article by Dan Chason
There is no shortage of opportunities in the heat of the summer to catch quality bass. Back when I was mad at the bass, my favorite time to fish was when I had to lay wet towels on the deck to keep from burning my feet through my sandals. When water temperatures top the 80 degree up to the 90 degree level, it is very hard to stay focused and find a consistent bite. For some reason, whether the challenge or just being pig headed, I would challenge myself to fish up in the day. One reason I did this was to get into my head that in the heat of summer, I could still find a good bite. That is hard when your eyeballs are sweating but conditioning yourself to stay with them gives you the confidence during a tournament to keep on chunking and find them regardless of air temperature.
I will say that the quickest way to call it quits is when the ambient temperature rises into the 90’s with little or no wind. Heat is nothing to play with but a few things I learned over the years can help you stick it out. First, remember that you lose body temperature and become dehydrated due to loss of fluids. Heat and cold is generated through your extremities. That means your head and feet are the two most important components of this equation. I discovered a simple thing years ago called a cool rag. This can be soaked in lake water and when soaked, becomes cool (due to materials in the rag). A cool rag is made to absorb moisture and then translates that from the jell into a cooling effect. This rag is a lifesaver. The other thing is drinking water. Simple water or something non-carbonated to replace electrolytes. That sounds simple and it is. Your body is like a motor on a car. Lose the cooling of a radiator and it will overheat. Keeping hydrated is the most important thing you have to do to beat the heat. If you are not urinating, you aren’t drinking enough. I used to take at least a gallon of cold water in my boat and it was for two things: Drinking and pouring on my cool rag and over my head. Keeping your head cool will extend your time on the water by far. A ventilated cap is crucial as air is allowed to flow over your head which substantially affects core body temperature. Should you become lightheaded, that is a sign of dehydration. If you are not sweating, that is a tale tell sign that you need to get out of the heat. Heat exhaustion is the first level which can immediately go into heat stroke which is life threatening. Get to the shade, allow yourself to recoup and carry on.
This was very apparent one hot summer week in July on Lake Fork. I was using the midday to idle around and look for drop offs and deep breaks in channels. I know the bass should be hitting a crank bait as there was a shad spawn going on that day. I was up in a creek arm and when I graphed a ledge I had to go back over it a number of times. The hook in the creek arm was literally loaded with bait and low and behold under the bait was a very large school of fish. I looked at my cameraman and told him that he better get ready as it was about to happen.
I bet I didn’t see 2 boats that day as it was blistering hot. I knew these fish were on threadfin shad so I pulled out my crank bait box to see what I could offer. I saw that I had a number of DD 22 crank baits in a Tennessee shad color and that was my first choice. On rod number two I tied on a chartreuse color DD 22 as well. The reasoning for this is that when you have a good school of fish located and fired up, throwing an alternative color will allow you to keep the bite flowing as fish will react to a different presentation and color after they see the same lure repeatedly. It was a day to remember as I sat in one spot and boated 33 bass with nothing under 3 pounds. My largest was a nice 10.22 fat girl that ate up a crawfish colored Mud Bug. This fish taught me a lesson as she was the only bass I caught on that lure. But the reason I threw it for quite a while was two-fold: The erratic motion of a Mud Bug and the size of the offering. The ability for a Mud Bug to reach maximum depth while not steadily cranking left the lure in the strike zone longer. Unlike the DD 22 I could keep it in front of their face for a longer period time.
Another trip where the heat was memorable was on Lake D’Arbonne one hot August day. I was catching a few on a crank bait on the channel but nothing to write home about. I opted to go up into the Tech Landing area and tied on the reliable Wobblehead. The grass was topped out and there was a good edge that was visible on the grass line. On that day, I went through a whole pack of Creme worms as the fish were suspended on the grass line. Slow and steady was the trick and throwing upwind and retrieving the lure in the suspended level of 3 feet was the key. Had I let the heat win, I would have never stayed to find these fish.
Heat and humidity have little effect on bass if you are willing to adapt and change approaches and techniques to find them. Keep the angler cool and the rewards can be significant. Those two trips taught me to hang with it but also gave me confidence when the heat index rises to the level of being unbearable.