Ok, it's August and it's hot.
It's so hot that you can't sit on the gunwale without washing down the surface with water.
No matter where you are fishing during this time of year, it is going to be hot.
Surface temperatures have percolated up to the point that you could brew a cup of green tea, and the only thing in the boat that isn't boiling is the inside of your Igloo® cooler.
Question is, why are you fishing this weekend instead of driving to the mountains like your buddies? The answer is obvious you say. You're a fisherman, it's a Saturday -where else would you be?
During the steaming weeks of August there are a few dedicated anglers plying the waters of their favorite haunts trying to figure out why the fish aren't biting. Anglers that "fish" more than they "catch" in the summer heat need to keep one thing in mind. The fish don't have the option of going to the Rockies. Their solution is similar, but in reverse order.
Instead of climbing alpine peaks, fish seek out the deeper depths where their internal thermostat clicks at the preferred comfort zone. But, as any couch potato with a growling stomach knows, being physically comfortable will only keep you happy until the urge to eat drives you to the 'fridge. When fish go deep in the summer, they are also seeking easy access to their favorite forage base. For them, its like having the couch and the 'fridge in the same room. Finding either bait or fish will eventually lead to strikes.
If you're not a "swelter-seasoned" angler you may get frustrated and opt for the trailer too soon.
Problem is, most anglers fish memories and are reluctant to change when conditions dictate a new approach. Working shallows where you caught fish last month will only result in blending sweat with wasted gas and time.
If you're going to burn the gas anyway, here's a better option.
Start by looking at a topo map of the lake you want to fish. Locate all of the deep structure, points and grass beds where baitfish can make a living. The next step is to cruise these "probable" spots with your sonar to eliminate water that isn't holding either fish or bait. When you locate schools of baitfish, mark them with waypoints, and it's almost time to catch fish. First, prioritize the locations you've marked and determine if the baitfish are holding in a tight location, or scattered over a wide zone.
Tightly held schools can be fished with a finesse approach such as vertical jigging, or live-bait rigs and bottom bouncers pulled slowly through the area.
If they are scattered over a wide area you only need to determine the depth where they're holding. Check your crankbait charts and plan your attack. The best way to cover a lot of ground thoroughly is trolling crankbaits. One of the most valuable purchases you will ever make, when it comes to trolling, is a copy of the book "Precision Trolling". This spiral bound guide is an invaluable source of fundamental information for placing your baits in the strike zone.
Once you determine your target zone there are several ways to get there. Downriggers, Lead-core line, Luhr-Jensen's Jet Divers and Dipsy Divers®, or clip-on weights will get you down to where you need to be if the fish are holding deeper than your baits will run unassisted. Which one you choose is mostly a matter of personal preference. An in-depth article on trolling with the Dipsy Diver is in our archives. It will provide everything you need to know about using this ingenious device.
Regardless of which method you decide on using to reach your desired depth, one constant in precise trolling is the distance your lures are from the boat. The length of line you pay out will determine the depth that your baits are running. You can count the number of passes of the line guide, or "guesstimate", but there is only one way to know for sure.
Line counter reels will tell you exactly how much line you have released. Without them, you may as well dispense with the depth charts because you're groping in a gunny sack with your eyes closed.
Ok, you've got everything tuned in on the zone and nothing is happening.
If the fish don't hit right away, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. They're down there somewhere, and eventually they will have to eat. Reach into your Igloo, get a cold drink and keep after it. You will catch fish. Make a pass through your best spots and reload.
When you are trying to discover a pattern that will work, make sure you are increasing your odds with each pass. While prospecting, put as many baits into the water as the law allows. When trolling, if you use two flat lines straight off the beam, you can use planer boards to pull two or more lines out, away from the boat. The most important element of this approach is to vary what you do with each bait. To further increase your odds, and decrease the amount of time necessary to determine what it will take to trip their trigger, use different baits and colors on each line, and fish each at a slightly different depth.
If the fish are holding below the schools of bait, you have to figure out what depth and presentation it will take to get them to move up and strike. Conversely, if the fish are lying off to the side of the baitfish, you need to determine what bait, at what depth, will cause them get off the couch and over to the 'fridge.
Like fly-fishing, you need to try and "match the hatch", or the size of your crankbaits to the forage base, and then experiment with different colors. Consider pulling the Rapala® Deep Husky Jerk, Cabela's Walleye Runner, and the new Frenzy™ minnows. Both the Cabela's Walleye Runner and Frenzy minnows have a rattler in their bodies, and this added attractant often makes the difference with finicky or sluggish summer fish. Cabela's walleye runner has a slow wobbling motion, and the Frenzy has a more erratic action. By mixing these various lures with different colors and depth combinations, you will dramatically increase your odds for finding the right combination that will work under your particular situation.
The Need For Speed
Also, remember that varying your speed will often trigger strikes when nothing else will. According to NAWA's 1999 "Pro Angler of the Year", Jim Bell, when all else fails hit the throttle. In a recent interview, he noted that sometimes it takes an increase of speed up to 4-mph. At these speeds he cautions that it is mandatory to tune your crankbaits.
Once you begin to take fish on a particular lure, note the depth and speed that worked and duplicate it on your other lines. If they stop hitting on this pattern, it's time to go back to the experimenting process.
When the temperatures go up, your need to adapt will increase incrementally with every degree on the thermometer. The keys to catching fish in August are simple. Electronics to locate your targeted areas, fishing at the right depth, and using the right presentation will put fillets in the fryer. If you get these three elements right, there won't be enough time to worry about a cold drink. The only heat you'll be worried about will be the drag on your reels from pulling in the "bigguns."
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Frank Ross grew up on a lake in Florida, where fishing and hunting were second nature. He has pursued his passion from the jungles of South America to the northern reaches of the Arctic Circle and most points in between. With a background in newspapers, the wire services and magazines that began in 1970, Frank brings a unique perspective to his work with Cabela's. He is an award-winning photographer with a flair for getting to the bottom line of every story.
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