It’s that time of year again that some anglers hate and others love, summer. The bass are going into deeper water and being much more selective about what they eat. In Crystal and Fish lakes near Sauk City most fish have receded into 8-12 feet of water and are no longer biting everything they see. Some have remained near shore but they are few and far between. Even though the fish are picky, there are some key baits that can still stir up a bite.
My first choice for a summer bite is topwater. Some people say that the only time to fish them is either early in the morning or late in the afternoon into the evening, but I personally have not found that to be the case. Since the bass spawn can be spread out over a long period of time, some fish are still in post spawn mode, and simply slowing down a frog or a toad and keeping it in the strike zone longer gives you a good chance at a fish. My favorite frog is the Booyah Pad Crasher. I also use Pop-R’s and a spook every now and then. Even though they may not necessarily want to eat, leaving the bait near them for long enough gives them a reason to strike. Most of the fish caught with this method are males guarding young fry.
Booyah Pad Crashers have a softer body than most frogs which allows the body to "crush" more easily and expose the hooks longer resulting in better hooking percentages.
My second choice is a simple plastic worm. Usually when I fish a plastic worm I rig it three main ways: weightless, Texas, and Carolina. I like to fish these rigs because I am usually fishing from shore, and it is harder to get these rigs caught up in weeds and rocks than it is other rigs. If I am on the water, I would also use a wacky rig along structures. Otherwise, I simply cast out my rig, let it sink to the bottom, and jerk the pole twice. Once it sinks back to the bottom, I let it sit there for while before repeating the jerks. The key is to keep the bait in the water for as long as possible. I usually use a 4 or 5 inch Yum Dinger. My favorite colors are the Black Blue Laminate and Green Pumpkin Neon.
Texas Rigged Yum Dingers are a staple presentation all summer for bass
If neither of those works I will use a shallow diving crankbait. I use a shallow diver simply because I am usually on the shore. When I’m not, I like to use a deep diving crankbait and bring it back as close to the bottom as I can. Usually I use a Chartreuse Rapala Shallow Shad Rap or a 3 ½ inch Firetiger Rapala Shad Rap.
Look for the "L" shaped bill to differentiate the shallow diving from the regular Shad Raps.
Even though summer bass fishing can be a challenge, with the right baits it can be a lot of fun. Crankbaits along weed lines and plastics near structures like rocks and brush piles will help to find the big fish. When using the topwater frogs or toads, look for reeds, lily pads, and overhangs that shade the water. There’s no reason to stop fishing when the bite gets tough, just try some different baits and enjoy the challenge!