Summer is finally here. That means bass will do one of two things – go deeper or stay shallow. For those who prefer shallow fishing, it is still game-on.
To catch bass shallow all summer, anglers should focus on areas that have thick cover and lots of shade. Boat docks, matted vegetation, and submerged weedbeds are excellent places to look. Lures like plastic frogs, a punch rig, swim jig, and flipping jig can work through those hiding places to locate and catch shallow summer bass.
In this article, I will go in-depth on the topic of shallow water summer bass fishing.
One of Two Choices to Locate Summer Bass
The spring is long gone and so are the days of monster bass roaming shallow water everywhere we look.
Those fish are going to head either to deeper water or stay shallow.
The percentage of fish that do one or the other largely depends on the type of fishery, but there will always be shallow bass – including some true lunkers.
Cover and Shade
Shallow summer bass will locate the thickest and most impenetrable cover they can find.
This may be in the form of emergent, matted vegetation. It could be hiding under a boat dock or even buried in a brush pile. The thicker the better.
Thick cover creates shade.
Bass love to hang in the more comfortable temperatures, but they also prefer to be out of the direct sunlight when possible. I have witnessed 5lb’ers swimming under my own boat dock when the water is 40°. One might think those fish want to bask in the sun, but when eyelids are absent, bright light can be a nuisance.
How to Narrow Down What Cover to Fish
If you fish a reservoir that has hundreds of miles of vegetation along the shoreline, you may wonder where to start.
The secret ingredient is deeper water access.
Notice I said deeper, not deep. This is a relative term to the water you are fishing.
If an angler can locate where thick cover bumps up against deeper water odds are there will be a school of summer bass in the area.
Avoid those long flats or pockets that take two hundred yards to drop two feet.
If there is a weedbed sitting in 5’ and it quickly dips into 8’ – that can be a golden ticket to an amazing day.
Not every piece of cover in a lake has deeper water access nearby. By focusing on this key feature a summer bass angler can eliminate 99% of the water in front of them and focus on very high percentage areas.
Topo maps and mapping electronics are excellent tools to find these spots, but don’t forget about Google Earth. If the water you are fishing is somewhat clear, these areas are very easy to locate and may show up better than on a topographical map.
What Shallow Fish Eat
Bass that hang in shallows all summer are true opportunists.
They will devour minnows, shad, bluegills, frogs, crawfish, and insects.
This is great news for bass anglers because it allows for a wide-range of potential lures to throw. It is still best practice to see what the main forage base is and match it accordingly, but the tackle box is wide open for shallow fishing.
The Time of Day
Of course, early morning and late evening lowlight periods are always going to be good. The fish are more apt to leave the cover and roam looking for food.
Personally, I prefer the middle of the day.
When the sun is high I know where those shallow fish are going to be located. As mentioned earlier, the thickest cover and shade producing cover will hold the majority of the bass.
Some of the largest bass I have caught in the summer have been landed between 10am – 2pm.
Time to be Persistent and Accurate
Just because we know where those shallow summer bass are going to be does not mean they will give up and jump in our boat.
Many summer bass anglers will cast once or twice to a key piece of cover and then move on down the shore. Odds are they left fish behind.
To make the most of shallow water summer bass fishing, anglers need to make multiple casts to one target, hit it from a variety of angles, and be extremely accurate.
Have you ever watched an old episode of the Bassmaster Elite Series on YouTube?
If you chose to watch a summertime derby, odds are you witnessed a professional angler pick apart shallow cover ad nauseum.
Often it is that sixth, seventh, or even tenth cast to a key piece of cover that finally gets that bruiser bass annoyed.
I see this all the time.
The fish will hit from one angle but not another. I have worked over schools of bass with a crankbait in the summer that wanted a lure brought from only one direction many, many, times.
A few degree to one side and I was hauling empty water.
This varied angle attack needs to be employed on every key target you can find. Hit all sides of a dock, work a weedbed from every angle, and attack a brushpile with the same approach.
This multifaceted method also means you are much more likely to catch fish that other anglers working the same shoreline missed.
This may be the most important of the three.
When the sun is low in the sky, the strike zone increases. The opposite is true when the sun is high.
I have been on lakes where six inches meant the difference between a 4lb’er taking my lure and no bite at all. It makes that big of a difference.
When working shallow cover that you feel has fish on it, be sure to keep repeating those casts to get the lure exactly where you want it. If a huge bass is hunkered down and comfortable in the middle of the day they are not apt to go chasing. That lure needs to land right on there nose.
The Little Ones Matter
Summer bass fishing means you may catch a load of little ones before that monster bass takes the bait.
The important thing to remember, is that summer bass tend to school up.
If those little ones find an area comfortable, odds are a few bigger ones do as well. It is common for an angler to catch a 1lb’er and keep moving down the shoreline.
Keep working that area over. Not only is there a chance you will catch more fish of the same size, but a good one just may be lurking in there as well.
There have been many days when I catch ten more fish from one very small spot. Don’t leave an area too quickly when that little guy hits. His big brother or sister may be near by.
Great Summer Lures
There are four lures that I rely on most of the summer when fishing shallow. These have proven to be hot water fish catchers year-after-year.
Plastic Hollow-Body Frog
This lure is a legend of summer bass fishing.
It is often associated with pads and other forms of emergent vegetation, but it will pull fish from every type of cover in the water. Even if your lake or river is not what you consider to be “perfect” frog fishing water, it will still catch them.
You may even be surprised how well.
The Punch Rig
This is a summertime staple for any angler that faces vegetation so thick you can drive a car on it.
Pegging oversized worm weights in the 1oz to 1 ¾ oz range will punch a soft plastic lure right through that mat and to the unsuspecting bass below.
Select plastic lures that are bulky and compact. Options with lots of appendages are more apt to get hung up on the way through the slop.
When the lure hits bottom, hop it a couple of times then pull it up to the bottom of the mat. Bang it against the cover a couple of more times. Reel it in and then repeat.
Thick mats can also be formed by jammed up logs and other debris in the backs of pockets. These areas are often left alone by other anglers, but can yield some amazing catches.
Flipping and Pitching Jig
If there is shoreline cover to be fished, a jig is an excellent tool for the job.
It can be swam, skipped, and banged into anything you can find. Vary the size, trailers, and colors until you find something that the bass commit to. If they are swiping at the lure and just nipping the trailer, that is a key signal to switch things up.
When the shallow summer bass get on a good jig bite, it is so much fun.
This single lure may be responsible for more shallow summer bass than any others I fish.
I love to imitate bluegill and big bass love them.
It is also very easy to hit all parts of the water column from the ultra shallows to deeper water on the edge of cover.
There are numerous retrieves that also can be imparted on this venerable lure. One great one is the Alabama Shake. Here is an article on this presentation.
Summer can get hot and days on the water can be toasty. Yet there are always going to be some shallow bass for savvy anglers to go after.
Find the thickest cover you can locate alongside deeper water access and the searching process is well on the way to finished.
Be accurate with those casts, hit targets again-and-again and attack from various angles.
Tight lines. Be safe and make sure to encourage someone today. You never know how you may change their life forever.