Going Ike for Dog Days Bass
Photo by Todd Walker
Story by Lynn Burkhead
The dog days of summertime aren't usually the time of year that most bass anglers dream of.
Unless their name happens to be Mike Iaconelli, the New Jersey based Major League Fishing pro who captured his biggest tournament triumph during those same dog days.
That win, of course, was the 2003 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans, a triumph that Ike secured with a dramatic last-second largemouth bass. That fish gave Ike just enough at the weigh-in scale to nip Major League Fishing co-founder and Texas angling legend Gary Klein by less than a pound.
Pulled from the steamy waters of the Louisiana Delta on August 3, 2003, Ike's Classic clinching bass also serves to illustrate his contention that just because the dog days of summer are at hand, that doesn’t mean that anglers should sit in front of the A.C. sipping cold drinks either.
“Absolutely (you can still catch bass in the summer),” said Iaconelli. “It’s all about pattern fishing, just the summer patterns. While everybody is jet skiing and waterskiing and the air temp is 100 degrees and water temp is 90 degrees, you can still catch them.”
To do that, Iaconelli practices three key fish-catching principles when the red liquid threatens to blow the top out of the thermometer again.
“The three things I keep reminding myself of during the summertime are deeper, thicker, or current,” said Ike, a six-time winner on the B.A.S.S. tournament trail.
Starting with the deeper concept, Ike contends that there are two reasons that bass seek the deeper recesses of any water body during the heat of summer.
And maybe even a third reason that may not be as readily apparent.
“Bass are going to go deeper to be cooler and to get more oxygen content, but more importantly to follow the food source,” said Ike. “The shad (they feed on) are going deep for the same reasons.”
In other words, follow the food – even in the heart of summer – and you’ll most often find the fish that you’re after.
“They're going to go where their food is,” said Iaconelli. “An analogy I like to give during seminars is back home, we had a Wendy's three or four blocks away from where I live. But they moved it about four or five miles away. I didn't really want to go four or five miles, but I love Wendy's, so I did.”
“Bass are going to do the same thing - follow the food – and in the summertime, that is going to be deeper.”
The next pattern Ike employs in the summertime is thicker, as in thicker cover.
Iaconelli isn’t the only pro to cash in on this. It’s also the same bass-catching blueprint that Major League Fishing pro Takahiro Omori, the Japanese-born angler who now lives in Texas, used to capture his 2004 Classic title on North Carolina’s Lake Wylie.
“In my Classic win and in Tak’s Classic win, where were they?,” queried Iaconelli. “They were in shallow water under thicker cover.”
“That's the second summertime pattern – find the thicker cover. Bass like the cooler water, the shade, and the ambush point which thick cover provides.”
Ike notes again that bass seek such thick cover not just for the cooler temperatures and higher oxygen content that it can help provide, but also for the shallow water smorgasbord that thicker cover can provide.
“Take a look into that thick cover in the summertime and knock around a bit and you will see bluegills, crawfish, minnows and such,” said Iaconelli. “Even in the summer, they'll stay shallow if food is there.”
Where do you find such thick cover? Aquatic vegetation like hydrilla, milfoil, lily pads, cattail beds, and even Roseau cane all come to mind as spots that can all provide such shady ambush spots for a lurking summertime bass.
Other spots to take a look at for a lurking summertime bass include in and around boat docks and marina slips, underneath marina tire reefs and around submerged timber.
Iaconelli’s third summertime pattern – finding and fishing some sort of current or moving water – was one factor that came into play during his 2003 Classic win as he fished a shallow lagoon not far from where the Mississippi River spills into the Gulf of Mexico near Venice, La.
But Ike admits that there’s a better example about how effectively fishing this third pattern can lead to a Classic championship.
“My win incorporated this third summertime pattern, but Jay Yelas’ (2002 Classic) win is probably a better example of how the presence of current can help,” said Ike.
Why is current such an important factor during the late summer months? As with the other two patterns, game fish will key on the cooler temperatures and higher oxygen content that moving water can bring.
But they’ll also stack up to take advantage of the aquatic conveyor belt that delivers … you guessed it … more food.
Take Yelas’ winning pattern at the 2002 Classic for example. The Oregon-based pro ran away with the championship by keying in on moving water below the Logan Martin Dam on Alabama’s Lay Lake.
When the dam’s turbines began to churn water each day, Yelas used a black, brown, and pumpkinseed 5/8-ounce jig to fool enough big bass into taking the bait en route to his win.
How effective was this pattern of fishing moving water for Yelas?
He used the pattern to land two six-pound bass and one five-pound bass from the current flowing beneath the shade of one overhanging shoreline tree.
That trio of fish helped him weigh-in a three-day total of 14 bass weighing 45-pounds, 13-ounces, more than enough to outdistance Major League Fishing pro Aaron Martens’ tally of 15 bass tipping the scales at 39 pounds, 9 ounces.
“It’s like the fish are so competitive that they leapfrog each other up to the head of the current to get bait that is washing down,” Yelas told Bassmaster.com after his win.
Obviously, fishing moving water can be an effective key in catching a dog days of summer bass.
In the minds of many anglers, such current most often results from such things as downstream river flows, power generation and of course, wind conditions.
But there’s yet another way that water movement can be generated on an inland reservoir, even on a still, sultry summertime day.
“Take fishing in Texas on Lake Lewisville,” said Iaconelli. “On a still hot day with no wind and no water moving, you’ll see water skiers out there.
"If they’re constantly moving through a (particular) spot, that produces a little water movement that can stir the bait up, and boom, the fish start moving (and feeding).
“You have to always be aware of water movement, regardless of how it is created."
Aside from these three patterns, Iaconelli also recommends that summertime anglers try and fish on cooler days or during low light periods like those found at night or produced by a rare overcast or rainy day. There’s little doubt that the fish will be a little bit more active during such reprieves from the searing summer heat.
But in Iaconelli’s mind, any day that an angler can get out on the water – even on those sizzling dog days of summertime – is a good day to go out and try and catch a bass.
“Even if that’s the only time you have to fish - during the heat of summer – I'd rather go fishing than water skiing,” said Iaconelli.
“It’s part of the puzzle (of fishing) to me and I enjoy going out there and figuring out how to catch them even when others aren't doing it.”