrieve and felt the added weight. When rigging this set-up I started the process just like a Texas rig but pushed the hook completely through the Biffle Bug leaving the hook point exposed, then skin hooking the point into the ribbed body. Doing so allowed me to use a pull-and-reel hook set when I felt the added weight of the fish.

My color choices for the Biffle Bug were dark colors including neon black and black with blue flake. Lighter colors were not as effective during the night but may have been more productive during daylight hours.

When dragging this rig along the bottom of the lake it acted much like a crankbait, deflecting off the rocks and wood cover. After a deflection is when I paused the retrieve producing many of the bites I received. While the Smallmouths I was targeting were somewhat lethargic, I am confident if they had been feeding more aggressively, they would have taken the offering while it was steadily moving along the bottom.

After using this bait exclusively for three nights of fishing I learned a lot about its fish catching abilities. This rig is certainly one I will keep tied on and ready on future outings.



Understanding the Thermocline in Lakes

Understanding the Thermocline in Lakes

By Marc Rogers

Discussing the Thermocline can be a very detailed and scientific subject.  However, for this the basics will be covered in how the Thermocline relates to the behavior of bass.  From spring to fall the Thermocline affects bass behavior in several ways.

In late spring the surface water in most lakes has warmed into the low 70-degree range while the cooler water is well below the surface.  Surface water in this temperature range still holds plenty of oxygen so the bass have not yet started to migrate into the deeper water.  However, as the surface temperature rises into the low 80-degree range, bass will seek the cooler water that holds more oxygen.  The warm surface water doesn’t hold enough oxygen to keep the bass comfortable and this is when they seek the deeper water.

The Thermocline is a small area of water that lies between the warm surface water and the deeper water that also holds little oxygen.  Most of the time this small area of water is only about ten feet from top to bottom.  In the deep Ozark lakes there are sometimes exceptions to this rule and the Thermocline can be up to thirty feet from top to bottom.

In mid-summer largemouth bass will generally hold close to cover and/or structure near the upper edges of the Thermocline.  When an angler finds the Thermocline this is great starting point for the proper depth to locate bass.  A depth finder with the sensitivity turned up makes the Thermocline visible on the display.  It will look like a false bottom reading on the display.

At Lake of the Ozarks the Thermocline will generally be found about 25 feet deep and only reach down to about 35 feet.  In Table Rock Lake – a much clearer body of water – the Thermocline generally starts about 60 feet deep and can extend to about 80 feet deep.

Lake of the Ozarks is best fished during the summer at night due to the amount of boat traffic during the day.  The Thermocline still hold at the same level and should be the targeted depth for bass fishing.  June through August is best fished with a bottom-bouncing lure like a jig, plastic worm or heavy spinnerbaits.  However, most of the time the bass will only be active near the Thermocline.

Table Rock Lake is best fished at depths of 60 – 80 feet deep since this is the depth where the summer Thermocline is generally located.  There are only a few effective means to get a lure this deep.  A Carolina rig can be fished this deep. However, my favorite is to vertical jig a small plastic worm on a ¼ ounce jig head or a jigging spoon presented at the required depths to reach the bass.

Spotted (Kentucky) bass will suspend just above the submerged treetops that are still abundantly available in Table Rock Lake. They will school together at the same general depths most of the summer so once located they are easier to follow at later times.  Again, the key to this location is the Thermocline affecting the behavior of the bass.
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Summer Fishing on Table Rock Lake

By Marc Rogers

 

Fishing for bass on Table Rock Lake from early to late summer can be very frustrating for many anglers. This impoundment has very clear water and the bass seldom relate to the shallow water cover and structure this lake has. Even during the spawn bass often bed in water as deep as ten feet due the extremely clear water.  It is difficult for many anglers to locate bass in Table Rock Lake because most of the bass relate to cover and structure that is away from the banks.

After fishing with a Table Rock Lake angler I have learned some tips to share on catching suspended Spotted (Kentucky) Bass when many anglers fail to get a bite most days. Neil Huskey has been fishing Table Rock Lake for the past 30 years and has competed in many tournaments on the lake. He has agreed to share his knowledge on how to better the chances of productive fishing days on Table Rock.

I have had the pleasure of being employed by the same company with Neil for several years and worked right beside him for much of the time before he retired a few years ago. Also, I had the opportunity to fish from his boat on this lake and learned enough to not have to suffer through fishless days as I did before Neil shared his techniques with me of fishing Table Rock. He can, more often than not, catch many keeper sized spotted bass by using the techniques he has shared for this article.

Neil reports he targets the suspended fish after the spawn when they have moved to deeper water to recover form the rigors of the spring ritual. The first place to look for the bass is in 15 – 20 feet around submerged trees.  It is best to have a very sensitive graph to find this cover and possibly the fish around the cover. The sensitivity must be turned up high to see the detail and fish around the cover. At times the fish still will not appear on the graph display but they can still be caught by using a four inch worm or grub fished vertically around the trees. Neil says most of the time an angler will not feel the bite and recommends line watching for this technique because the only indication of a bite will be that the line stops before the lure has had time to reach the bottom.

As the summer progresses Neil suggests anglers should move out to the main lake points where submerged trees can be found at 80 – 100 feet deep with the top of the trees 20 – 40 feet below the water surface. These fish will also be hard to see with electronics because they blend in with the trees they are relating to. The most productive way to catch these bass is to make a vertical presentation with a four-inch worm just a couple feet above the top of the trees. With the sensitivity turned up the four-inch worm is visible on the graph as it falls.

Sharing the boat with Neil I have watched him just hold this worm and jig head combination still with only the movement of the boat causing any movement of the lure. When the fish are aggressive Neil says they will move towards the bait so fast it will created a line or streak on the graph display just before the bite occurs. However, many times the fish are not aggressive and will slowly move towards the bait and stay near it several minutes before finally biting.  Usually when they are not very aggressive the bite is very light.

The tackle of choice for Neil is a seven-foot medium-action spinning rod with a large spool reel. He uses 6 – 8 pound test line and this rod and reel combination allow for a solid and quick hook set.  He recommends the drag be set extremely tight so it doesn’t slip when setting the hook with 30 – 60 feet of line below the boat.

When fishing this way in deep water it is much better to back reel instead of relying on a drag system. Neil says “as soon as I hook a fish I bring it up about six feet and shift my anti-reverse to off in the process. When a fish makes a strong run I can back reel to keep from having the fish break off on the light line. When done properly a big fish can’t break you off in open water.”

During the middle of the summer when the water temperature on the surface is in the upper 80’s to low 90’s it is best to locate the shad that have began moving to the flats, bluff ends or channel swings. To locate productive water during these conditions Neil slowly runs his boat over these areas with the graph on looking for big schools of shad. The suspended bass will be either just under these shad or right among the school of shad feeding.  There are two productive techniques for catching these fish.  One is the vertical presentation with a four-inch worm or grub on a jig head and the other is using a heavy spoon. With the spoon it is best to move back from the shad and cast past them. The angler should count down the depth and use a lift and fall retrieve all the way through the area while keeping the lure at the depth the bass are holding. It is wise to use a medium heavy casting outfit with 14 – 20 pound test line when casting a spoon.

These techniques can be duplicated on most any deep – clear impoundment when the fish suspend. When beating the banks doesn’t work every angler should give this a try.
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