The dog days usually make it tough finding fish. Typically, they go to deeper water and become lethargic. It takes tempting the bigger bass a lake holds with a jig or soft plastic worked very slow on deeper structure or finding suspended fish. That’s how it had been in the past on a local lake I fish regularly.
Last year I fished the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship on Kentucky lake. It is limited to anglers who qualify through their local clubs, KBF trail or open events and KBF online tournaments. The day I left Paris Tennessee where the championship was held my goal was to qualify for the next one. The online events were an easy way to pursue my goal and I started in April fishing the KBF southeastern regional online event. What I discovered was although the online events were an “easy” way to attempt to qualify… actually qualifying was a different story.
The way an online tourney typically works is you have a month to submit photos of your three biggest bass caught during a specific month. The bass is placed on a measuring board and a picture is taken. After the photos are submitted, the total inches are calculated and a winner is chosen. In the southeastern region I found out that Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina have as good of bass fishing as we do here in Georgia. I knew it would be tough but this was gonna take more than I had thought. I found out that three 21″ bass was not gonna cut it competing against these guys. It got to a point where my buddy who was also competing would joke about catching a “little” 20″ bass, it was taking upwards of sixty five to seventy total inches to win.
April, May and June were spent fishing on several different public lakes that are known to hold big fish and I thought that those months would be my window of opportunity to catching some. I spent countless hours on the water only to come up just short each of those months. My confidence level had dwindled because I had caught some great fish only to place below the top spot. I figured with the upcoming dog days it would only get worse.
July rolled around and I was drawn to one lake in particular because of its abundance of bait and deep water structure that it holds. Last year I had caught some really nice fish off of some rock piles in the twenty foot depth range. My plan was to start targeting them with a jig and pig and I did with very little luck. I’d fish those deep rock piles for hours knowing they were going to pay off and after about three weeks of trying what worked last year I decided to fish shallow one evening. I threw a squarebill onto a flat with three foot of water and caught a twenty inch bass, a few days later I caught another off of the same flat that was similar in size. Maybe I was on to something, I wouldn’t be able to know for sure for a few days because of my work schedule but I’d be back.
I finally got a chance later on that week to fish after work. I hauled my Jackson Big Rig to work with me and headed to the lake as soon as I got off. I’d only have a few hours but on this trip my plan was to fish the shallower water where those previous two fish were caught. I paddled onto the upper edge of the flat and started throwing a white spinnerbait towards the bank. After several casts I felt a good hit. I set the hook and the fish jumped. I had a really nice fish on and after a short fight I netted, measured and snapped a picture of a twenty one and three quarters inch bass. My biggest fish all month. I fished that flat for another hour without a bite and by that time I had changed lures and was throwing a Strike King KVD 8.0 squarebill. The 8.0 is a big lure and I was hoping that it would tempt a big fish while making blind casts over the flat. The Jackson Big Rig allowed me to stand comfortably and make long casts. This helps while fishing a flat because you’re not targeting specific cover like a rockpile or a grass line but making blind casts and covering as much water as possible on every cast increases your odds of finding a fish.
As I was reeling that big 8.0 I could feel the heavy vibration that it creates and then it stopped…a couple of more turns of the reel handle and I felt the fish. I swept my rod to my right and had a solid hookset. When I landed that fish it measured twenty two and a quarter. I was ecstatic…almost forty four inches on two fish in less that two hours. I thought I may have a chance this month. I was starting to like these dog days with its ninety one degree water. I continued throwing the 8.0 and that white spinnerbait for the next hour only to catch a couple of smaller fish. I decided to slow it down a bit so I Texas rigged an eleven inch Net Bait C-mac worm. My Texas Rig consisted of a quarter ounce bullet weight, a glass bead and a 6/0 wide gap worm hook.
I was having one of the greatest days I had ever had and honestly couldn’t expect it to get any better but I still had day light left so I continued my fishing. I noticed a kayak fisherman making his way towards me while I was on the lower end of the flat so I started paddling his way. I heard my name called and realized it was my buddy Josh Trammel. I told him about the spectacular day I was having and found out that he had also caught some nice fish off of that same flat. We decided to fish together we fished the area easing on and off of the flat throwing several different lures only catching the occasional small fish.
It was starting to get late and we both knew that if another big one were to be caught that it would be soon. I threw that big ol worm up on to the flat and started my retrieve. Lift the rod, let the worm swim until it hits bottom, lower the rod while taking up slack, jiggle the worm and start all over. As I lifted my rod I felt a really big bite, I lowered my rod and watched my line as the fish swam off with my worm. I reeled out the slack and reared back with a hookset. The fish didn’t budge and after feeling it shake it’s head I told Josh that I thought I had a good one. The fish started swimming to my left while putting a great bend in my rod and pulling the nose of my Big Rig with it. Then the fish started coming up towards the surface, I stuck my rod tip under water to try and counter the jump as I was saying out loud…”please don’t jump” because I had lost several fish due to their acrobatics in the past. The bass did its best to jump but only got it’s head and half of it’s body above the surface. I had a giant…after a short fight the fish was netted. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at…the largest bass I have ever caught was laying in my net. I laid the fish on the measuring board and it was just a hair over twenty four and a half inches. In less that four hours of fishing…in the middle of July I had caught three fish with a total combined length of sixty eight inches and with an estimated total weight of over twenty pounds.
That one evening gave me my personal best largemouth bass, a ticket to compete in the 2017 Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship and the best day of bass fishing I have ever experienced. I learned that bass don’t always have the same patterns from one year to the next and that the dog days of summer can offer up some spectacular fishing.