T he equatorial heat of July and August drives water temperatures to their highest readings of the year and drives legions of bass anglers to soak soft plastics over deep-water humps and rock piles. While it is true that bass seek out cooler water temperatures in deep water, the savvy angler doesn’t abandon the shallows just because conventional wisdom says to.
During a recent phone conversation, professional bass angler Cody Ryan Greaney referenced several recent shallow water successes and suggested that, counter to traditional ideas about catching Micropterus salmoides during the late summer, anglers shouldn’t discount fishing shallow water.
During the heat, Greaney often becomes nocturnal and fishes the shallows at night. “I really like fishing in the wee hours of the morning,” Greaney counseled. “It’s a great way to beat the heat and avoid the summer crowds. The hours just before sunrise are a great time to fish.”
“Summer bass can be lethargic during the day and are often more active at night,” Greaney continued. “The closer to dawn you get, the cooler the water temperature.”
Most fishermen, myself included, have a hard time believing that night fishing can be as productive since humans don’t see well in the dark. However, nothing changes false perceptions like success.
Greaney explained that you don’t need to change lure color to fish at night. “Fishermen think that they need to change the color schemes of the lures they are fishing just because it’s nighttime,” said Greaney. “You don’t need to change a thing.”
In a human eye, there are two types of photoreceptors in the retina, called rods and cones, each contributing valuable information to the brain. One of the functions of rod cells is providing low-light input. The eyes of a largemouth bass have a larger percentage of rod cells than do human eyes, thereby making the largemouth bass a much more efficient low-light predator.
In addition to their superior low-light eyesight, Greaney pointed to the largemouth’s secret weapon—their lateral line. “A bass’s lateral line gives it extra sensory perception,” Greaney explained. “They can sense a lure’s presence long before they can see it. Largemouth bass don’t have problems finding meals at night.
“The biggest difficulty to fishing at night is seeing your target,” Greaney said. “Scouting an area and knowing it well will increase your chances of success. Having a general sense of where your targets are, really helps.”
Greaney then shifted gears, “Conventional wisdom suggests that fishermen abandon the shallows during the heat of the summer.” “Everyone is seeking that huge school of bass suspended over some deep structure—the type of school where you can catch 40 or 50, up to 100 bass. Those days can happen, and the fish can be really solid, but don’t be scared to fish shallow.”
Greaney doesn’t hesitate to fish shallow water, but he highlighted the importance of shade. “You need to find some shaded area where the fish can hang out. Aquatic grass, or other floating vegetation, provides a lot of shade, and bass will hang out in these areas. Also, look for shorelines with trees and boat docks, as these create patches of shade where bass will hang out.”
Greaney then stressed, “Cast to the dark areas and probe every shady spot. Even a small patch of leaves floating on the surface will cast a shadow.”
Greaney explained the draw of shallow water, explaining that perch (sunfish) and shad spawn throughout the summer. “In late summer, you will often see perch beds in the shallows,” he said. “Keep an eye out for bedding perch and work these areas thoroughly. Big bass will roam the shallows, gorging themselves on spawning perch.
“Black bass are funny fish,” Greaney continued. “If he has one eye behind a stick, and he thinks he is hidden, he will live his whole life behind that stick. Bass don’t have massive brains. There are resident fish that never leave the shallows.
“During the heat of the summer, large numbers of bass seek out deeper water, but not all of them,” Greaney explained. “Some stay put no matter what the calendar says. If there is plenty of food, the resident bass can get very large.”
During a recent tournament, Greaney bucked conventional wisdom, opting to fish shallow rather than deep. “My best five fish went nineteen-pounds, and I culled another limit that were all solid three-pounders.”
One of the benefits of going against conventional wisdom is solitude. “It was pretty hot that day, but there were plenty of fish in the shallows. There wasn’t a single boat in the area and I had the whole bank to myself,” Greaney concluded.
If you like solitude, or simply like working topwaters and spinner baits instead of inching soft plastic along the bottom, consider a foray into the shallows this month. If you strike out completely, there won’t be anyone watching, but chances are you will catch some nice resident bass.
Email Greg Berlocher at
Email Greg Berlocher at [email protected]