Finding July's Firecracker Bass
by Lynn Burkhead
In case you haven't noticed in recent days, it's pretty hot across much of the country.
As hot as an Independence Day firecracker was at midweek.
But believe it or not, some of the year's best bass fishing action can occur when post Fourth of July weather conditions reach into the red-hot range.
As long as you're willing to leave the comfort of the air conditioner, the easy chair and a glass of ice-cold lemonade that is.
If you're not willing to take my word on it, then how about taking the word of one of bass fishing's all-time greats?
Because when it comes to catching bass in the heat of July, Major League Fishing co-founder and Bassmaster Elite Series legend Gary Klein is one of the month's biggest fans.
"Fishing for me in July is just as much fun as fishing in March," Klein has told me.
"You're fishing for the same population of fish, although you're obviously fishing at a different time of the year. You just have to make a few adjustments and fish where the majority of the fish are living."
And where the majority of the fish are living is in deeper water according to the Weatherford, Texas, angling great.
"(After) the fish finish spawning and move offshore, you're fishing for the same population of fish (as earlier in the spring)," said Klein.
"It's just that now, they're relating to open water, feeding on baitfish and generally having a great time. It's the same population of fish and you can have great, great days on the water in July just like you can in March.
"You just have to change your techniques."
Starting by ignoring the temptation of a shady siesta, instead cranking the boat motor up and heading out to the deep.
"I'm going to be looking for anything that is not bank related, things such as an underwater hump," said Klein. "To me, cover is something I can see with my eyes on the shore and structure is anything below the surface."
As you might expect, Klein, a 29-time qualifier for the Bassmaster Classic, relies heavily on his boat's electronics at this time of the year.
"I'm trying to establish an activity zone and I do that with electronics," said Klein. "I'll turn on the Lowrance and idle across a creek channel.
"It will show me things like the thermocline and certain depth zones with activity. Say I notice activity in 18 to 22 feet of water, then I'll look for structure in that area and really start hunting for these fish."
"It's a process of elimination. You can't just go offshore and expect to get on them.
Klein notes that anglers need to develop a good relationship with their electronics and what those machines are showing them.
"Once you do that, you can eliminate water pretty quick or establish an area that has a lot of fish in it."
When Klein establishes such an offshore area that has a lot of fish in it, he'll often throw a marker buoy overboard.
"I do that so I know the cast I need to make," said Klein, who has won eight times on the B.A.S.S. tournament circuit while pocketing a cool $1.9 million in career earnings.
"A lot of times, you have to make multiple casts to trigger fish (to strike)," he added. "You might have to make 15 to 20 casts to a fish; you finally get a bite and then (you) get a bite on 15 straight casts."
What lures does the Texas bass pro use to trigger such summertime activity?
When Klein throws a deep diving crankbait, it will often be either chartreuse with a blue gel coat on top; chartreuse with a brown top; or a traditional shad color with blue or green on top.
And when Klein tosses a Texas rigged soft plastic, it might very well be the blue fleck pattern.
What tackle set-up does the veteran fishing pro use?
"With the crankbait, I'll use a seven-foot (fiberglass) rod with a 5:1 reel spooled with 10- to 14-pound mono or fluorocarbon," said Klein.
What does Klein use for the plastics?
"I'll use a flipping stick with 20-pound mono or fluorocarbon," said Klein. "(And) I'll use a 10-inch soft plastic with a 3/8 (or) a 5/16 ounce sinker."
Ok, that's what Klein likes to toss from the deck of his bass boat.
But exactly how does he fish such lures on a typical firecracker hot summer day?
"At the crack of daylight, I'll probably start by throwing a topwater," said Klein. "After I throw a topwater, then I'll run around and look and then go into fishing a Texas rig or cranking."
"I usually fish it at a pretty good rate of speed," he added. "I'm working with my electronics and I let my electronics set the pace."
Which - when you're really dialed in to what summertime bass are doing - can be as red hot as a firecracker on the Fourth of July.