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Sweltering days of summer can make fishing for any species tough. Being an advocate for the theory of big bait equals BIG fish it took me a while to concede that under certain conditions I had to transition to different baits in smaller sizes. As a guide you need to have clients catch fish and you resort to alternative tactics to get them “hooked up.” For year now I have pushed the idea of smaller baits coupled with slower retrieves in order to get a few bites. The opposition has always been the mindset that this isn’t the sort of tactic to fool a trophy.

Filming, fishing for fun, or food you always want to produce hits and this downsizing approach seldom fails. In extreme weather conditions, many species go into a shutdown and have a slow metabolism including their digestive function, this plays into the small meal theory. Another factor is the visual presentation of a small bait lends itself to the lesser likelihood of the details of the bait being discovered by a fish. Another plus is the use of lighter, smaller diameter lines, another detail avoiding the visual tip-off of the fake food source.

So, when the water is cold or in the case of sizzling summer, water temperatures extremely hot (in the 85-90 plus degrees) the presentation of a downsized offering to an already lazy fish is desirable. Couple hot water with increased boating and fishing pressure and if that’s not enough you might find yourself between major moon phases all spelling difficult days. You can switch to after-hours aka nighttime fishing, but you may want to be on the water during the daylight hours. So, let’s talk rigging.

Rod, Reel Review

You may well want to carry your heavy action equipment but it’s more like to go lightweight. I still carry a 7 ½ foot Lew’s jig/worm rod rigged up with braided line www.k9fishing and a powerful baitcasting reel with winching capabilities for pitching to heavy cover and wrestling big fish from the hairiest hideouts. It’s difficult any season of the year to pass up a big submerged tree, heavy aquatic vegetation, or boat docks. For more open water I carry several spinning outfits with the option to throw 1/8th ounce baits and up to 3/8ths offerings. Sometimes you have to chance it and work baits around objects and dense cover this calls for everything to be right, quality line, a good knot, and properly set drag, and the awareness that sometimes you may still lose a fish. Again, spooled with a small diameter braid, likely 6-8-pound test with a five-foot fluorocarbon leader, again k9 line. (* A perfectly tied knot on poor quality line is worthless.) These set ups allow me to work finesse worms, tiny tubes, downsized spinners and even small crankbaits. I opt for smaller Lew’s spinning reels but again emphasize a good drag set and a high-quality reel.

Small Lures – Small Tackle Box

One Plano 3600 or a small two-sided tackle box may be all you need. Note: there is a difference between needs and wants. My partner Debbie catches 90% of her fish on soft plastics and I hate to admit it two stand out, the (ugh) Ned rig and the underspin. “I like the soft plastics; I get excited by the feel of a fish grabbing the bait and swimming off with it. One of my unconventional rigs is a Ragetail craw rigged on the underspin.” Her results speak for themselves; she seldom gets skunked and actually catches a bunch of fish, over 700 last year and lands some BIG bass on smaller lures.

Personally, I rely on finesse fishing baits including but not limited to, the smaller version of the Ragetail craws, Charlie Brewer Slider worms, the MidSouth tackle tubes and a few other soft lures. I literally carry many packs in my pockets for quick change or replacement of a beat-up bait. I change colors occasionally but my go to in each category are as follows, Ragetail craw, watermelon / red flake, Okeechobee craw or Bama craw. The Slider worms that are with me constantly are purple, basic black and a color that I refer to as “Tennessee Tomato” but is officially tagged as tomato in the catalog. The MidSouth Tackle tubes deadly for everything that swims are 0095 Monteleone Silver (honest!) Bloodshot #650, #820 C chartreuse/red flake and #0100 GL pearl glow. Blakemore has Road Runner underspin, rigged or just the heads that are worth a try also.

Picture after picture in my phone and resting on my computer are evidence to the effectiveness of this small group of baits. Just this year, a seven-pound bass, a four-pound smallmouth, an eight-pound channel catfish and several crappies over two pounds all fell for the undersized offerings listed.
Just want to “git bit”? Downsize summertime lures to get upsized results!