Summer's worst heat can't keep pros from luring bass into striking

To most people, this wouldn't have looked like an ideal day to fish for bass.

It was hot, the water temperature was rising, and the reservoir was high and murky.

But Terry Scroggins, a pro fisherman from Palatka, Fla., was unfazed. He knew that the heat doesn't necessarily kill a bass's appetite.

"A lot of people say the bass won't hit in the heat of summer," he said during a recent media day at Grand Lake. "But that's not true.

"You eat when it's hot, don't you? Well, they do, too.

"I caught 34 pounds of bass one day in the heat of summer on a crankbait. If you know where they're feeding, they can be grouped up. That's when you can really catch them."

Scroggins was fishing one of those places now.

He positioned his bright-colored bass boat far off shore and began working a spot that many bass fishermen would overlook.

"This is a perfect summer spot," he said. "This is an underwater point that comes out a ways and has some brush on the break.

"That's what I'm looking for in the summer - a point that comes out a ways and then falls off quickly. Those are the ones that hold bass."

It didn't take Scroggins long to prove his point.

Moments after he had launched a long cast with a Fat Free Shad crankbait, he felt a dull weight at the end of his line. When he pulled back, a keeper bass splashed to the surface, then struggled to get free.

The fish took out line for a second, but Scroggins quickly took the fight out of the fish and pulled it into the boat.

"That one will go about 3 pounds," he said. "Look at how fat that fish is. It's been feeding."

A few casts more and Scroggins had another fish out of that school. And then another. And still another.

He caught and released five bass - most of them keepers - in rapid fashion before the action slacked off and he moved on to another place.

The key to his success? He kept his bait in contact with the bottom - and he kept it in the proper zone.

"With a crankbait, 12 to 15 feet of water - with 20 feet not far away - is an ideal zone," he said. "That's where I look for my summertime fish."

But that's certainly not the only way to go after summertime fish, Scroggins will tell you.

He also likes to cast topwater baits in clear water and buzzbaits in stained water. And when the going really gets tough, he will drop down to light line, a split shot and a finesse bait such as a Yum Houdini Worm and skip it under docks and other areas where there is shade.

Other pros take different approaches. Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., for example, likes to cover water by using a Carolina rig with a soft-plastic bait.

The rig consists of a sinker, a bead and a barrel swivel on the main line, then an 18- to 30-inch leader tied to the swivel. The advantage it provides? The sinker bounces along and stirs up silt as it is swept across the bottom, attracting the bass's attention. The fish are then drawn to the lure tied to the leader, which floats up where it is visible.

"The Carolina rig is a great search bait," Evers said as he fished on a rocky flat on Grand Lake. "It allows you to cover a lot of water.

"When the fish are spread out, it's one of my favorites. A lot of times, I'll just fish it all around a point until I find out where that rock, dropoff or brush pile is."

But Evers also lets conditions dictate how he will fish. For example, if the water is high and stained, he will often flip shallow cover, even in the heat of the summer.

That's why he spent part of a recent day flipping a Yum Black Neon Tube bait to the flooded willows on Grand Lake. And he caught fish, including one that weighed about 3 pounds.

"When it gets tough, flipping stained water is one of my confidence methods," Evers said. "Even when the water is warm, that flooded cover will hold fish."

But in deep, clear-water reservoirs, the bass often drop to the depths in the heat of summer. In that situation, pros such as Aaron Martens often go to a drop-shot rig, which consists of a weight tied to the end of the line and light-wire hook with a finesse bait tied a couple feet above it.

"That's a great way to vertically fish in the summertime," said Martens, who lives in Leeds, Ala. "When the fish are down in 30 feet of water, it's a great way to present a bait.

"I've caught a lot of keeper fish that way."

But regardless of the bait, establishing a pattern and staying on the move can be the key to good summer bass fishing. Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., proved that when he won the recent Sooner Run Bassmaster Elite tournament on Grand Lake.

He aimed for points and caught fish there by casting deep-running crankbaits. He fished as many as 30 points a day, most of them similar.

"If you can find a good pattern, you can catch a lot of bass in the heat of summer," he said. "Once you catch a few fish, you just try to find other similar areas and duplicate what you were doing. A lot of times, that will pay off."