In the springtime, when the water is just starting to warm, bass can be easy to catch. But once the heat of the summer starts to set in, that’s when things get complicated.
While there are often big schools of fish out deep, Ish Monroe contests the conventional wisdom that they’re all out on offshore structure. He “firmly believes that only a certain percentage of the fish move out there.”
It’s not that he can’t fish deep – he has three Lowrance Gen 3 HDS 12s on his Ranger and he’s well versed in their operation, but the big-bass guru would rather stay shallow, particularly if he can have that zone largely to himself. That’s why you’ll never find him without a topwater ready to go when the mercury climbs.
He fishes all of his topwaters on 7-foot to 7-foot-7 medium-action composite rods, which allow the fish to inhale the lure, yet are still lightweight and sensitive. His current favorite topwater, like that of much of the bass fishing fraternity, is the River2Sea Whopper Plopper. It produces vicious strikes, he said, because “the fish get angry at it.”
When the grass is too thick for the Plopper’s trebles, he’ll turn to a buzzbait for the same reasons. While he might move to a 7.3:1 gear ratio Daiwa baitcasting reels for his poppers, walking baits and frogs, with the Whopper Plopper and the buzzbait he sticks with 6.3:1, so as not to overwork the lures.
When the water is just starting to warm, he’ll go with a popper, like the River2Sea Bubble Pop or the original Pop-R, and when it comes to walking baits, the River2Sea Rover is his choice. He called it “the evolution of what a Zara Spook has become” thanks to its easy walking action, its three trebles and updated ultra-realistic color choices. Of course the hollow-bodied frogs, particularly those of his own design, never leave the boat.
With the topwater bite, he encourages anglers to seek out shade – whether it comes in the form of trees, sea walls, bridge pilings or even buildings. Most importantly, it’s critical to understand how the shade pattern changes over the course of the day, and which places will provide windows of opportunity. If you’re fishing a relatively cover-free body of water, it makes sense to look for other sources of shade, which may include placing your own “cages” under the surface to achieve the same affect.
While topwater is an exciting and effective way to target big fish when it’s warm, Ish notes that fish are lazy when it’s hot and they don’t want to move any more than they have to. Accordingly, you have to be prepared to change and slow down. Often, that means finesse.
It’s not an easy switch for Monroe, who admits that he’d “rather go to the dentist…than fish a spinning rod.” Nevertheless, he’s not too proud to pick up a Carolina rig, a shaky-head, or even “old faithful, the splitshot rig.”
As with his casting gear, he doesn’t go under 7-foot with his spinning rods, and prefers a carefully-spooled 2500-size Daiwa spinning reel for most finesse applications. While you can use straight 6- to 8-pound fluorocarbon, increasingly he uses a braid main line attached to a fluoro leader with an Albright knot.
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