Summertime Schools and Monsters in the Grass

Summertime fishing is one of my favorites. During peak summer months the fish are done spawning and have settled into a pattern that will remain pretty consistent for several months. Typically this pattern involves deep water and some form of structure. This is where you’ll find the summertime schools.

To locate the best schools quickly and efficiently, it is important to have the right equipment and to know how to use it. The selection is fairly simple – good electronics coupled with a great mapping system.

The Humminbird 1198c SI with compact side image transducer and bow mounted 360 Imaging will be your best friend. This unit allows any angler to take an unfamiliar body of water, insert the LakeMaster GPS Map card, proceed directly to structure points and start locating productive areas.

One of the very first things I do is to locate the lake’s thermocline. To find the depth, I use the traditional down sonar feature and turn up the sensitivity function. A constant line of small particles will appear on the sonar and bait fish will consistently be holding at that specific depth. For the best reading, try to locate the thermocline in a deep part of the lake.

Once I identify the depth of the thermocline, I refer to my mapping system and find main lake areas that offer structure located at that particular depth range and a little shallower. Look for structures such as rock piles, manmade brush piles, long tapering points or my favorite, grass edges.

The depth of the thermocline is important to determine because during the summertime, bass very rarely “school up” and become aggressive below the thermocline.

When approaching structure I turn on my bow mount 360 Imaging and start working my way down the contour line. If looking for brush piles or manmade structures, I isolate my sweep for a constant view in the direction of travel, covering approximately 90 degrees.

Cast out the back of the boat using bottom bouncing baits like a 1 oz Lunker Lure football head jig. Drag the bait at a speed that allows constant contact with the bottom while staying on the dedicated contour depth. This speed shouldn’t exceed 1 mile per hour.

This approach offers the ability to see what’s coming and judge the distance by using the range rings on the 360 Imaging, as well as feel what’s behind and what you have just went over with the jig.

When approaching structure within casting distance that looks like it has potential, quickly reel in the jig and make a cast toward the structure. Feel the composition and see if a bite occurs before the boat gets too close. If the jig doesn’t produce, immediately make another cast with a Texas rigged bait like a Missile Tomahawk worm. I generally use a 5/16 oz sinker with 12 lb Toray Fluorocarbon line - see if this presentation is what’s needed to trigger a bite.

More often than not bass bury in structure or position on the bottom, which can make them very difficult to identify on sonar. Bottom bouncing baits such as the football jig or the Tomahawk that penetrate the heavy structure without getting snagged will generate more bites. This technique will also allow you to cover a lot of water very quickly.

When targeting grass edges, my approach is the same except I change up the jig style. As I proceed down a grass line I look for several things within that line. The height of the grass, irregular features within the grass such as a point or a bend, and fish that show-up on the 360 Imaging. Making my way down these lines, I make a tackle change to 7’11” XH Denali Jadewood series flipping stick, Lew’s Super Duty reel, Toray 55 lb braided line and 1 oz Lunker Lure Triple Rattleback Monster Grass jig.

Keep bait color selection fairly simple. I prefer black/blue with a similar colored trailer in dirty water for jigs and “D” Bombs. Use green pumpkin with similar color trailer in clear water situations for jigs, “D” Bomb and Tomahawks. On occasion I will use a plum colored Tomahawk in clear water as well.

Moving forward while paying attention to the 1198c SI, I make approximately 25 ft pitches ahead of the boat targeting the grass line to the point where it tapers completely out.

The aggressive schools will typically locate in the areas that are closest to deep water and thick grass. It’s the best of both worlds. The heavy jig is most effective free falling on slack line, so make the pitch and strip line as the jig is falling. Once it makes bottom contact, engage the reel and take up slack to a taunt line. Check to see if a bite has occurred on the fall. If not, shake the jig in place and hop it off the bottom 2 to 3 times in an attempt to make the jig look like fleeing bait. Reel the bait up and repeat the process.

When the bite occurs your hookset action must be very, very fast. It is an absolute must to land the fish as quickly as possible. More times than not during the summer you will have repeated bites because you’ve just fired up the school. As fishermen, this is what we live for – it’s time to load the boat.

When the school stops biting, I waypoint that particular area and identify the feature the school is relating to whether it was a point or a bend and the height of the grass etc. Continue on in an attempt to find a replica within a couple hundred yards of that location. Allow the school to regroup for 30 minutes to an hour then try making a small tackle change and switch from 1 oz Monster Grass jig to Missile Baits “D” bomb Texas rigged with 1 oz tungsten weigh. Making another pass through the previously “fired” school allows the bass time to regroup and presenting them with different baits will usually turn them back on.

I can’t begin to place enough emphasis on the importance of advancements in today’s electronics. An up to date and accurate mapping system is also a must. LakeMaster offers the newest and most up to date GPS mapping information available. Couple, pinpoint accuracy with the techniques I explained, and you will experience what maximizing a summertime school of bass truly is.

Chad Morgenthaler is in his 12th season as a professional angler currently competing in the BASS Elites and BASS Southern Opens. He is a four-time Bassmaster Classic, five-time Toyota Texas Bass Classic and a FWC qualifier. He is also a past President and Vice President for the Professional Anglers Association.

Find me on Twitter @CCMorgenthaler and Facebook Chad Morgenthaler.

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