Hello, anglers. Summer 2016 is hanging on with both hands as we have not had a major cool front as of yet with mid to upper 90s forecast for the next week. It definitely is impacting fishing patterns as water temps remain high and fish are not where they usually are by mid September. The last half of August I saw a light migration of bass to the backs of creeks but instead of the migration becoming more wide spread it slowed and basically stopped. Weather patterns, I believe, have slowed the migration of bait fish(shad) to the back of major creeks. A moderate cold front will re-start that activity and cooler water temps will help fishing all over.
LAKE CONDITIONS: Water temps have edged higher the past week and moved from low 80s to upper 80s as daytime highs have been in mid 90s. Maybe a slight relief is coming by the weekend and more moderation of daytime highs early next week. Water levels continue to recede with Toledo level at midweek reading 168.7’ with one generator running 24 hours and no gates open at the emergency spillway. North Toledo is slightly stained, mid lake is mostly clear and south Toledo is very clear. The back portions of all major feeder creeks have slightly stained conditions.
FISHING PATTERNS/BASS: For the first time all summer we are having to really work to catch a decent bag of fish. Fishing was better than average through mid August but it has been more of a challenge since then. I am marking lots of fish on my electronics but having a tough time putting together a solid pattern. The morning bite is improving slightly as the moon phase is decreasing which always seems to help.
The toughest morning bite often occurs on the mornings following bright moons since bass feed more at night on a bright moon with high lake temperatures. Daytime patterns should pick up the next week with cooler weather and less moon.
With water levels falling the bass are pulling out to the edge of shoreline grass.
All summer we have been able to catch good fish out of shallow, shoreline grass but with the level falling cover for bass along the shoreline is decreasing. We are finding some areas that have grass out from the shoreline (milfoil and coontail) in 5-8 feet and these areas are producing early, late and during cloudy conditions. We are fishing these with small crankbaits(Berkley Digger and Norman’s Little N) plus a scaled down Texas rig with 3/0 hook and 1/8 and 3/16 bullet sinkers and straight tail worms (Berkley Bottom Hoppers) in green pumpkin and shady watermelon candy.
The top water bite has been excellent all summer but has slowed in the past couple of weeks but should pick up with improved weather conditions/moon phase. Our most effective topwater tools have included Sebile’s Flat Belly Walker, Chug Bug (modified), Yellow Magic and Gunfish. Some days they want a walking bait while the next they want a popper. You just have to let the bass tell you which one they want. I have caught them on a popper in the morning and a walking bait late afternoon. No matter which one I choose I want a feathered tail on the rear set of hooks.
Some baits, like the Chug Bug, come from factory with an artificial tail made from some kind of fabric which is colored white or chartreuse. This is better than nothing but I prefer the actual white feather tail/treble hook. They are not cheap but come in boxes of two for $6-8 bucks. In clear water the real feathers will definitely get you more bites. Several companies manufacture them including Yamamoto, Gamakatsu and Mustad.
Lots of bass are suspended currently as well as millions of bait fish(shad) which is one of the reasons fishing is tough. For many anglers, including this writer/guide , suspended bass are some of the toughest to pattern and catch. Right now much of the bass population and baitfish are holding just above the thermocline.
The thermocline is usually about 24 to 28 feet on Toledo and Rayburn and below that there is minimal oxygen. A good cold front or two would do away with the thermocline and allow the lake to “turn-over” and bait and fish population to be able to move to any depths.
One way we are catching a few suspended bass is to throw large crankbaits which can get down to 18 to 22 feet. I run these on 10 and 12 lb Berkley Trilene Fluorocarbon but a lot of the fish are suspended in standing timber which can get expensive hanging up $8 to $20 baits.
In addition, you will hook a big fish which will wrap you around a stump/tree and break off. We have caught some good fish doing this but have lost some good ones also plus some of our favorite crankbaits. The best place to fish this pattern is near a major creek with standing timber. Currently, with the lake level down, it is easier to spot these areas as the standing timber is more visible. You can use heavier line than the 10 and 12 but the baits will not dive as deep.
In the heavy timber I normally use 12 Berkley Fluorocarbon which is remarkably strong for 12 lb test. I use the 10 lb. when I’m cranking main lake ridges . When you crank main lake ridges target the break line at the edge of the drop off. Bass are also suspending off drop offs/breaks.
I’m also fishing suspended fish using electronics and drop shot and spoons. I’m finding them on electronics and then dropping bait down to the bait/fish. Of course multi species are following the bait fish so we are catching bass, spotted bass, yellow bass, drum, an occasional crappie and even a few catfish.
CRAPPIE/YELLOW BASS: Crappie guide, Jack Adams, says he is still catching good numbers of crappie on his holes with lots of quality crappie included. Live shiners remain his best bait and 22-28 ft. is his targeted depth. Yellow bass are starting to show up with the best pattern under the schooling largemouth near creek beds.