If there are two factors that make bass fishing in August great or horrible, it’s current and oxygen — or not having them.
The amount of current that’s running through a reservoir from rainfall runoff or the creation of electricity will determine to a large extent where bass will set up and how much they’ll feed. The amount of dissolved oxygen in the water will determine how deep the bass will hold.
Sometimes, the two go hand in hand, and fishing in the hottest month of the year can actually be decent. But it can also be a difficult, frustrating month on North Carolina’s reservoirs.
For one thing, bass have broken up out of schools completely; you’re not likely to find more than one or two or three fish on any spot you fish. They’ve spread out a lot. Second, they’ve gotten away from the sharp drops when they really liked to hold in June and July, and they’re on contour drops and more subtle places — which can be harder to find. And with the water extremely warm, they’re not in a great feeding mood all the time.
On the good side, August is the month when all the work you did during the winter putting in brushpiles will really start to pay off. Bass will really start to show up around brush this month; rocky places will be a secondary sort of cover.
What you have to do is pretty simple: put your trolling motor down and fish. Knowing how current and dissolved oxygen affects bass makes your job a little easier.
Current really plays a big role in August, because it seems to make fish come alive. When the power company is pulling water through the dam to make electricity for air conditioning, it sets up a current in the main body of a lake, where most of your bass live in August. The current usually gets bass stirring; if they haven’t fed for a while, current will wake them up and put them in a feeding mode. For one thing, they will reposition themselves on whatever structure they’re around. If they’re out on a main-lake point, in 20 feet of water, they may move up to about 15 feet deep, and they’ll get on the side of the point facing the current, so any bait that’s swept down by the current will pass within range.
On some of our reservoirs, the power company will publish a schedule of its power generation; you can get an idea when they’ll be pulling water and make sure you’re there when the action heats up. Some power companies don’t publish the generation schedule because they don’t know it in advance; they make electricity based on customer demand, so they might generate power eight hours one day at one hydro plant and three hours the next day at a different one on the same river system. That’s one reason that late-afternoon is often the best time to fish during August — as good as or better than early morning — because customers need more electricity to run their air conditioners are 3 and 4 p.m..
Dissolved-oxygen levels in the water can rise and fall, depending on how much current is being made or how much rain has fallen. When the weather is stagnant — hot all day, with little or no break —the water tends to get a little stagnant. The dissolved oxygen levels in the deeper, cooler water will drop, sometimes to the point that bass can’t filter out enough oxygen to breathe. They have to choose between water that’s hotter than they like and water with no oxygen — they choose the hotter water all the time.
That’s why, in August, you find bass moving shallow in many lakes around the state. It happens at High Rock a lot; they’ll be out in 20 feet of water one day, and the next day, they’ll be up under a dock in five feet of water. The water close to the surface will have the most dissolved oxygen; they just have to make do with the high temperatures. So if the heat has been unmerciful, if there hasn’t been a lot of rain, and the power company has been making power at one of its other dams, that’s a clue to look in shallower water.
Of course, my main weapons in August are going to be crankbaits. When fish are out on deep structure, I like the DT-14 and DT-16. If they get really deep, 20 to 25 feet like they do at Buggs Island, I’ll throw a 7/8th-ounce Clackin’ Rap — a big, lipless crankbait that I yo-yo off the bottom. And I’ll Carolina rig or Texas rig a big Ol’ Monster or Big Dead Ringer worm.
If the fish move shallow, I’ll fish a DT-10, but I really like a DT-Flat. I think the flat baits produce better the closer you get to the fall, especially on fish that have moved up into five or six feet or water.
One other thing worth mentioning is this: if you’re tournament fishing in August, you really have to take care of your fish. I know a lot of fishermen who add ice to their livewells to try and keep fish cool. What I do is just keep my aerator running continually. That keeps the water in my Ranger’s livewells oxygenated all day long, and if there’s plenty of dissolved oxygen, they can stand the heat better.
You really don’t have to worry about fish blowing up if you pull them up out of deep water. They have a problem with their swim bladders if you pull them up too far — like a diver getting the bends — but that usually doesn’t bother them if they’re at 25 feet or shallower.
One more thing about August…. September is on the horizon. Thank heavens.
David Fritts is a 52-year-old bass pro from Lexington. He was the 1993 Bassmasters Classic champion, the 1994 BASS Angler of the Year, and winner of the 1997 FLW Tour Championship. He is sponsored by Tums, Ranger boats, Evinrude outboards, Rapala, VMC hooks, Zoom, American RodSmiths and Bass Pro Shops.
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