Catch Sinclair Bass Despite the Brutal Heat
Tony Couch turns the August heat into an advantage for catching Sinclair bass.
If you thought it was hot in July, just wait and see what August has in store for us. The dog days of August normally bring us the hottest temperatures of the year. On Lake Sinclair that means early morning water temps in the upper 80s and low 90s and late afternoon water temps in the mid to upper 90s.
Most bass anglers believe this is the end of good fishing until fall weather brings us some cooler water temperatures. Not so. For those of you who can tolerate the heat and humidity, August can bring some of the best fishing of the summer.
How, you might be wondering? Read on, and I’ll tell you.
Two major factors are coming into play this month that will contribute to your success. The main factor is that with higher temperatures Georgia Power Co. will be generating more to make more electricity to cool our homes and offices. This means longer periods of water current, which means longer feeding periods for bass. Longer feeding periods means more strikes for anglers, which adds up to more bass on the end of our lines.
The other positive in August will be pretty obvious once you get on the lake and start fishing. Look around. How many bass boats do you see? Nowhere near as many as there were last month. Most anglers decide it’s too hot and the bass probably won’t bite anyway, so they stay home where it’s nice and cool. There is a lot less fishing pressure on the bass, and that means most of the good fishing spots are available for you to fish. On a normal summer weekend, boats go in a giant merry-go-round from one community hole to another. As soon as one boat leaves, another takes its place usually in less than 10 or 15 minutes. During August, fewer boats means bass may go for hours without seeing a lure or maybe even all day long without seeing one. All this adds up to more fish for you.
Now that we know why August is a good month to catch bass, let’s discuss how to go about it.
Most anglers will be heading out to deeper water in search of cooler water temperatures. The majority of the bass will be in deeper water offshore on points, humps, river bars and channel bends. The depth the fish will be in depends on water clarity and what section of the lake you are on. In the upper ends of the rivers and major creeks, the bass most likely will be in 5 to 15 feet of water. In the mid section of the lake, most of the bass are in the 10- to 20-foot range. And on the lower end in the clear water, most will be in 15 to 30 feet of water. Many of these offshore structures will hold large schools of bass.
A good lake topo map and depthfinder are needed to find these hotspots. Use the map to find the sudden drops and humps. Once you’ve located these, use your depthfinder and graphs to fine-tune the location of brush and fish. The right depth, structure like brush and rocks, current and baitfish will dictate where the fish will be holding. Find all these things together, and you’re in business.
The most common method used to catch these offshore bass is the Carolina rig. A 1/2- to 1-oz. weight with a 3- to 6-foot leader works best. Zoom Centipedes, Finesse and Trick Worms in green pumpkin, redbug and junebug colors work well in Sinclair. A Texas-rigged worm works well too if the current is not too strong. A Zoom Mag II or Ol Monster worm rigged with a 1/2- or 3/8-oz. lead in the same colors mentioned above will do the trick. In periods of strong water current, the Carolina rig works best because the heavier weight will keep your bait in better contact with the bottom.
Another good method on Sinclair is deep cranking when there’s a good current. Often this method will produce some of the largest bass of the year. If the action is really fast, you might even catch two on one cast. Sometimes the big crankbait will trigger a strike when the more subtle worm rig will not.
Choose your crankbait according to how deep it runs and the color. There are many brands of deep divers, and most will catch bass. Some of my favorites are the Rapala DT Series, Norman’s DD22, Bomber’s Fat Free Shad, Mann’s 20 Plus and Luhr-Jensen’s Hot Lips. Preferred colors for Sinclair in August are blue-chartreuse, green-chartreuse, citrus, bone, sexy-shad and most shad patterns. Try shad patterns in the clear water and the bone and chartreuse patterns in the off clear and slightly stained water. Both floater and suspending models will work.
Once you choose your crankbait, you must now determine the speed of retrieve. Crank your bait down to the bottom, and experiment with various speeds. Sometimes a stop-and-go retrieve works best, while at other times a steady retrieve is what you need. A good rule of thumb is the faster the current, the faster the retrieve.
If you’re losing a lot of fish and catching a few that are hooked on the back hook, you’re using the right bait but the wrong color. Try changing colors until you find one that makes the bass inhale the entire bait.
A little trick to getting your crankbait down deeper is to go down in line size and switch to a good fluorocarbon line. The smaller diameter line has less resistance and allows your bait to dive deeper. The fluorocarbon line sinks, which also makes your bait go deeper.
Another method for catching these deep fish is to jig a grub, spoon or tail spinner. This method is not as common as worming and cranking, but at times it will work better. Don’t be afraid to try this method. The bass don’t see these baits as often, so they’re not tired of looking at them. Be sure to carry extras because they will hang up more often than worms or crankbaits.
All of Lake Sinclair’s bass are not located on deep offshore structure in August. Many bass are on deep shoreline cover. When I say deep, I’m talking knee–deep. Sinclair’s abundance of shoreline cover and stained water make it ideal for shallow-water fishing even with mid 90-degree surface temperatures. Stumps, rocks, lay-downs, overhanging brush, grass and boat docks provide bass with plenty of cover to hide and ambush unsuspecting prey.
The one factor that all the cover must have to hold bass is shade. Some of the cover such as lay-downs, matted grass and docks provide shade all day long, while other cover is dependent on the angle of the sun and time of day to provide shade. That’s what makes some shorelines better in the mornings and others better in the afternoon.
Some of the best shallow-water areas to fish are in the upper ends of the major creeks. Fresh water running into these areas provides bass with slightly lower water temps and higher levels of oxygen. Look for isolated logs, rocks and stumps on shallow flats as well as along the shoreline. It only takes a small spot of shade to hide a big bass. Cast your bait past the cover, and bring it back to the shaded side. Spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, Pop-Rs, jigs and worms work well on this shallow cover. Zoom Super Flukes and Trick Worms fished weightless also work well here.
One of the most common types of shoreline cover on Sinclair is grass. There are many patches of grass scattered all over the lake. Several different baits work in the grass, but the most common ones used are buzzbaits and spinnerbaits. Look for small holes in the grass, and work your bait over these and along the edges. Bass are hiding in the grass and looking for something to eat along the edges and small open-water pockets.
Other baits that work well over the grass are weedless frogs, swimming jigs and swimming worms. Use your jigs and worms over and around thin, isolated grass patches, and use the soft plastic frogs over the thicker patches.
One of my favorite ways to fish the grass is to flip the mats. With the pump-back system at the Lake Oconee dam, Sinclair has both low and high water conditions every day. During low water conditions, the tips of the grass will lie over and become matted, providing shade and cover no matter the angle of the sun. It only takes 10 or 12 inches of water to cover the back of a 6- or 7- pounder. Use a 1/2- to 1-oz. pegged weight to punch through the mats. Most any soft plastic bait works, but my favorites are Zoom Speed Craws, Baby Brush Hogs, Super Hogs and other beaver type baits. Heavy line is a must for this type fishing.
There are far more boat docks than any other type of shallow structure on Lake Sinclair. These docks provide both shade and cover all day long. The shade harbors small bream and shad, which in turn attract bass. Some of the docks have man-made brushpiles under and around them, while others don’t. Some days the bass prefer the ones with brush, and other days it doesn’t matter.
When the bass prefer the ones with brush, I key primarily on these. The way to find the ones with brush is to look for tops of brush sticking out of the water under and around the docks during low-water conditions. If you have high water and don’t know where any brushy docks are, I have a little tip to help you. Key on the docks with rod holders on them. This means a fisherman lives there, and most likely he has planted some brush under and around his dock.
There are many ways to fish these docks. Always remember shade. If you can’t get your bait under them, key on the shady side. Small, square-billed crankbaits and spinnerbaits run along the shady side bumping dock post often get great results. A Trick Worm or Super Fluke fished the same way works well, too.
The most common way, and my personal favorite method, is pitching worms and jigs under the docks. Just because it’s hot doesn’t mean you have to fish deeper docks. Deeper docks with brush may be holding bass, especially in clear water, but the shallow ones will also produce. Don’t be bashful about casting under the shallow walk ways. Even though you may be able to see bottom all around you, a big bass can hide in this confined shallow shady area under the walk ways and you will never see him. A soft lure presentation with little or no splash is required to get him to strike.
Some of my favorite baits for pitching and flipping are Zoom Ol Monster worms, Brush Hogs, magnum Trick Worms, regular Trick Worms, Speed Craws and a 3/8-oz. jig. My favorite colors for the soft plastics are junebug, redbug, black-emerald and green-pumpkin magic. My favorite jig colors are a black skirt with a blue chunk or a black skirt with a green-pumpkin chunk. Use the blue chunk in stained water and the green-pumpkin chunk in clear water. Try both jigs and worms, and let the bass tell you which they want.
If you think it’s too hot to catch bass this month, think again. If you can stand the heat, you could enjoy some of the best action of the year, and you even have two good choices — deep or surprisingly shallow.
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