Don’t forget about shallow bass in July

shallow bass
The presence of bluegill in shallow water will draw the attention of plenty of largemouth bass, even in a hot month like July. Apparently, food trumps comfort. (Photo courtesy of Eric Engbretsen)

Most July fish are deep, but skinny water is still a good spot to search for bass

July is a month when most bass fishermen in the Carolinas think about catching fish in deeper water, and there’s a good reason for that.

A lot of bass are going to be deep in July, in about all of our lakes, because it will be hot, the water temperature will be high, and most of the baitfish — the threadfin and gizzard shad and herring — are going to be deep. The only exception will be when we have some unusual weather, maybe a tropical storm that dumps a lot of rain on us and muddies and cools the water.

I’m definitely going to be fishing deep, but one thing I won’t forget is to give the shallows a look. More about that later.

When July arrives, I’m usually fishing on the main lake, or at least a main creek — big, open-water situations. I’m going to be looking for cover. Some of our lakes have some pondweed or moss on the bottom, and if there’s no vegetation, I’ll be looking for stumps and brush piles and cane piles. If I find a good place like the intersection of a creek and the main lake, I’m going to look for rocks, hard bottom areas. They don’t have to be big rocks or boulders, just some rocks that fish can relate to.

I like to start looking before I start fishing. I’ll search and look and find anything that looks good on my Humminbird side-imaging and down-imaging electronics. If I see something I like, I’ll make a waypoint and target the place.

Start cranking

I like to start out with a Rapala DT-16 crankbait and fish all around that area. A crankbait is a really good search bait when you’re fishing deep — you can cover a lot of water, and a lot of times, you can get a reaction strike and get them started. Sometimes, you have to use a couple of different baits to trigger that first bite, but usually in July, if you find one fish offshore, there will be more with him. If you catch one, you can expect to catch some more.

When I put the crankbait rod down, I’ll always have a Mop jig tied on to try, and I’ll fish a 6-inch Senko on a Texas rig with a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce weight. I might even fish a Senko on a big Spot Remover jig, 3/8- or 1/2-ounce. The key is getting that first bite. One day, you might get it on a DT-16, but the next day, it might be a jig and the next a Senko. Once you get it, it can be a big day.

In July, I’m usually fishing in water that’s anywhere from 15 to 25 feet deep, depending on the lake. One big thing that plays a big part in it is water clarity. The clearer the water gets, the deeper you’re going to be looking for structure.

Now, about shallow water. Don’t forget about it. Don’t ignore it, just because all the signs point to deep water. You can always find some bass in shallow water. Back when we used to find Bassmaster Classics in late July, even though a lot of fish were caught deep, there were always some guys who could find shallow fish.

Panfish central means shallow bass

You know that most of the baitfish are offshore, but what you forget is that bass love to eat panfish, and plenty of bluegill and shellcrackers are in shallow water. They’re probably spawning in July, especially around the full moon, so pay attention. If you have a chance to fish the three or four days on either side of the full moon, find some bream beds and fish for bass around them, because plenty of bass will be hanging around, trying to pick off bream coming and going. Even if you’re fishing and it’s not close to the full moon, check out the bream beds anyway.

Another thing that happens in July on a lot of our lakes is a mayfly hatch. When there’s a good hatch going, fish of all kinds are going to come a long way to feed on those big insects that are falling onto the surface of the water. They will definitely bring big largemouths up out of deep water for the feast.

Fish good water

If fish aren’t biting offshore, and you don’t find the bream or mayflies, you can still look shallow for bass. You might have some localized runoff after a rain; that water will be cooler and hold more oxygen, and that will attract bass because of the water quality. A lot of guys look up in the upper end of lakes, the river ends, because there’s current and oxygen, but I think it can get crowded up there. I’d rather look in the back ends of the big, live creeks down by the dam. If you find a live creek, with good water coming in, those will be good places to look for shallow bass. Some of those big creeks on that end of the lakes actually fish like small lakes, so it’s just like going up the river on a smaller lake.

So start out deep this month, but don’t forget that there might be enough fish in shallow water to make for a really good trip.

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