Summer Secrets for BIG Bass

By Vernon Summerlin

Catching BIG bass this summer is no problem – at least not when anglers who have caught plenty of big bass are going to share some of their secrets about where and how they catch bass in the good ol’, hot ol’ summertime.

First let’s have an understanding – when I say big, I’m talking about what has become the standard dividing line between basic bass and big bass, the five-pound mark on the scales.

Cuba Landing Area of Kentucky Lake

Billy Hurt Jr. (901-427-9153) says Cuba Landing gets moderate fishing pressure and there are a lot of bass in that area over five pounds. Cuba Landing is on the west side on the Tennessee River just north of I-40.

“The success anglers have in this area depends a lot on the water level,” says Billy. Two dams, Pickwick Dam upstream and Kentucky Dam downstream control Kentucky Lake. If we have excess spring rains then the water will be 358 to 359 feet above sea level, which means there will be water in the bushes. Last year we had water in the bushes in the first part of July, but this year? You never know. But even if we don’t get water that high there are other places you can go to catch some big bass”

The bushes are the first places to hit when the water is up. There are almost always some big fish in the shallows. Billy casts a jig and a topwater bait among the bushes.

“I like a small Pop-R or sometimes a Tiny Torpedo. These usually bring some nice fish to the surface,” he says. “The secret to knowing which bushes to fish is knowing where the nearby deep water is.”

All bushes are in shallow water but bass, especially big bass, will have an easy escape route to deep water. This can be the channel in a good-sized creek or the main river channel.

“If the water is falling, this brings the fish to the outside of the bush where your topwater baits work well. Here’s another secret, this works even better if you locate a bush line that you can cast parallel to. By retrieving your bait close along the front of the bushes you keep your bait in the strike zone longer.

“When the water is up but not moving, that is not rising or falling, the bass move deep into the bushes. You’ve got to use baits you can fish in heavy cover. You can fish back among the bushes and not be productive; sometimes it takes putting your bait right at the base of a bush or in a treetop. You’d be surprised how tight a bass will hold on cover.

“A lot of times it’ll look like you can’t even get a bait in the cover then you may notice a small hole to put your bait in, the bass will grab it. It’ll amaze you that a big fish can even get in such tight places,” says Billy.

He uses a Springer jig to fish the bushes. Tomato color is his favorite because it looks like a crawfish. Billy chooses the Springer jig because of its bullet shaped head. He says the head doesn’t hang up inside the fish’s mouth like a bulkier head does. The head slides out of the mouth so the hook gets better penetration.

“A bass has a powerful jaw. It can close down on your bait and when you set the hook, it won’t move. I’ve fought bass to the boat then it opened its mouth and the jig came right out. The line stretch prevents all your hook-set from reaching your bait.”

Later in July the water level will drop and anglers need to look for other places to fish for Ms. Hawgzilla.

“When the water is normal or low, many anglers fish the secondary points in the bigger creeks that have a fairly steep drop-off. Crappie anglers have put out a lot of brush piles and these often hold bass. You can see stumps on the edge of channels, and these hold bass too.”

Morgan and Eagle Creeks are the best ones in the Cuba Landing Area. Morgan is upstream and Eagle is downstream, and both are across the river from Cuba Landing.

“Fishing the larger creeks is a key to catching fish when the weather gets hot. Morgan and Eagle have feeder creek that help keep the temperature down,” Billy says.

“Of course fishing along the main river bank is good. A lot of people ignore this structure except to throw a spinnerbait. Early morning is the time to fish these banks with topwater baits. As the sun gets higher the fish slip off into deeper water, then you need to go to a Carolina rig to fish the drops and points.”

Billy uses a lizard and centipede on his Carolina rig. He uses the centipede in the hottest weather because bass like smaller baits then. He says bass see a lot of large baits and the change-up puts more fish in his live-well. Four-inch baits in pumpkin and chartreuse, and watermelon seed are his top choices.

“Sunny days the watermelon seed excels and cloudy days the green pumpkin is better. Light colored baits prevail on sunny days and darker ones on low light days. I like using the earthy colors most, they blend in. A natural looking bait to a bass is more effective. Bass locate food by movement and then sees it when he starts after it,” concluded Billy.

How to Get There

Cuba Landing is about a 50 miles east of Jackson via I-40 and 45 miles west of Dickson via I-40. There is a $1 launch fee and the marina has Doppler Radar to warn anglers of coming storms.

Cheatham Lake

According to TWRA, Cheatham is among the top five bass fisheries in Tennessee for big bass. It is also an underutilized fishery.

Preston Hulan of Nashville, who has fished Cheatham since before it became a lake, says, “My favorite bass holes are Johnson Creek, the submerged Lock A, Hudgens Slough, Dyson’s Ditch, Sycamore Creek, the Ashland City bridge pilings, Marrowbone Creek and Sams Creek.”

Preston says, “The secret is to cast parallel to shore and fish the mouths of the creeks. When you do that with a white willow leaf spinnerbait you should be in hawg heaven. But,” he adds, “if they don’t hit that, throw a worm in the creeks around logs, if that doesn’t work, throw a reddish Deep Wee-R. Bass will be in the main river where they will maintain their territory until fall.”

Nashville angler, David Woodward, says his secret is a rotation of lures through the day. “Early morning, I start with a Tiny Torpedo or Devil’s Horse over points and six-foot deep shelves. As the sun gets higher, I switch to a do-nothing worm. By noon I go to two-tone worms or lizards. Near dark I use white and chartreuse buzzbaits with a white trailer.”

Davis adds that “largemouth rest where the current is quiet, next to downed trees, rock piles, the heads and tails of islands, or where current from another stream mixes with the main current causing an irregular bottom such as humps and bars. Big fish get the best ambush spots.”

David fishes all 67 miles of Cheatham Lake but his largest catches come in the first five miles below Old Hickory Dam in the creeks and the last five miles above Cheatham Dam. Most anglers agree that the lower end of the lake has the most accessible big bass water.

How to Get There

Off Highway 12 near Ashland City take Chapsmanboro Road to Sycamore Creek Ramp, stay on 12 and turn on Dam Road to Lock A ramp. Shelby Park in Nashville has a ramp. The is a ramp below Old Hickory Dam.

Bottom Line

With these tips from some of the best anglers in the state you should have good feel for how to catch a big bass this summer. If what you are doing doesn’t work on your favorite lake, try some of the techniques described herein or, better yet, get a guide to take you fishing for big’uns only! Happy Hooking!