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The often repeated advice for summertime or warm-weather bass fishing is to go early or late. But that’s not always possible and I’ve found that a middle of the day session can be quite lucrative if you can stand the heat!

Low light, cloudy and windy days will cause bass to be spread out and on the move but on hot sunny bluebird days most bass are going to be seeking shelter from the heat and bright sunlight in shady vegetation, mats and structure or in deep cooler water. The waters in my area of Florida are relatively shallow prairie lakes with only a few deeper pools formed by sinkholes. Our summers and warm weather seem to go on forever and so does the widespread and thick vegetation. The plants in these prairie lakes have life cycles that are truly an amazement in themselves. Lilies are the dominate vegetation and are found year round in varying densities. They just explode during summertime into thick canopies full of cool shade and forage for largemouth bass. The sound of bream smacking bugs and grubs on the undersides of the leaves is a sure sign that there’s a fantastic unseen world down there!

So on bright sunny days I head straight to the pads. 

Huge expanses of lily pad fields can look daunting but upon closer inspection there will be certain areas to hone in on. I look for any irregularities such as holes in the canopy, edges that define pools or other types of plants, separate clumps of pads, mixed vegetation or other structure. These differences may look minor but they can be great staging areas and offer great security and ambush points for these opportunistic feeders. 

So, the bass are in the pads but are they near the surface right under the giant leaves, or at the bottom near the roots or somewhere suspended in between? Are they on the move and in the mood for a chase? They might be honed in on whatever movement is on top or content to grab something that happens to fall on their kitchen floor? Sometimes the answer is obvious. Bass that are flinging themselves clear out of the water to snatch dragonflies will be staging near the surface. But clues may be more subtle, too. Watch the surface for movement of the pads when big bass brush against lily stalks or when they startle to an alert status when a lure plops nearby. That’s a good spot for the next cast! 

Start the search on the outer edge where the pad field meets open water. This area offers the best of both worlds but it can also be the most pressured. Work your way in deeper into the field. My Coosa HD glides stealthily through the pads getting to unpressured areas that are tough for bigger boats to reach. My kayak allows me to easily cast from the seat or stand confidently to pitch into holes. 

I like to rig up for all contingencies and then will focus my energies on what seems to be working the best. My favorite all-purpose search baits are soft plastic paddletails, large buzzing worms or toads rigged weedless and weightless. I can work these like a frog, hopping and popping over the pads and hesitating in the holes. They can be buzzed on top which can cause impressive wakes of big bass shoulders plowing just under the lily canopy to eventually emerge in a violent strike or sometimes with no wake or warning, just that instinctive reaction! I find that a large paddle tail can imitate different preys and also glides through tightly packed pads without much snagging. Even though it’s not a complete floater, it will suspend long enough to also provide hesitations in the vegetation just like a hollow body frog would do. In less dense areas the lure can be dropped to wake or swim, if that’s what’s doing the trick and even deadsticked to the bottom like a dying baitfish. 

Try to imitate the movements of whatever creature you imagine. Maybe the scurrying of a semi-aquatic rodent! My fishing buddy just recently used a frog to catch a nice bass that had a rat tail sticking out of its throat! Greedy gal! She wasn’t even finished with her rodent lunch when she snagged the next opportunity!

I prefer top water hits and nothing beats the aggressive explosions of a bass hitting a hollow body frog or soft plastic at the surface. I have even composed my own combination of frog and paddletail with great results. Even subtle movements through thick vegetation will elicit strikes. These bass are in tune with their environment!

When they won’t come to the top or if a topwater strike is missed then a follow-up lure might interest them. A weighted creature bait, worm or jig can fool a persnickety bass that wants to stay under cover. 

For pitching into holes or punching through cover varying amounts of weights, from 1/8 to 2 ounces, can be used depending on the density of cover. Most of the  pads in my area include a thick underbrush of fanwort. A heavier weight gets the lure to the bottom quickly where reaction strikes count. If there’s not a hit on the fall I bring the lure right up to the underside of the lily or mat and give it a little shaking dance. That’s for those bass that are staging right up under the floating cover. 

Seven foot or longer rods that are stout are usually recommended but I happen to use ones under seven feet due to the limitation of the size of my truck cab for transport. Braid in the 50-65 pound weight will help haul big bass out of heavy cover. 

Keep the rod tip up and try to get that bass out quickly before it wraps around a stalk. If the bass does get stuck keep the pressure on and use the tension to pull the kayak over to the bass. Another huge benefit over big boats!

So when the sun gets high. head for cover and strike while it’s hot!

~ Jean Wilson

Jackson Kayak Fishing Team