Fishing the Dog Days of September
article by KENNY COVINGTON
I have written and said many times, in articles and in conversation, the most difficult month to catch fish on our lakes and rivers is September. The dog days of summer are still lingering and fall is just around the corner. What is an angler to do in order to stay on top of these overly finicky bass? Also, in this month’s article I want to talk a little bit about how to overcome a bad day of fishing, be it during a tournament or just a day of fishing fun. Let’s get started.
Weather wise, September can be a more confusing month for people than it is for Mother Nature’s creatures. At times we will get a tease of the coming fall but more often than not, without the presence of a calendar, you would believe we were in the middle of summer. One thing to keep in mind however, is the days are beginning to get shorter. This triggers fish movements that anglers often miss because while they are still fishing a summer pattern, the fish have already moved towards a fall feeding bite.
The first thing to remember, as we just stated, the days are getting shorter. To bass this is a sign that cooler days are just around the corner and the shad and other baitfish will begin their migrations to the back of pockets and far reaches of the creeks. Knowing this, the bass will actually move shallow first and be there waiting for their easy meals to show up.
Another thing an angler should to take into consideration when tracking September bass movement is water temperature. When lake water temperatures get into the mid or upper 90’s, this water will actually hold more oxygen than the water in the deeper parts of the lake. This is an important contributing factor for the early fish migration back into shallow water and this happens sooner than most anglers think. But also remember, this isn’t as much of a factor on bodies of water with consistent water flow like a creek or a river.
So now that we have determined why the bass move shallow during the dog days of September, where and how shallow should we look for them? If the lake I am fishing has grass, that is where I begin my search. Flats with access to deep water are my preferred choice of places to look but one thing I have noticed over the years is when you find bass on a grass flat this time of year often times they will be in extremely shallow water. It is not uncommon to find them in schools as shallow as a foot deep. You need to keep in mind if a fish is active in a foot of water, two foot of water is deep water access to him.
I also like to search for and fish flats with heavy wood cover. Stumps can be good but I prefer to try and find laydowns or logs. A bigger stump can hold a fish, a clump of two or three stumps is good cover as well. A single laydown or log may produce multiple fish but also seem to attract the bigger bass. Another reason I think laydowns and logs hold fish is because they give a bass numerous places to set up. No matter if the bass is actively feeding, seeking shelter or suspended in a neutral state, this type of cover gives him room for comfort.
When targeting shallow bass this time of year another overlooked area to find numbers of fish are on nothing looking banks. If a bank doesn’t look very good to you, that is all the reason in the world to go check it out for fish catching possibilities. Recently I found such an area and have caught fish off of it for the past two months. No cover, no major depth change, no reason for a bass to be there, but they were and still are.
Another popular fish attracting area this time of year are boat houses or boat docks. If there was ever such a thing as a perfect bass hideout, it would be a boat dock. On one piece of cover a bass has both deep and shallow water access, shade lines, cover over his head as well as several other areas to conceal himself. Often times dock owners will place treetops and wood cover in and around their docks to attract fish of all kinds especially the smaller bream, catfish and white perch that bass love to feed on.
We have a good idea on where we can locate active bass so how do we go about catching them? One of the techniques I rarely use, if at all this time of year is flipping and pitching. If I am going to use a soft plastic presentation, I prefer to cast them because these shallow water fish can be extremely finicky as well as spooky. That being said, I try to keep my choice of lures simple but much smaller than any other time of year.
My lures of choice are a 1/8th spinnerbait, Norman Tiny N crankbait, 1/8th buzzbait, ¼ chrome/blue Rat-L-Trap, shad colored Pop R and an 8-inch Junebug/red plastic finesse worm with a 1/8th slip sinker. I can take these six lures and catch fish on any body of water during the month of September. Don’t let the small sizes fool you, they will and do catch bass as big as they grow during this time of the year. Another thing I do when fishing these techniques and lures, I scale my line choice back to 15 lb. Green Big Game Monofilament.
One overlooked aspect of this style of fishing is casting accuracy. When fishing shallow flats, longer casts are the norm not the exception. It’s not uncommon to see fish breaking the water 20-30 yards away so be sure to give yourself the opportunity to catch them by practicing your long-distance casting. Being able to put your lure as close to where you saw the fish breaking water can make all the difference in the world when it comes to putting fish in the boat or not getting a strike.
Well once again, it looks like we have run out of space and time for this month’s “Fishing with Kenny.” I sure hope we were able to share some good information with you that will help put more fish in your boat. Remember, even though hunting season is just around the corner, we will still be dealing with awfully hot weather. Take caution while you are on the water, drink plenty of fluids that will keep you hydrated and make sure you catch one for me!
See you next month!