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Fishing the Mayfly Hatch for Quality Bass in Early Summer

Mayfly Madness

  One of the most overlooked patterns by Bass Anglers in early summer is the “Mayfly Hatch” On lakes and rivers in the Mid South, such as Kentucky Lake, Guntersville, Woods Reservoir and Nickajack Lake the peak of the hatches occur during the months of June and July.  


 Anglers that have not taken advantage of the hatch are missing out on some of the summer’s best action. How do you know when? Well, if you drive near a lake or stream in June or July and you need to wash the truck after doing so…the hatch has started. On the water, look for overhanging tree and boat houses to become covered with millions of tiny mayflies. 


They seem to appear from out of the blue and literally every species of fish benefits from this annual buffet. Triggered by the warmer weather, rising surface temperatures around 75 to 80 degrees, the larva wiggle from the substrate and emerge, leaving a floating husk on the lake surface.  The adult takes to the air for a short life span which last only a day or two. Once in flight the adults mate and eggs are dropped into the water where they may lay dormant until the following year. 


Every species of fish will come to the table and partake of these abundant morsels that fall from the overhanging trees, brushes and docks. This is a dock and brush flippers dream…the mayflies bring smaller pan fish such as bluegill and crappie; right behind them will be bass following the food source! 


Area trout fishermen have long taken advantage for this pattern with fly rods catching everything from trout to walleye.  Meanwhile, few bass anglers have learned to take advantage of the summer seasonal patterns where currents wash flies or larva against banks or submerged sandbars, it is here where hefty largemouth or illusive smallmouth can be found.


Bass anglers should target areas such as steep banks with over hanging trees or docks…docks with a night light source can be extremely productive. Flipping and creature bait such as a D-bomb from Missile Baits or a ½ ounce Jig from Tightline Jigs is a fast way to load the boat with hefty bass. Crank Baits such as a Rapala DT-6 which dives 2-6 feet on deep channel bends use a Rapala DT 16 to get under the schools of smaller fish. War Eagle Spinner Bait can be extremely effective as well. Let’s not forget about the early morning top water bite.  This is one of the most vicious hits know to anglers, navigate a 3/8 “Catch 5” Swimjig from Tightline Jigs around over hanging trees or docks and hold on. 


 Anglers can eliminate unproductive areas by employing their electronics such as Humminbird Side Imaging and Down Imaging. Cruse by docks and overhanging trees scanning under them and watching for large concentrations of bream and crappie located on the outside edges of the structure. 


 In the weeks ahead look for some great action around boat houses and steep banks on the main lake shoreline offer the best bets for success. Early morning and late afternoon seem to see increased mayfly activity.


   If you've never witnessed a feeding frenzy beneath the spell of a mayfly hatch then grab a youngster and head out. It's a great way to introduce someone to the sport while keeping even the veteran anglers amused as well. After all, catching fish stills brings out the kid in all of us and there's no better way or time than during the summer season and mayfly madness.


Capt Jake Davis is a USCG Licensed Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Guntersville, Woods Reservoir, Nickajack, Normandy and Tim’s Ford. Call/email 615-613-2382, msbassguide@comcast.net 

Mayfly Hatch action on Guntersville brings out the angler in all of us...Young and Old!!

Mayfly Hatch action on Guntersville brings out the angler in all of us...Young and Old!!

Ledge Fishing during the “Summer”

Ledge fishing the “Dog Days” takes patients and plenty of homework before the first cast. On Reservoirs across the country, ledges are the best places to catch big bass in the heat of the summer and can be unbelievably explosive! It is vital that angler does some research prior to visiting the lake and than employs the proper equipment that allows you to effectively search for fish and interpret the bottom.


Basically a ledge is any structure that is found at the edge of an old creek channel or the main river channel after the flooding of a reservoir. Spending some time at the house with a topographical map of any man made reservoirs will show you these old channels and sharp contour change of 45 degrees or greater. Most quality ledges are rather steep drops which are next to deeper water of 12-30 feet; it does not mean these are necessarily big drops. A 6-foot river channel lip is a ledge, as well as a small 1-foot drop along an otherwise uniform flat.  There are certain sweet spots that typically hold numbers of bass sometime during the day, depending upon sunlight penetration and current. These key areas may consist of changes such as an old road bed, shell beds, a small stump field or rock pile that remains after flooding. Some areas will be no larger than a kitchen table.  Your best bet in locating these isolated areas, is through using a good paper map looking for contour lines that indicate a potential sharp drop. Once on the water an angler really needs to have a good set of electronic such as a Humminbird Helix series. Isolated areas have the potential for making the same cast over and over, and catching one bass right after another!


Once I’ve located a school of fish on a ledge using my Helix 12 Mega SI/DI from Humminbird; most of the time I’ll position the boat deep and throw crankbaits toward the shallower part of the structure starting at a 45 degree angle casting up current. If there is current pushing against the ledge or if I observe bass on the sonar suspended off the ledge, then I put the boat shallow and throw deep or up stream so that my retrieve in coming with the current. Alternate steady retrieves with stop-and-go retrieves until you figure out how the bass want the bait on that day. If there is little to no current crashing the lure into the bottom or structure and stopping the retrieve will often generate a violent strike. 


 My primary search baits are crankbaits. My favorite cranks for covering deep water are Rapala DT 16 (12-16 foot) and DT 20 that dives to 16-20 feet.  Color select really depends upon water clarity and sunlight penetration. A good example would be if the water is stained or there is no too little sunlight because of heavy cloud cover, I’ll opt for more chartreuse in my crankbaits. When employing deep diving crank baits it is imperative to have the proper rod and reel set up. I use Duckett White Ice Cranking Rod; 7'11" Medium Heavy action armed with a 5.4-1 LEW’s reel, with 8 to 12 pound test Vicious Ultimate or Pro Elite fluorocarbon. 


Once you’ve located a group of bass with a crankbait and caught a number of fish and the bite slows, a football head jig is the go to set up. I prefer a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce Tightline football head matched to a Missile Baits Twin Turbo Tail or D-Bomb when they want a bulked up profile. Make some changes to your jig; first trim the weed guard down to 2-4 strands. When picking a trailer use a contrasting color, example would be if you jig is Black and Blue use a Green Pumpkin trailer. I have found a slow retrieve with a shake or twitch of the rod tip on the bottom to be best. This will best inmate a crawfish moving across the bottom.  I will present the jig from several angles to give bass a different look at the bait. 


 Another excellent go to tactic is a Texas Rigged plastic such as a 8.75 inch Tomahawk Worm or Creature Bait like the D-Bomb. Both of these plastics will move lots of water during a slow presentation. My Texas Rig is made up of a 3/8 to 3/4 ounce tungsten weight followed by a bead and 5/0 Hook. I recommend a 7' to 7'6" Heavy Action Micro Magic or White Ice rod from Duckett Fishing paired with a LEW’s 7:1 reel with either Vicious Ultimate or Pro Elite fluorocarbon in 15 to 17 pound test.  It’s simple; you want a rod that provides the longest cast with the sensitivity to feel the lightest of strikes along with the power and leverage to set the hook.  


 While ledge fishing is not for every angler, with a little research and patients it can pay big dividends! 


Capt Jake Davis is a USCG Licensed Professional Guide on Lake Guntersville, Tims Ford Lake, Woods Reservoir, Normandy Lake and Nickajack...Have an idea or request for a Bass Fishing Tips or Bass Fishing Articles drop me a line at msbassguide@comcast.net

One of my clients "Gary Lahr" with a quality Guntersville Ledge Fish

One of my clients "Gary Lahr" with a quality Guntersville Ledge Fish

The What and How’s of the Shad Spawn!

Shad Spawn!

  The shad spawn although it’s a short period of time, can mean the best bass fishing of the spring if you hit the right spots at the right times. Shad spawn when the water temperatures hit upper sixties to low seventies and during the full moon.  In the Southeast TN, GA and AL this usually means the full moon in Late April, May and June. Shad normally spawn right at daybreak. Once the sun gets on the water the shad spawn is usually over for the day; likewise if it remains cloudy it will last longer into the day.


For the most part in the southeast region, the first major wave of spawning bass have either finished or is close to finishing. For a lot of anglers this can signal the beginning of the post spawn blues, however for some anglers it is game time! Shortly after spawning the larger female bass start a migration to deeper water areas close by to start the recovery process. After a couple of days rest their hungry; a very prolific fish and a favorite meal of the bass is threadfin shad and their beginning the spawning ritual. 


Threadfin shad can be found in most lakes across the southeast and are the staple diet of all bass from Largemouth in Lake Guntersville and Kentucky Lake to Smallmouth bass in clear deep lakes such as Tim’s Ford and Dale Hollow. This high in protein food source makes them the perfect forage for hungry bass. Threadfin shad generally grow to a size of four to six inches and inhabit a wide range of water depths and temperatures.


Typically the shad are triggered to start their spawn when the water temperature ranges between 68-76 degrees. The shad will find varieties of habitat to spawn depending upon the type of lake. These areas may consist but are not limited to shoreline grass or lily pads, rip rap, wood cover and even boat docks typically in shallow water (three to five feet) with deeper water close by. On lakes such as Lake Guntersville shad can also be found spawning on the main lake grass ledges around deeper water.


Watch for dark clouds of shad travelling the grass lines or rippling of the water right where the water meets the edge of the hard surfaces, such as wood or rocky banks. The school of shad runs down the bank or channel grass and the females lay eggs that stick to the grass and other hard surfaces. The males are running with them and releasing sperm that fertilizes the eggs. I’ve noticed shad jumping completely out of the water onto the bank when they spawn on lakes like Tim’s Ford.


I have found one of the best ways to catch bass during the shad spawn is using a "Catch 5" Swimjig in white shad from Tightline Jigs or spinnerbaits such as a 3/8 to 3/4 ounce Spinnerbaits; my preference is the War Eagle.  Silver willowleaf #4 or #5 blades with a white skirt imitate the shad.  Another great way to catch bass during this time is top water baits like Buzzbaits with a head/hook that set below the water due to its 45 degree bend just in front of the head, Poppers and SPRO Dawg 100’s. A buzzbait worked slowly will often excite the bass even more shallow cover, while at the same time if you are fishing close to deep water try a hard bait such as the SPRO Dawg or a Popper this will draw them from greater depths simply because you can work them slower.  I tend to use a top water lure when fish just prior to the crack of dawn and again as the spinnerbait bite slows after sun up.  


Get your boat in close to the bank and parallel the bank. Try to position your boat behind the shad and keep your movement to a minimum, so not to spook them. See which way they are moving and cast with or across the flow of traffic. Cast your spinnerbait right on the rocks or against the sea wall in areas void of grass and when fishing around grass allow the spinner bait to “Tick” the grass, as it does jerk it free and hold on. If fishing grass ledges as your lures clears the grass drop to rod tip and stop your retrieve for a few seconds, than pop the tip once or twice. Many times bass will relate to the edge of the grass waiting for unsuspecting prey. If you suspect this; using a stick bait similar to a wacky rigged Yamamoto Senko, will produce great results.  You can't cast too shallow!  Some bass will be amazingly shallow and will be looking for shad almost out of the water. Start your retrieve as soon as your bait hits the water and be ready to set the hook immediately. Bass will often hit as soon as the bait hits the water when using either a top water lure or spinnerbait. 


My preferred equipment set up when using a spinnerbait, SPRO Dawg or popper is a 6’9” to 7’0” Medium Heavy Duckett Micro Magic Pro, LEW’s 6.4:1 reel spooled with 15-17 pound test Vicious Ultimate Co-Poly line.  With this set up your rod has just the right tip action to properly work the lure and still enough backbone to keep the beast hooked up.  With Buzzbaits, I’ll arm my clients with a 7’0” Heavy Duckett Micro Pro. LEW’s 6.4:1 or 7:1 reel spooled with 50 pound test Vicious Braid because we are normally throwing it in or around heavy cover and your going to need to extra power to drag them out!  


Capt Jake Davis is a full time, year round professional guide on Lake Guntersville, Woods Reservoir, Normandy and Tim’s Ford, Mid South Bass Guide, www.midsouthbassguide.com or cell at (615) 613-2382

Capt Jake Davis and Shane from Utah with hands full of Guntersville Giants during the shad spawn

Capt Jake Davis and Shane from Utah with hands full of Guntersville Giants during the shad spawn

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