By Vernon Summerlin
Bass metabolic rates are accelerated now and this means they are feeding more than any other time of the year. Structure oriented bass usually follow a pattern with a particular structure at the center of their summertime world. Few structures attract bass in the summer more than deepwater humps.
It’s important to locate humps in relation to deep water. A topographic map will make this easy for you if there is no one to show you these honey holes.
You don’t need a course in map reading to understand all those curving lines. To locate humps, look for concentric contour lines indicating a rise of the lake’s bottom. The space between the contour lines represents a vertical distance. The legend will indicate the interval. Of course, a map with five-foot intervals provides better detail than the 10-foot interval. If the interval is five feet, humps will have at least two concentric contour lines, however, a hump’s relation to deepwater and food is more important than size.
Humps vary in size, shape and depth. The biggest bass seem to prefer the largest humps with tops less than 10 feet from the surface. The most productive humps are the ones on an otherwise featureless flat next to a river or creek channel. To make a hump even more appealing, place brush piles and logs on it. Bass seem to prefer logs and brush attracts baitfish.
When you can’t locate summertime bass, ask around until you find someone who is catching them and pick their brain. Better yet, go fishing with them. That’s what I did to learn how to catch hot weather bass on the humps and in the jumps.
FISHING THE HUMPS
“Most of the lakes I fish are hill-land and highland,” says pro angler Tom Waynick of Shelbyville, TN. “They have more humps than flatland reservoirs.”
Tom says, “The Carolina rig works best for me on the humps. I Texas rig a pumpkinseed, watermelon or green pumpkinseed lizard on a 5/0 hook. I always dip the tail in chartreuse Spike-It. I don’t know why, but that extra color on the lizard makes it more effective – or maybe it gives me more confidence.”
Tom’s uses 1/2- or 3/4-ounce egg sinker on calm days and 1-ounce on windy days. “I don’t measure the leader, I just pull off about this much,” he says pulling the end of his line and stripping a section off his reel. “That’s about three feet – close enough.” His 10-pound test leader is tied to a barrel swivel attached to 15-pound Big Game line.
“I found the seven-foot, 703 Custom Series rod provides the backbone and long sweep I need for setting the hook.” Tom makes his cast to the hump when his boat in about 25 to 30 feet of water. “When the weight hits bottom, I begin a slow, steady crank. If it stops, I continue to crank slowly. If it is hung, in about three or four cranks, it will pop loose. If it doesn’t come loose, I set the hook.
Most times I don’t feel the fish; the line gets heavy, like reeling in a wet towel. I keep cranking until the tip loads up, and then I promptly sweep the rod to the side.”
Dayton Blair of Mt. Juliet, TN fishes the humps at night. He taught me his techniques using black lights, jigs and plastic crawfish.
Percy Priest Lake is just a few minutes drive from his home. “The lake is too crowded during the day, so I come out here at night to fish. I have a milk run of about a half-dozen humps of different sizes. Some are close to nothing; I mean they are by themselves where no one would think of fishing.”
When fishing a hump, Dayton begins by positioning his boat on the deep side. He fishes it from the top down, watching his illuminated fluorescent line for that telltale twitch. From that position, he also casts to the sides of the hump. Next, he moves more toward the top of the structure and fishes the shallow side from the bottom up. His last position allows him to cover the area from near shore to the bottom of the hump. When he fishes isolated humps on a flat, he circles it, working it from the top down the sides.
A 1/8- or 1/4-ounce leadhead dressed in a four-inch plastic crawfish is one technique Dayton uses. He has experimented with several designs and found Berkley’s Power Craw to be the most effective. “Sometimes I think scents are an advantage, especially when fishing a bait slowly or the fish are turned off. I think it’s important to keep the bait in contact with the bottom. It creates a little noise to help the bass find it and it’s one of the times I like to use a scented bait.”
He rigs the plastic crawfish two ways: Texas rigged on a leadhead and Carolina rigged. “I have to fish the craw both ways to find out which way they want it. There’s one thing I’ve learned – you’ve got to give the fish the bait they want and in the way they want it.”
“If the night is dark, I use a dark colored worm,” says Roy Yates of Chapel Hill, TN. “If there’s a moon, I use a white and red worm.” Roy is another nocturnal hump angler. He has a tackle box of nothing but worms; most of them are six inches long.
“Ten-pound test is as light a line as I use because I fish the rough stuff.” Roy’s favorite humps are rocks along the main channel.
The night I fished with Roy, he located the ends of an oblong hump with his depth finder and tossed out marker buoys. Next he positioned us on the shallow side of the hump which ran parallel to the channel. We cast to bass on top of the hump. Then he moved the boat on top of the hump to fish the deep water by working the worms up the rocky slope. The deep-water side and ends of the hump held the most fish.
Casting worms and jigs are not the only ways to hook a hump holding bass; although they were the most popular with anglers I talked to. The next most popular lures were the spinnerbait and crankbait.
It was recommended that spinnerbaits be worked up or down the slope much like a jig or worm. This bait has been proven to be an excellent nighttime enticer. The sound of the turning blades alerts bass that a meal is nearby. Use Colorado blades for a slower retrieve and a deeper pitched sound. The willow leaf spins faster and produces a higher pitch.
Crankbaits can be just as deadly. The sinking shad-shaped bait with a rattle was first choice for nighttime hump angling. This lure can be retrieved in a steady fashion or yo-yoed from the depths to shallows. It can also be allowed to bump its way down the slope like you bounce a jig.
FISHING THE JUMPS
You may need a map to locate the humps but not for fish in the jumps. It’s the easiest way to locate summertime bass because they call to you.
The late Arthur Douglas and Doug Markham were kind enough to let me pick their brains about catching bass in the jumps several years ago. I followed them in my boat to a place Arthur had good luck the previous day. After the sun passed the four o’clock position, we were waiting for fish to surface near a bend in the main channel. The water was 65 feet deep but the bottom quickly rose to 16 feet then gradually sloped to the shoreline.
I rummaged through my tackle box for a bait with two characteristics Arthur said a bait should have for fishing the jumps. Most importantly, the bait should be about the same size and color of the shad and, secondly, the bait should be one that you can cast far. A spoon was the answer. He also suggested I use spinning gear with six-pound test line for greater casting distance.
Sure enough we didn’t wait long to hear the call of fish feeding on the surface. The action was too far away to reach by casting. By the time I trolled within casting range, the surface was calm – only to erupt in another too-far-to-reach area. It became maddening! There must have been four schools of shad being worked over by bass.
Eventually the surface boiled close to Arthur and Doug. Largemouth bass! They weren’t lunkers but they were fun, and these guys were catching fish when most anglers were only getting sunstroke.
The different schools of shad had their own group of predators. Rather than trying to chase each surface disturbance, our boats maintained a position near one of the outbursts. Bass, unlike stripers, make short forays to the surface lasting less than a minute. They retreat to strike again, usually within five to 15 minutes. It creates high anxiety trying to stay in position when the water boils from another attack 50 yards away, but it is the efficient method.
We cast and boated bass until nearly dark. After Arthur and Doug went home, I stayed to ply my knowledge of fishing the humps at night.
If you can’t find someone to take you where the bass are this summer, try locating the humps with a topo map and listening for the jumps. They are hottest spots on the lake in the summer. Happy Hooking!