Summer’s dog days are in full force in Oklahoma when August rolls around, leaving anglers and bass scurrying to find the nearest shade.
As a bass angler, I even have a hard time finding motivation to get out on the water when it’s 100-plus degrees outside. But hooking up on a bunch of schooling bass can quickly take your mind off of the heat.
Late summer is when black bass in Oklahoma start to get together, or school up, and begin to roam and hunt in packs for baitfish. The shad have spawned and are swimming in herds, and the black bass begin to target them.
Schooling bass are always fun to catch, and figuring out what triggers a feeding frenzy is almost as fun as catching a mess of them. Schooling black bass can be found anytime during the day, but typically, largemouth bass are most often schooling early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
You can find bass schooling on lakes all over the state. Whether you target Lake Murray, Texoma or Sardis, anglers will always find some schooling fish ready to eat this time of year.
But what happens when you find them and the bite suddenly shuts off? Sometimes the bass will be popping the surface all around you and then suddenly they are gone. The fish are still in the area, but it’s like someone has turned the lights out around you.
Your next step is trying to figure out how to finesse a bite and get the bass feeding again. All it takes is getting one bass to bite to get the whole group feeding again.
There are a few tactics that always seem to work to get them firing again, but I’ve found one that simply can’t miss. It doesn’t take being a pro to master; all it takes is some patience and time on the water.
I use an old technique, shaky head fishing, with a new bait, the Money Maker, to get them back in the biting mood. Dragging a flip shake, aka shaky head, through the strike zone may not seem that old, but it was perfected in a time when finesse fishing was just getting legs.
It’s also a tactic that pro angler and former Bassmaster Classic champion Michael Iaconelli recommends to use, especially when the fish stop biting.
The key to this presentation is focus. Finessing fish, downsizing your gear and slowing down, is exactly what I do during months when fishing is slow and power fishing has run its course. I typically trade in all my casting equipment for spinning this time of year.
Schooling fish can be shallow or in deeper waters, but the areas where I love the flip shake are in the shallows.
The areas I am keying on are shaded areas around boat docks, bridge pilings and shadows. Once I locate fish, whether by using my electronics or working my search baits around, I go to work.
I position my boat according to where the shade is, relative to the structure, which is what will keep the bait in the strike zone the longest. If I position my boat on the shade side and cast toward the sun, allowing the bait to run towards the front of the ambush-positioned bass, I’ll be in good shape.
Starting out with a 1/8-oz. flip shake head, with a thin-wire 2/0 or 3/0 hook, I thread on a Berkley HAVOC Money Maker, rigging the small finesse worm wacky style. When it comes to selecting lure colors, I always select colors based on where I am, but in the heat of summer I usually throw something like pumpkin green or green pumpkin purple copper fleck.
Using a 7-foot medium Abu Garcia Veritas winch series casting rod and an Abu Garcia LTX baitcast reel that handles 10-pound Berkley NanoFil line well, I fish that Money Maker by making a very long casts. I engage the spool once the bait hits the bottom and leave the rod tip pointed at about 11 o’clock.
The NanoFil really handles well on the LTX reel. A few tackle shops carry them, like Lucky Lure Tackle in OKC, but this shallow spool reel is a complete game changer for small diameter line. Plus, I am fond of baitcasting equipment, so it allows me to stick to what I know. Back to fishing.
I work the bait slowly through the school, which will drive the locals crazy. I want to cover the entire area so every fish gets a good look at it. All you need is one fish to pounce to ignite the frenzy once again.
Cover the entire shaded area and make note of every fish, keeping track of the depth where these fish are located. This will help you get a handle on when to anticipate future strikes.
Slowing down and focusing on the technique and body of water will produce results and allow you to add another tool to your bag of tricks. I understand, it is hot out there, but it won’t matter when you’re catching more fish.