Summer Bass Fishing 101 | Field & Stream


Maybe the idea of summer bass fishing isn’t all that appealing to you. Maybe your thinking, Who wants to go out among all the pleasure boaters and endure 100-degree temperatures to chase around a little green fish that would rather conserve energy by sitting still most of the day than run around trying to chase your bait down? We get it; sometimes it seems like the argument for not going bass fishing during summer’s dog days makes itself.

But there’s one big problem with that way of thinking, and it’s this: If you don’t go, you’ll be missing out on some surprisingly good bass fishing. Yes, it’s hot, but what better place to be when it’s hot than on the water? And, sure, some bass will be sulking—but some will eat anyway and others will actually hammer a bait right now if you know where to find them and what to throw. The truth is, summer bass fishing can be really good, especially if you follow the tips and tactics below.

Summer Bas Fishing Table of Contents

  • Summer Bass Behavior
  • How to Find Summer Bass
  • Lowlight Hours
  • Nighttime
  • Shade 
  • Deep water 
  • Current 
  • Top 5 Baits and Presentations
  • Finesse Baits 
  • Deep Crankbaits
  • Swimbaits
  • Topwaters
  • Big Worms 

Summer Bass Behavior

photo of when do bass spawn
Shallow-water bass seek the shade of cover in summer. Rostislav / Adobe Stock

Being cold-blooded, bass are always going to seek out their ideal water temperature range of 65 to 80 degrees. they do this not just in summer, but year-round. As winter bleed into the spring, they gravitate to sunny, shallow water in an effort to find warmer temps. But then as spring becomes summer, and the open, shallow water gets too hot, they do the opposite and begin to looking for cooler temps. This time of year, bass find cooler waters a variety of ways and places, includng the shade of a dock or weed bed, the deep water along a ledge, the cool current of a creek, or the cooler temperatures that come with dusk and nightfall.

When bass find water temperatures in or close to their ideal range, they become more active, willing to chase baits and, eat. Even we, as warm-blooded creatures, can relate to this. When you’re standing on a scorching hot sidewalk and do you feel like walking two blocks for a hamburger? No. But show me a sign for a hamburger joint with a good AC system, and I’m in. We are more likely to eat when we are comfortable, and it’s the same for bass.

Related: The Best Summer Bass Baits, Picked by the Pros

When and Where to Find Summer Bass

The specific places where you can find bass willing to take your bait in summer are as varied as the shoreline and the bottom structure of your average lake. But don’t let that overwhelm you. The key is to focus on these five times and places.

1. Lowlight Daytime Hours 

summer anglers fishing for bass at dusk
In some locales, dawn and dusk can be so much cooler than midday that you can find yourself sporting a light jacket even in summer. battler / Adobe Stock

Summer is one of the most important times of the year to focus your attention on fishing early and late. For starters, dawn and dusk are the most pleasant parts of the day to fish. They bookend the longest days of the year, with the hottest temperatures. This reprieve from the heat is felt by the fish, too. So, if possible, it’s best to schedule your fishing trips for early and/or late in the day, and just leave the midday misery of scorching hot temperatures to the absurd number of pleasure boaters that occupy most of the water ways when the sun is high. In some areas, dawn and dusk can be much, much cooler than midday, and the fishing can be every bit as good—as as pleasant for you—as any other time of year.

2. Nighttime

In the cover of darkness, summertime bass fishing lights up. Fishing at night is one of the best ways to beat the summer heat. Bass often rest during the day during the summer, still willing to bite a bait if it lands right in front of them, but not always willing to move for it. Instead, they save their energy hunting at night. Some bass will push shallow at night to feed, while some will stay deep to do so. And keep in mind that lights above or below the water can be fish magnets at night, as the entire food chain from plankton to bass and even bigger fish flock to lights at night like moths to a flame. 

3. Shade

bass anglers in a boat fishing the shaded water off the bank of a lake
Fishing shaded banks in summer lets you escape the heat of the sun and catch more fish. Brandon / Adobe Stock

Sometimes, you simply have to fish during the heat of the day, either because is the only time you have available or because you‘re preparing for or competing in a tournament. In any case, shade is one of the primary things you’ll need to look for to locate bass now. It can be the dark sanctuary of a dock or the scattered submerged shade provided by stalky vegetation like water willow. When shade is scarce, no amount is too small. You can find a bass laying up next to a single stick in the water or under the last little bush along the shore. If it’s enough to cover their eyes, there is at least some appeal for a bass to get under it. 

4. Deep Water

electronics for fishing deep-water bass in summer
Use your electronics to find deep-water structure in summer. Shaye Baker

Fishing deep water is another key to summer bass fishing because, like shade, it’s a place where summer bass can find cooler water. The thermocline, which is the maximum depth at which enough light penetrates the surface of the water to support life, pushes deeper and deeper in the summer months as the days lengthen and the air and water temperatures rise. Because it’s the deepest place where plankton and baitfish can survive, it’s also the coolest where bass can hunt. Wherever the thermocline meets cover or structure, such as ledges, brush, timber, boulders, and hump, you’ll find summer bass willing to actively feed.

5. Current 

Whether you’re fishing deep or shallow, current is a game-changer in the summer months. Current stirs up the water, adding oxygen and mixing deeper cold water with the shallower warmer water. Current also brings food to bass, allowing them to sit stationary behind some sort of cover or even out in the current a bit, as they simply wait for a meal to come to them. This combination of food delivery as well as the added benefit of cooler temperatures means shallow-water creeks and dam-generation schedules are two of the best things pay attention to in summer. 

Top 5 Baits and Presentations for Summer Bass Fishing

If you’re successful at finding water temperature in or close to a basses idea range of 65 to 80 degrees, then you will find active bass—not just in summer but any time of year. And active bass might hit almost any bait or presentation. That said, there are a handful that really shine for summer bass fishing. Here are the top five.

1. Finesse Baits for Summer Bass

Dropshot fishing for bass is highly effective if you rig correctly and use the right presentation.
A summer bass taken on a dropshot-rigged finesse worm. Shaye Baker

I could easily make all five of my top summer bass fishing baits/presentation finesse offerings, including a dropshot, Ned rig, Neko rig, shakyhead, and wacky rig. But instead, I’ll group them all together for the sake of making this list more interesting. That said, in the heat of the day, a bass will often prefer sit still and conserve energy as opposed to hunt. But as mentioned earlier, this same bass will still eat a subtle, non-threatening bait if it were to fall right in its face. Any one of these finesse baits/presentation will appeal to the opportunistic nature of a bass, despite its mood, and that’s what makes all of them so effective now. 

2. Deep Crankbaits 

There aren’t a lot of aggressive, power-fishing baits that work well during the heat of summer summer, but a deep diving crankbait can really stand out. Because a crankbait can be used to fish deep in that ideal temperature range, the bass that are being targeted with it are more aggressive and willing to chase a bait, or at least be spurred on to react to one that is moving quickly. This is why most anglers fishing deep in the summer will burn a crankbait across a ledge or through a brushpile before they’ll throw anything else. 

3. Swimbaits for Summer Bass

Swimbaits rigged on jigheads
Swimbaits rigged on a simple jighead can be highly effective in summer. Shaye Baker

A soft-plastic swimbait rigged on a jighead is another staple of summer bass fishing. Whether it’s 7-inch bait rigged on a 3/4-ounce jighead and fished out on a ledge, or a 3-inch bait rigged on an 1/4-ounce head and fished in the current of a shallow creek, there’s something about the slow and subtle kick of a swimbait that entices a bass during the heat of the summer. Swimbaits are versatile, and one of the best baits for targeting all species of bass when the water is hot, putting them squarely in the top five. 

4. Topwater Lures 

photo of a bass caught on a frog lure
A nice largemouth falls for a topwater frog lure. Shaye Baker

The term topwater spans a large territory, with power-fishing baits like Whopper Ploppers and buzzbaits that can be fished more quickly to target aggressive fish early and late, and finesse poppers and hollow body frogs that can be twitched ever so subtly and softly in the shade to entice the most reluctant fish into biting. That versatility means that you can hammer bass with topwater lures all summer long—early in the day, late in the day, at night, in the shade, in the current, and even out over deeper water. 

Related: Frog Fishing: 15 Ways to Catch More Bass on Topwater Frog Lures

5. Big Worms for Summer Bass

photo of a large Texas-rigged plastic worm
A large ribbon-tail plastic worm on a light Texas rig is a summertime staple. Shaye Baker

A big worm has a slow and subtle appeal that bass can’t deny in the summer, whether they’re shallow or deep. Rigging a big ribbon-tail worm on a light Texas rig makes for the perfect tool to drag around in shallow, warm water where bass may simply be stranded and suffering through the day until the night comes. You can also lure bites in deep water with a ribbon-tail worm rigged on a Texas rig or Carolina rig. Slipping a magnum trick worm onto a heavy shakyhead is another great way to milk a deep spot for all it’s worth in the summer. 

Related: Carolina Rig Fishing: How to Drag In More Big Bass

Conclusion: Summer Bass Fishing Can Pay Off Big

An angler lips a largemouth bass at the side of his boat
Even big largemouths will hammer a bait in midsummer if you know what to feed them. Shaye Baker

In the end, the bottom line is that you can sit home in the AC, or you can hit the water and catch bass even through summer’s dog days. Yeah it’s hot, but the bass still have to eat. Knowing when and where to target bass, as well as what to throw, will help you make the most of your time on the water. Look for ideal water temperatures that can be found in deep, swift, or shady areas or at specific times of the day and night. Then use topwaters, deep crankbaits, finesse tactics, big worms, and swimbaits to lure the fish into biting. If you implement these tips and tricks, you’ll not only catch fish now, but you may even become a summer bass fishing convert.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is bass fishing good in the summer?

It’s a lot better if you go than if you don’t go. Seriously, while the summer bite is generally slower than it is in spring, for example, and some fish will certainly be sulking deep once it gets hot, summer fishing can still be surprisingly good. With today’s electronics and finesse techniques, you can find and temp those sluggish fish. And the fact is, as long as there is cover and shade, the shallow-water and topwater bite can be really good, especially in the cooler temps of morning and evening. So get out there.

How deep do you fish for bass in the summer?

Bass can be caught from mere inches of water out to 50 feet in the summer. But the majority of bass across the country will stage from 10 to about 25 feet. Look for fish shallow in the shade and in current; out deeper look for them to be around ledges and offshore structure. 

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