I don't know who first came up with that oft-repeated tale that says fish won't bite during "the dog days of summer" but I suspect it was someone who would rather sit under a shade tree and sip lemonade than go out in the heat and catch fish.
I am basically a spinnerbait/plastic worm fisherman but for the past several years, I have started using deep diving crankbaits.
It is my opinion that during the dog days of summer these deep diving crankbaits become especially effective because fish get used to seeing spinnerbaits, jig and pigs, Tubes and texas rigged worms,and when that not so much used crankbait comes swimming along they just can't resist. One of my favorite deep diving crankbaits is the "fat free shad" deep runner. I have caught some awesome lunkers on these baits right in the hottest days of summer.
My rod of choice is an "Ugly stik" 6 or 6 1/2 ft, Medium action, seems to be a versatile rod and very durable. There are many options of rods out there so I really believe that it is a matter of choice, though this is a controversial subject with the pros.
The next ingredient is a good quality line. There again in my opinion there are several good brands out there,and I have experimented with many. I think the conditions you fish is probably the determining factor for type of line and lb test. My personal preference is 12-16 lb strength. I used to like "USA"line as it was limber and strong. But I cant seem to find it anymore.Walmart used to carry it but like I said, because I can't find it I had to switch. Now I use "Berkley's" Big Game green.Its not as limber but is strong and has good knot strength. Its a little harder to throw but has extreme fighting power necessary
to land that big lunker.
The next critical equipment factor is a baitcasting reel with a very smooth drag. I use Ambassador garcia 6000 reels, which works well for me and has a lot of muscle required for bass and stripers. These are older reels but since they are dependable and do the job and costs about $50.00 they seem to be just the right combination for the serious angler.
The final component is the lure itself. Crankbaits come in a vast array of styles and colors made by a multitude of manufacturers. For summer fishing I recommend large, heavy-bodied baits in shad color patterns. I would have some with no internal rattles (such as Bagleys and Poes), a few rattles (Down Deep Rapalas or Fat Free Shads) and lots of rattles (Bomber Fat A's or Mann's Loudmouths). These are all baits that have been working for me.
Color doesn’t seem to be as critical as the amount of noise the lure makes. Fish that are very aggressive seem to be even more turned on by baits that make a lot of noise, while less active fish like fewer rattles. A real good point to remember is match the hatch, shad colors are always good, although deeper and less light makes darker colors believe it or not, the better choice sometimes. Water clarity also determines color preferences for some fisherman. I have always said when lure manufacturers design lures its not always the fish they target. A big majority of lures catch fisherman not fish. The best lures come in natural colors and fisherman should match the hatch so to speak. Since shad is the main ingredient in a fishes diet then shad colored lures will more than likely outperform the rest.
Once your equipment is lined out then its time to find the fish. I look for schools of shad that are holding near the bottom along dropoffs in water anywhere from 10’ to 20’ deep. Visible on your sonar near the bait fish should be the larger echo returns of larger fish. If you see gulls dropping down to the water in large flocks this is a pretty good indicator that shad are present. Predatorial fish are always nearby big schools of shad. When you see fish busting shad on the surface move quietly in on the action and get ready.
Presentation of crankbaits is the next step. It is essential that the lure be making bottom contact at regular intervals throughout the retrieve. Long casts give the lure more time in the strike zone. After each cast I rapidly reel the lure down until it hits bottom and then I begin the retrieve. I try to move the lure with a steady or stop and go retrieve that keeps the lure working along the bottom, always feeling for the lure to touch bottom and anticipating the strike. Big fish like to crush crankbaits so there is rarely any doubt when they hit. When you have a fish on the line, use the length of the rod to keep the line tight as you lead the fish around the boat until it is ready to land. Don’t try to horse in a fish with this outfit and watch out for that mouth full of treble hooks! A really good point here is try different presentations. Sometimes unusual presentations cause bass to bite. Be ready and willing to try different retrieval techniques and pay attention when the big ones hit. When you find something that works stick with it until it stops working. Patience is the name of the game.
Next summer, when it gets really hot, leave your shade tree for awhile and pack plenty of lemonade in the boat. Try working some deep-diving crankbaits across the bottom in deep water and get ready for big bass action that matches the temperature!
And be sure to remember, enjoy "The Great Outdoors!" See you out there, and practise catch and release! Keep what you can eat and release the rest!