Burning Crankbaits In The Summer Heat

John Neporadny Jr.

The weekend warrior gets on the water before sunrise to catch summertime bass, then retreats to the air-conditioning to take a siesta when the air temperature soars close to the 100-degree mark.

Most bass anglers follow the same routine in the heat of summer, except the savvy professionals who know bass remain active even on searing afternoons when the thermometer reaches into the 90s or higher. Look at the reports of summertime bass tournaments held in some of the hottest parts of the country, and you’ll be amazed at how many anglers won these events by catching their biggest fish in the middle of a scorching afternoon.

When casual bass anglers venture out on a triple-digit afternoon, the heat makes them sluggish so they try slow presentations since they believe the fish feel the same way.  They fail to realize bass are in a watery realm that could be 10 to 30 degrees cooler than the air temperature. In this cooler environment, bass are much more active than their human counterparts and are inclined to slam fast-moving prey.

Bass also tolerate the heat better than we do since they are primarily cold-blooded creatures. As long as they have food and sufficient oxygen, bass can be found in the heat of the day in water as shallow as six inches.

When the air temperature soars into triple-digits during the dog days of summer, touring pros know that bass are still active so they speed up their presentations. While many anglers slowly probe the depths with plastic worms and jigs, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jason Quinn heads for the shallows to throw a crankbait.  This South Carolina angler still guides on his home waters of Lake Wylie and his clients benefit from fishing shallow in the summer.

“There are a lot more fish shallow in the months of July, August and September than most people think,” Quinn explained.  “Those are the hottest days of the year and everybody thinks those fish are out deep, but some of the biggest fish in the lake are up shallow then.”

The four-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier’s favorite summertime technique is fishing offshore structure with deep-diving crankbaits, but there are times when the shallows can be more productive. For the average angler wanting to catch summertime bass, Quinn’s shallow-water tactics are much easier to learn than trying to crank offshore.

When he fishes an unfamiliar reservoir in the summertime, Quinn usually ventures to the upper end of the lake.

“The last couple of years, what I have experienced is most places we go on the lower end of the lake has a lot more water and deeper water and the fish get harder to catch shallow in the summertime,” Quinn said.

Headwaters of a lake usually contain the type of shallow structure where Quinn locates active bass.

“They will be on some of the biggest flats that you have ever seen,” said Quinn, who usually finds the fish from six inches to three feet deep. “If you are on the outside edge of that flat and it is still 40 to 50 yards from the bank, chances are those fish are still right up close to that bank.”

Quinn wants a crankbait with plenty of flash and action so his choice for running in thin water is a Rapala DT Flat Series F03.

“It is a perfect size profile, and it will flat catch them.”

The flat-sided crankbait has a running depth of three feet, which allows Quinn to effectively run the lure at high speeds through the shallows. 

“I’m cranking it super fast with a good, steady retrieve,” explained Quinn, who also employs a stop-and-go retrieve whenever the crankbait bangs into something. “A lot of times the fish are up cruising along sandy flats so you want something flashy coming through there as quickly as possible. Those fish are up there looking to eat, but you still have to trigger them into biting. And the water is usually clear so you can’t give them a good look at it.”

The color of Quinn’s crankbait depends on the forage he finds up on the flats. During certain parts of summer, bluegill spawn along the sandy flats which sets off a chain reaction. Bass can either pursue the spawning bluegill or shad, which move up to the flats to eat the bluegill eggs.

“So everything is up there that a bass needs, and they will hang around those flats until the fall.”

If Quinn sees bluegill spawning along the flats, he will select a crankbait in sunfish hues such as fire tiger, parrot or hot mustard.  But most of the time he opts for shad-colored crankbaits in silver or blue shad hues.

Using a 6 1/2-foot crankbait rod and a 7.1:1 gear ratio reel optimizes the action of Quinn’s bait.

“I want that crankbait to flash coming by the fish to trigger a strike, and I feel like I can do that effectively with that faster speed gear ratio reel.”

He recommends using at least a 6.3:1 gear ratio reel for this speed cranking tactic.

Line size is also critical. In most situations, Quinn favors fluorocarbon in 15- or 20-pound test. 

“I want a big line because I am fishing extremely shallow water and still coming into contact with a lot of things.”
While weekend warriors are taking siestas in the air-conditioning, Quinn endures the heat and catches his biggest fish of the day.

“I actually think this bite is a lot better in the middle of the day.”

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