If you put your spinnerbaits away after the spring fishing season, you may have made a big mistake. The dog days of summer can be fabulous for fishing with spinnerbaits when most anglers are fishing deep structure with crankbaits and soft plastics.
A lot of people think the hot-weather months drive fish deep, but in reality the deep water on some lakes can become unsuitable for bass. Even though you may have caught bass on the deep ledges in June or early July, things can get tough out there by mid-July because of a rising thermocline. The oxygen levels and water quality deteriorate in deep sections by mid-summer, forcing the bass into water as shallow as 12 feet or less.
If you look at how Bassmaster Classics were won when they were held during July, you’ll see that most of the fish were caught while flipping or pitching in shallow creeks and bays.
That’s not to say I won’t fish a spinnerbait deep. There are some instances when I rig a 1-ounce spinnerbait and work it around river ledges that have current and grass. But when I do, I opt for smaller willow-leaf blades so I can crank the lure fast and keep the bait down. I’ve seen days when deep-water fish would ignore soft plastics but crush a heavy spinnerbait whirled along the bottom.
Bass migrating shallower are still looking for cover from which to ambush forage that saunters by. That’s a great time to buzz a spinnerbait by their heads and trigger a reactionary bite.
I’m always trying to trigger a reactionary strike. Keep in mind that you probably aren’t going to entice summer bass into eating a spinnerbait, so you’ve got to startle them into striking.
By fishing the lure quickly and banging it near or around cover, you’ll get bites that a casually cranked spinnerbait can’t evoke. No matter how leery or pressured those fish are, you can make them bite with the right presentation.
To do that, you have to select the right combination on the lure. By changing sizes, blade combinations and colors, you can affect a lure’s performance and make it more effective.
I prefer heavy baits but vary my blade sizes to add speed. I rarely throw a lure smaller than ¾ ounce but will change its performance by adjusting the blades. If the water is muddy, I use Colorado blades to produce more vibration. If it’s stained, I’ll go to Indiana blades. If the water is clear or I want more flash and less vibration, I select willow-leaf blades, which also provide less lift.
If I determine the fish aren’t on the banks, I’ll go looking for them closer to the bottom where there are logs and stumps.
To fish the bait fast and closer to the bottom, I use a No. 4½ willow-leaf with a No. 3 Colorado blade. That’s a good all-around combination if the water is deeper than a few feet. If the water is muddy, I like a single Colorado blade and fish it deeper where the water is a little clearer.
While white and white/chartreuse are my favorite colors in spring or winter, I prefer more transparent colors during summer. I also like to remove the skirt and add a Mann’s SHADow or other soft-plastic jerkbait as a trailer. That works well in the summertime.
Nighttime is another good time to fish spinnerbaits. One night while fishing with a friend on Lake Fontana in North Carolina, he wore me out with a spinnerbait that had red No. 3 Colorado and black No. 5 Colorado blades. Since that experience, I always use a red-and-black blade combination at night. It really seems to make a difference.
So when your regular summer lures aren’t doing the job, tie on a spinnerbait with the proper blade combination, then fish it fast and hang onto your rod.