Follow baitfish to deep holes for June bass
Like a lot of bass fishermen, I like to fish shallow in the spring, but June is the beginning of summertime, and especially by mid-June, I’ll be doing a lot of my fishing offshore, whether I’m fishing a lake in North Carolina or South Carolina. And I don’t mind at all, even though the processes are a little different.
What you’re doing in June is following the migration of baitfish out to deep water. A lot of our lakes have blueback herring; a lot do not. That said, threadfin shad are our most-prominent baitfish throughout the Carolinas. They move into the shallows in May to spawn. And after they do, they move back offshore. My job is to try and find where they go, because the bass won’t be far from them.
Back in the day, when I was growing up, it was really hard to follow them. But now, you can find baitfish with your electronics. Almost every fisherman has some of the new electronics on their boats – mine are Humminbird Helix units. And they’re so good, you can be off the lake for several weeks and go out and find the baitfish in a couple of hours. Just trust your electronics and find the baitfish, and you’re going to be in the game as far as the bass are concerned.
I like to spend time in the creeks, especially in early June. The baitfish and bass are going to move deeper and move out of the creeks at the same time. By the end of June, I’m probably going to be fishing the main river channel itself.
You can start in the backs of the creeks where it’s all silted in and you just have maybe a little ditch, and fish all the way to where the mouth of the creek hits the main river channel – and that might be a little different from what you see at the surface.
Some creeks don’t join up with the river channel where you think they should. A lot of them will be much farther out, well outside of what you think is the creek as you see it.
Just trust your maps. I probably have 100 maps of lakes and rivers around the country from my 23 years fishing as a pro. But now they’re all on one SD card with my LakeMaster lake maps program. The help you can get from a good mapping program is hard to measure, it’s so great.
Baitfish will be relating to cover or contour lines. Early in June, you’re looking for more of a depth change. But you use a lot of factors when looking for places to fish offshore. The kind and amount of cover, and water clarity, are big factors. And you can have big changes from place to place as far as cover and the color of the water, even changes between places on the same body of water.
So, find the big clouds of bait on your depth finder and start looking for places close by where the bass are likely to hang out, ready to ambush the shad or herring. And tie on a few crankbaits.
At other times of the year, I love to throw a Mop Jig or a Senko. But in June, I’m going to do most of my searching with a Rapala DT-6 or DT-8 crankbait. I really like the new DT-8. It’s a small-profile bait that really dives well, down to a solid 10 or 11 feet. That’s really all you’ll need in June.
Most of my cranking in June will be in water from 6 to 12 feet. On into July, they’ll move out in 16 to 20 feet of water. But in June, it’s 6 to 12 feet. That’s still a pretty big range. So to narrow it down, I’ll say I catch most of my bass in 8 to 10 feet of water.
Shad don’t spawn until the first or second week of May in the Carolinas, in 5 feet of water or less. And they don’t go super-deep in June – so I don’t fish super-deep water. In fact, there are very few places in the country where the fish really go deep in June. A lot of that has to do with water clarity and cover. If the water is really clear and there’s not much cover, they might go deeper. On the lower end of a lake, where it’s clearer, they might go 10 to 14 feet deep. But on the upper end, it’s more likely to be 6 to 10 feet.
Look for groups
Because the availability of cover and water clarity changes so much, I will usually have three baits tied on that will run different depths. I might have a DT-6, a DT-8 and a DT-10 or DT-16 tied on, in the same color – a shad pattern or chartreuse/blue back – because I might need to be able to work my baits in different depths. I want to be able to fish that entire range of 6 to 12 feet. I’ll fish them on a 7-foot, Lew’s cranking rod, a Lew’s reel with a 6-to-1 or 7-to-1 retrieve ratio. That’s a personal preference. I know a lot of fishermen like slower reels than I do.
I spool my reel with 10- to 12-pound Suffix Advance fluorocarbon, which is a low-stretch, small-density line that’s very strong and is very castable – everything you want to fish a crankbait on.
One thing I really love about June is that you can really hammer ‘em on one spot. You might not get bit everywhere you go. But you can find big schools of fish. You’re looking for groups of fish following bait. You aren’t looking to catch onesies and twosies. You want to load the boat, and it can happen a lot more often than you’d think.
So get in the last really good month of bass fishing before summer takes over and the heat cranks up. Tie on a crankbait, back off the bank, move out of the creek, find ‘em and catch ‘em.