Hunting down a good string of bass can be a frustrating proposition in the heat of summer. It takes knowledge, patience and a good deal of luck to locate bass. However, persistence generally pays off if you have the knowledge to locate fish and know what to offer them.
On Lake Allatoona, experts agree your odds of catching quality summer bass go up tremendously at night. Matt Driver, of Powder Springs, agrees.
“My favorite time to fish Allatoona in the heat of summer is from about 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. or late in the evening until a couple of hours after dark,” Matt said. “The fish are more active in the cooler temperatures, and right around daybreak and dusk there is a lot more surface activity.”
After dark, shad schools flock to lights on docks, and the bass follow. Focusing on lights at night can be a great way to boat a good string. But on this trip we needed to fish during the day, so Matt reverted to his favorite summer daytime pattern, fishing bluffs.
Matt should know what he is talking about. He spends a lot of time on the water, most of it on Allatoona, so he stays in touch with what the fish are doing. Matt helps with the monthly GON fishing reports on Allatoona and also has his own Internet radio show covering fishing topics. Matt is also an experienced tournament angler on both the BFL and FLW tours and now spends much of his time on the FLW field staff helping run tournament events.
I met Matt on a hot July morning at the Galts Ferry ramp. He had already started fishing and had landed a dozen spots that exploded on topwater lures. Unfortunately, they were all small.
“I got a few keepers but nothing more than about 13 inches,” said Matt.
There was plenty of surface activity, and the bass were striking the lure aggressively, but there weren’t any big ones in the mix.
We left the ramp and went downstream about a half-mile to some steep bluffs along the left bank.
“Bluffs are my favorite summertime haunts for bass on Allatoona,” said Matt. “They usually hold a lot of bait and give the bass the option to move up or down in the water column without expending too much energy.”
Matt set up the boat next to the bluff, and we began working the area, making long casts parallel to the shoreline with topwater plugs. The boat was in about 25 feet of water, and we were less than 20 feet from the shore.
Matt’s topwater baits of choice include the Spro Dog, Zara Spook Jr. and Pop-R. He likes a bait that causes a lot of commotion on the surface to call the fish up from the deeper water.
“My experience is that spots will come up as much as 20 feet to attack a bait on the surface,” said Matt.
When bass come up from that depth, they are usually coming up fast, so the strikes are often explosive. In addition to the baits listed above, Matt sometimes has luck with a black buzzbait fished rapidly across the surface. All of the topwater baits are fished on medium-weight spinning outfits spooled with 15-lb. monofilament line. He chooses mono because of its natural buoyancy. The line tends to float and won’t pull the bait down, thus allowing for better surface action.
The bluff topwater action produced several strikes over the next hour or so, but the fish were small. Matt had one good fish on, about 2 1/2 pounds, but it threw the hook. By this time the sun was getting higher in the sky, so Matt suggested we change tactics.
“During the heat of the day, I look for suspended fish in 15 to 25 feet of water,” said Matt.
He still targets the bluffs but works the shade created by the bluff rather than working the whole bluff area. As the sun gets higher, these areas of shade grow smaller, but you can generally find some shade along bluff walls throughout the day.
To get to the deeper fish, Matt shifted to more of a finesse tactic.
“My go-to bait this time of year is a drop-shot rig,” said Matt.
The drop shot allows him to fish various depths and keep the bait in the strike zone easily. His other bait of choice is the shaky-head worm. Again, the bait has plenty of action when the rod tip is shaken while the bait is left in place on the bottom. It stays in the strike zone longer than baits that need to be retrieved to produce action.
Bass tend to be a little lethargic in the warm water and often won’t chase a bait very far. The subtle presentation of both these finesse baits fits that feeding pattern nicely.
For the drop-shot rig, Matt chooses a No. 4 Gamakatzu drop-shot hook and a 1/8- to 3/16-oz. sinker. The hook is tied on the line about a foot above the end, and the weight is attached to the tag end of the knot. As a result, the bait stays suspended about a foot above the weight which is resting on the bottom.
This rig is designed so the hookset is virtually automatic and always in the top of the mouth. Matt shared a tip on how to ensure the hook stays in the proper position. Tie the hook on using a standard palomar knot. The line goes through the knot doubled with the hook point up. After the palomar is completed, Matt pulls the tag end of the line back through the eye from the top. This extra loop causes the hook to stand out at a right angle to the main line with the point above the shank. That hook position almost guarantees a solid hookset in the top of the mouth.
It is important not to set the hook sharply with a drop-shot rig. The hook works much like a circle hook, and a sharp hookset can actually cause you to miss the fish. Matt said when you feel the heaviness of a fish on the line, simply raise the rod tip gently and begin cranking. The hook will embed in the roof of the fish’s mouth.
Matt fishes both the drop-shot rig and the shaky-head worm on 4- to 6- lb. test fluorocarbon line on spinning rigs with light rod-tip action. There are special drop-shot rods made expressly for this type of fishing, but any 6- to 7-foot rod with a light tip action will work just fine. Matt uses fluorocarbon line because it sinks. That way there is no bow in the line, and he can stay in direct contact with the bait at all times.
For the drop-shot rig, Matt chooses small baits like the Big Bite Bio Minnow or the Zoom Tiny Fluke. Both of these baits have a small profile and match the threadfin shad and spottail minnows prevalent in the lake. Matt said the Tiny Fluke produces the most strikes, but the Bio Minnow usually attracts bigger fish. In both cases he hooks the baits through just the tip of the nose so they will move freely when the rod tip is shaken.
For the shaky-head rig, Matt prefers a squirrel-tail worm by Big Bite. The worm has a traditional finesse-worm head, but the body is pencil thin with a fat tail on the end that is full of air bubbles. The tail is buoyant and makes the worm stand up and wave in the current. It can even attract fish when dead sticking on the bottom.
We worked the bluffs in the shade until about mid day. We were fishing in about 20 feet of water and working the baits slowly. Again, we got lots of strikes, particularly on the drop-shot rig, but most were barely keeper size.
We did hook a couple of fish heavier than 2 pounds on the shaky-head worm, but both got off right next to the boat. It just wasn’t our day.
During the summer, Matt prefers to fish from mid lake upstream. He’ll start working around the Galts Ferry area and go as far upstream as Knox Bridge. But no matter where on the lake he is, he’ll be targeting bluffs.
One important factor in finding fish during the summer is the presence of bait. If you don’t see bait on your electronics, then it is a good idea to move on and try another location. Matt doesn’t just look for any bait ball however, he likes bait clouds that are irregular around the edges.
“A well-defined, smooth-edged ball of bait usually means the bait is not being pressured by feeding fish,” said Matt. “If the bait is scattered or the edge of the cloud is ragged, something is disturbing the bait and it is likely feeding bass.”
On our trip, Matt’s advice held up. If we saw irregular bait clouds along a bluff, we usually got several strikes almost immediately.
One other point — Matt recommends you keep a topwater bait tied on and handy throughout the day. It isn’t unusual to see a school of bass blow up on bait near the surface at any time.
“When they come up, you need to be ready ’cause they won’t stay up long,” said Matt.
A well-placed cast to fish feeding on the surface will often produce a good fish. You might even be surprised by a big lineside inhaling your bait.
For up-to-date information on Allatoona and other area lakes, listen to Matt’s broadcast at <proanglerradio.
com>. Matt and his co-host Tim Adams record once a week, and it is available 24/7. The show includes fishing reports and interviews with professional and local anglers. New shows are generally posted on Wednesdays or Thursdays.
So don’t be shy about going out to Allatoona this summer. Yeah, the fishing can be tough, but stick with Matt’s patterns and rigs, and you will likely have some success.