Randy Howell: Summertime's Hot Weather Bass Fishing
By Lynn Burkhead
August 2, 2017
Over the years that Randy Howell has fished in Major League Fishing events, my interview time with him has steadily revealed that the Alabama pro is a big fan of summertime angling action.
While some anglers like to sit in the air-conditioned comfort of a dock-side cafe sipping iced tea, Howell is all for donning his floppy brimmed hat and chasing bass even when the heat is on.
So prior to a late summer day of MLF GEICO Select competition in Alpena, Mich., I couldn't help but ask Howell for some tips on targeting bass during the dog days of summertime.
With his trademark smile, the 2014 Bassmaster Classic champ responded with three tips along with some advice on lure selection and rod-and-reel set-up.
First, Howell says to make sure that you're on the water at the right time of the day during the summer season.
As he gave this advice prior to a round of competition, Howell ruefully lamented that the light necessary for filming with TV cameras typically prevents the MLF pros from being able to take advantage of this idea.
But weekend warriors at home are under no such restraints and can readily use this first tip to target some good bass willing to eat a lure very early in the day.
"You need to go early, to take advantage of the dawn bite," said Howell, a Guntersville, Ala. resident. "Sometimes you can even get there and get on them an hour before daylight.
"Sometimes, as it's starting to break day, that's when the fish do their biggest feed in the hot summer months," he added.
"(And in similar low light, low heat fashion), that's why night fishing is also really good, especially in southern lakes. You can have some of the best fishing ever at night, from like 12 in the morning to daylight."
But going out at the proverbial O' Dark Thirty time of early morning isn't the only low light time of the day to try and target.
That's because Howell says that the late afternoon hours are also prime time as the sun sinks low on the western horizon, sharp shade lines start to develop and shadows are cast upon the water's surface. Often, this is enough to entice a late day bass to spring out of the darkness to ambush a passing lure.
A second tip from Howell is to remember the lazy nature of summertime bass, meaning that if you're in an area with fish, slow down and work through that area thoroughly before moving on.
"A lot of times they are lethargic and moving around slow at this time of the year," he said. "You need to take your time. Once you catch a few fish in an area, there's typically a lot more fish there. You can go back to it later on and milk it again, run over it two or three more times and pick up some more (bass) without covering a lot of water."
Since most professional anglers often talk about the need to cover water, why is the Alabama pro talking about doing just the opposite here?
"(In the summer, you want to) stay close to areas where you've had a few bites," said Howell. "Only a few of them bite at a time, especially when there's hot water (around)."
A third tip from Howell is to not overlook the shallower stuff, even in the depths of summertime.
"A lot of times, you can stay in 10-foot of water or less, unless it's the middle of the day when it's so hot," said Howell. "Then I might go offshore, but you can (often) catch fish even if it's relatively shallow."
How can an angler do that?
"You want to always use your Lowrance electronics to find humps and stuff, even if they are (fairly) shallow, just as long as they aren't far away from deeper water," said Howell.
What lures does the longtime MLF pro suggest at this time of the year?
"It depends on what type of lake," said Howell, who has four B.A.S.S. victories and one FLW Tour triumph in his career. "(But on most southern lakes), I like a topwater at night and that Livingston Walking Boss II (is a good one)."
Why is that?
"It has that old Jitterbug style lip and that bait was known back in the day as a good night bait," said Howell, who has won more than $2 million dollars in his career.
"Now, this one from Livingston is bigger, heavier, and has a deeper cupped lip so that it spits (more) and makes more sound," he added. "That's especially true (when) the Electronic Baitfish Sound (EBS) is set on shad mode.
"You can run that thing at night and get exploded on, especially on the full moon, bright nights when you can see a little bit. That's a lot of fun to throw that bait at night, which is a good choice when the weather and the water are hot."
What about Howell's bait selection when the sun is shining during the summer months?
"During the day, when it's tougher and you have to fish in the heat, the old drop-shot is a sleeper this time of year, even on southern lakes, as long as you're casting it and not just dropping it," said the Alabama pro. "You want to cast it out and drag it like you do a Carolina Rig, just with a shorter leader."
In terms of the leader length, Howell admitted that in Alpena during the Select competition, he used a longer leader to target smallmouth bass with the drop-shot rig.
But in the southern latitudes near his home, he'll typically opt for a shorter leader to chase summertime largemouths when the heat is on.
"Short leaders keeps the bait close to the bottom, but it still keeps it off the bottom," said Howell. "If you use something small, the little three-inch long Senko is one of the best drop-shot baits for largemouths in the hot water of summertime. If you get it around brush piles, it will get a lot more bites than a regular worm or anything else."
What are the rod-and-reel set-ups that he utilizes during the summer months?
"On the topwater at night, I'll throw a 7'2" to 7'4" medium-heavy Daiwa rod, either the Steez-XT, the Tatula-XT or the Zillion," said Howell. "On the reel, I'll throw it on the fast Daiwa 8.1:1 Tatula CT reel with 70-lb. Daiwa Samurai braid. You can make long casts with that set-up and you won't break off.
"You can toss it far away, have instant connection to them on the hook set and land them pretty good," he added. "Long casts are always a key to me, especially when they are spooky in the summertime. You want to get that bait out there as far as you can so you'll get more bites."
What about his rod-and-reel set-up for the drop-shot rig?
"On the spinning stuff, I'll use the 7'3" medium action Daiwa Tatula Randy Howell Elite Rod (that will be out soon)," said Howell. "I'll add a 2500 size spinning reel spooled up with 25-pound Samurai braid with a 12-pound Gamma fluorocarbon leader."
To be sure, summertime angling can be a challenge as fishermen battle lethargic bass, stifling heat and plenty of sweat rolling down their faces.
But for anglers willing to adjust their time and tactics, the bass fishing can still be productive.
Even when the heat is on.