A S SUMMER ENDS IN heat-worn Texas and the kids go back to school, the bass start schooling too.
It’s a situation that Bass University founder Pete “The Dean” Gluszek has encountered in the Lone Star State around the country. While it occasionally presents an opportunity for easy pickings, more often it results in frustration.
Big fish will chase shad to the surface, often just out of casting range. By the time you get there, those fish are gone; and there are more schoolers in the area you just departed.
“When it seems random, it’s very, very challenging,” he said. “the key is to identify something that holds them. It could be a bottom change or a current rip, some piece of habitat that is congregating baitfish. The smaller the area, the better.”
His strategy is to hold his cast. It can be frustrating to sit there doing nothing when you know there are fish in the area. Yet, by keeping a lure 6 to 12 inches from your rod tip, you’re in the best position to capitalize when things start happening.
“There’s a very small window to catch those fish,” he explained. “If you’re casting, by the time it takes to reel in, the opportunity may go away, particularly if there are just one, two or three fish that are active. You’ve got to be in a position where you’re read to attack.
“The higher the water temperature is, the window is smallest. You need to be able to accurately put the bait there while the fish is catchable, with its gills flared and is dorsal fin up. Once that moment disappears and they chill out, you can’t trigger the strike.”
Frequently Gluszek tries to get a glimpse of the species, size and color of the key baitfish and then “match the hatch.” Topwater is an obvious choice, and he frequently utilizes both walk-the-dog and chugger style lures. He noted that the bass can show a marked preference for one over the other from day to day or even from hour to hour.
On the other hand, there are days when “they’ll blast topwaters 12 inches out of the water, porpoise it, and not connect. That’s when I go to a fluke, which you can fire a mile on light, braided line.” When they’ve come up and injured their prey, a “do nothing” lure like a Senko can be the comeback ticket. As opposed to the fluke’s erratic action, it offers up an exceptionally easy meal.
He also likes lipless crankbaits, because “you can cast them so far, and maximizing distance can be so important in this situation.” Lately, he’s relied heavily on Storm’s 360GT Searchbait, a matching head and swimbait that cast long distances and offer a high hookup percentage. The key, The Dean stressed, is to “cycle through all of them to figure out which one they’re hitting that day. If I throw into two schools and the fish don’t react, the next time around I’ll fire something else.”
When it comes time to cast on a hard-charging bass, he won’t throw right to the boil. Instead he tries to figure out which way he’s going and fire ahead of him, like leading a duck with a shotgun.
If the intervals between boiling fish start to become longer, Gluszek examines whether he has a role in that delay. He’ll shut down his electronics, lower the speed of his trolling motor, and even reduce his own movement in the boat to prevent spooking them.
“As a last-ditch effort, I’ll run through them,” he said. “Idling aggressively often triggers the baitfish and can cause feeding activity. However, definitely don’t drive through an active school.”
If the fish remain inactive, another tool that he likes to use, especially in deeper water, is a blade bait such as a Silver Buddy or a Molix Trago. “When bass are busting, lots of tools work,” he explained. “But when they go down, few of them work. Get on top of them and drop it straight down. It works in hot and cold weather and everything in between. Be sure to keep them in your tacklebox.”
Keep an eye open for busting fish, a rod at the ready, and a foot on the trolling motor ready to chase them down. Going back to school can be a time of new beginnings and great success.
Email Pete Robbins at [email protected]