Understanding Water Columns & Fishing Depths | Summer Bass Fishing
By: Dylan Hayward
Understanding how water columns work is key to being successful when your trying to catch bass in the Summer. Without this knowledge, you’re essentially casting blindly, unknowing of where the bass are located.
Water Columns Overview
Throughout the year, bass will move in and out of different depths. This can be based on a variety of factors such as oxygen, water clarity, temperature and more. As anglers, it’s important to take this into account, as there is a strong correlation between water depth and the feeding activity of bass.
This becomes more in depth as a thermocline layer forms due to the stratification of water. Depending on the time of the year it is, bass may only feed above or below the thermocline, and this can be tricky to navigate around.
This can also help you determine which type of lure to use, as some lures react differently and are intended for specific water columns. For example, a crankbait will float to the top upon casting, and it dives deep into the water as you retrieve. Whereas a soft plastic may sink as it lands on the water, but creeps towards the top when you retrieve.
Understanding Water Columns in the Summer
During the early days of summer, when water temperatures tend to hover in the high 70s and lower 80s, most of the bass will linger around mid-depth, and go up to shallow waters to feed. Now that the spawn is officially over, a bass’ metabolism will be at an all time high and this is a great opportunity to land a giant bass in shallow depths near cover.
As we move into mid-summer, the larger bass will spend much more time mid-depth and become slightly more lethargic and picky about what they eat. Depending on the depth of the lake, the bass will do most of their feeding between 15-20 feet deep. This is a great time to break out a Texas rig and drag a soft plastic along a ledge.
When the dog days approach and the scorching sun brings water temperatures close to 90 degrees, bass’ metabolism will drop dramatically and their feeding will become sporadic and short-lived. But if you can time it right, the fishing can be incredible.
Shallow Water Summer Bass Fishing Tips & Lures
When fishing for bass in shallow water, especially during the summer, the golden rule is to look for cover. One of the best forms of cover is vegetation, as this creates added oxygen that will naturally attract the bass. I typically start by searching for lily pads, cattails, hydrilla, etc. These are perfect spots to cast out a topwater lure such as a Hula Popper or a frog. They great thing about those lures is that they are essentially snag proof and they drive bass wild. There are few greater moments than watching a largemouth leap out of the water and swallow your popper whole!
Another popular approach to shallow water fishing in the summer is to skip a weightless wacky rig around the cover. This is a super simple method that any angler can master, and it has an impressive way of getting all of the bass’s attention.
One of my favorite methods for fishing in shallow water is to use a Texas Rig. They’re extremely easy to set up and make casting into heavy debris and vegetation fairly seamless. You can always add a sinker to this setup, although I would avoid that if fishing in heavy vegetation.
Medium Depth Summer Bass Fishing Tips & Lures
The majority of a bass’s life will be spent in the middle water columns. This depth acts as sort of a transition area between feeding and resting, and can be a great place to target bass during the late summer. They will spend most of the day in this part of the water chasing after baitfish.
For this reason, I really like to use lipless crankbaits. They’re a fairly easy lure to use, and drive bass wild when used correctly and with the right color combinations. They key with lipless crankbaits is to cast beyond where you think the fish are, let the lure sink to the desired depth that you’re targeting, and then start retrieving. Since these have no lip, they won’t have the diving action that a traditional crankbait has, so allowing it to sink to the desired depth is crucial.
Another great lure for the middle water column are spinnerbaits. The blades on spinners do an amazing job at preventing snags, so you are able to freely cast near heavy cover without any worry of hooking a rock or a stick. Spinnerbaits also create a lot of noise and water disruption, which to a bass can signal a fish in distress, and entice them to strike!
Deep Water Summer Bass Fishing Tips & Lures
Fishing in deep water can be tricky during the summer, as most bass are spending time in the middle depth or coming to the shallows to feed. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t down there. If you can find a heavy brush pile or a stump down below, you can bet there are bass hanging down there for protection, as well as an ambush point to attack their prey. The problem is, it’s hard to present a lure through all of the other noise.
This is where soft plastics really come in handy, especially when used with a Texas rig. Use a soft worm or creature bait, or whatever is active in your area, with a Texas rig style and drag along the bottom. This Texas rig will allow you to bounce on and off debris and cover without getting snagged, and bass love to pounce on them.
Which Columns Should You Fish During Which Times of the Day
Morning- Summer bass fishing in the morning is one of the greatest times all year to fish. Just before sunrise until about an hour or so after, bass are at one of their peak feeding times and the creeping sunlight can bring bass right to the shallows.
I like to start off my mornings fishing in the shallow pockets of water, targeting fallen over trees, or narrow canals coming out of lakes. I then start to work my way towards the middle water column as the mercury starts to rise in the mid-morning.
Afternoon- Midday can prove tough for bass fishing, as the bright sun allows them to see better, thus being slightly more picky with their bait. In this case, I like to use realistic bait that I can work slowly in front of the bass near debris and along the bottom of the water.
Using soft plastics or jigs, and slowly working them along the bottom as well as around drop offs and ledges can be really effective for afternoon bass fishing.
Evening- Once the evening rolls around and the sun starts to set, a switch seems to turn on and the bass are back to their heavy feeding, which is great news for any angler. During this time, bass tend to move back to shallow pockets and begin striking on any opportunity for food.
I like to use baitfish lures such as crankbaits and jerkbaits and put a heavy emphasis on the top water column. Cast your lure out, and vary your retrieval from fast to slow as you get closer to the bank. As soon as the sunsets, the feeding seems to die down greatly so take advantage of that golden last hour of sunlight and you’ll be amazed by how good the action is.