Get ready for fall fishing with late summer bass

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

Along about this time most years bass fishing gets pretty good. Not October good, but still good. It happens with both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. This is not a fishing pattern that seems to turn on with the flip of a switch. It just builds with the passing of summer.

This late summer fishing pattern is only barely a pattern. My understanding is that it is primarily due to a dwindling food supply. Contrary to the common angler notion that bass, like many fish in our region, do not bite well during summer. This is nonsense because summer is the main feeding period when food is most abundant.

The problem with summer fishing is that fish are spread out in most available habitat. During the fall and spring, bass tend to congregate in easily defined places, often in relatively shallow water. Relatively little food is available in nature. Most fish including forage fish spawn either during fall or spring, both spawns contributing to the forage supply through the following summer. Then of course as larger fish ravenously eat that forage, the supply is constantly declining.

Here is one of the few things we can say about fishing that is true in just about all cases. Sportfish are easier to catch when there is not much natural food available.

So that is the build-up, the story behind the story in brief. Do not take any of it to the bank. Now the fun part.

The Allegheny Reservoir gets lonely after Labor Day. Other than a few bass tournament anglers, Kane still has some very good ones, bass do not get much attention here compared to most lakes. Fishing for smallmouth bass here is much better than its reputation. I think this tough smallmouth fishing thing got started in the early years of tournament fishing in Pennsylvania. It seemed as though every time a tournament came here the bass fishing was lousy.

And there is another thing about bass fishing in the Allegheny Reservoir. It has some decent fishing for largemouth bass if you know where to find them. I will say no more on this subject for now if for no other reason than I am not current with the situation.

The last several times I have fished this pattern at the reservoir, I have started fishing with soft plastic twitch baits 4 inches to 6 inches in length. The larger baits are best if smaller bass want to be avoided, although it does not always work out this way. I have caught a few Kinzua bass that were barely larger than the bait. Still fun.

Use any color so long as it is white. I prefer that the bait has some blue or light green on the back. In the clear water, you will see many of the bass when they take the bait. It is surprising that bass will come out of 20 feet of water to attack a bait that might be 5 feet deep, but it happens a lot. Likely most of these bass were suspended.

If the bass do not come up for the twitch baits I go immediately to deep-diving crankbaits. The most effective for me, maybe just because I have confidence in them, are the Rebel Deep Wee R and the Bomber Model A. Either one seems to work best with the natural crayfish color pattern, or at least a pattern that is predominately brown.

While fishing you should be frequently looking at the sonar screen. If you see quite a few marks at about 12 feet, and none have struck a lure, try a jig or a 4-inch plastic worm on a Slider jig head. Back in my bass tournament fishing time, the Slider Head was fairly popular, though apparently not so popular as it should have been. The term slider jig appears to have come to mean something different, and as far as I am aware the original is no longer made.

But you easily can make your own slider jig heads by squeezing round jig heads in a common garage or basement workshop vice. The resulting modification should be about round when looked at from above or below, but from the side, it if flat and quite thin. This shape makes it sink much more slowly than standard lead heads. It should even have some wiggle. By manipulating the rod tip it can be kept roughly at the desired depth through most of the retrieve.

You will feel very satisfied when you become proficient at catching suspended bass. It can eliminate many fish-less days on the water.

If you want to catch bass at the surface, try a Zara Spook Puppy, smaller buzz bait or a Heddon Tiny Torpedo. And folks, remember that the bass only see a silhouette from the bottom, so just stick with black or chrome, maximum contrast or maximum shine, and any other color probably will be nearly as effective.