Target Late Summer Bass with Small Crankbaits

Aside from many northern fisheries, late summer often presents some of the toughest fishing of the entire year. High temperatures, low water and oxygen levels, thermocline changes, night feeding schedules and scattered forage all influence bass behavior.

When you combine these conditions, it causes bass to disperse and use all depth zones, making them more difficult to catch. The diversity of water the bass live and feed in this time of year offers an abundance of options for anglers, but one of the most consistent ways to catch bass this time of year is fishing shallow with small crankbaits, like the Megabass SUPER-Z series.

One reason the small crankbait pattern is often productive in August is that you can more efficiently cover water to find groups of actively feeding fish. However, as with most patterns, the key to productivity for small cranks like the SUPER-Z Z2 is identifying the right conditions.

For example, water clarity is critical. We have found that a water clarity window between 6 to 15 inches of visibility is most consistently productive for the SUPER-Z. Fortunately, most lakes across the country have at least one area of the lake (usually in the upper creek and river arms) that fits this description. Bass can be caught in any visibility of water in August, including extremely clear, due to shallow panfish populations and other factors, but the bass tend to be very finicky and harder to catch in water clarities over 15 inches. What we’re targeting is just enough visibility for bass to key in on that smaller profile and trigger a reaction bite.

After the visibility window, available cover is often the most important. A mix of rock and wood is a goldmine for small cranks. Ideally, a steeper channel bank with isolated laydown trees and stumps, or flatter muddy/sandy banks with horizontal laydown logs and stumps is most productive. When you have the right water visibility window combined with this cover, bass will almost always be present and catchable.

Crankbait color and retrieve is the next key factor to success. When fishing straight rocky banks, for example, a medium/fast stop and go retrieve that allows the bait to contact rock and other cover is key. Positioning your boat tight and parallel to the bank is a must to be able to effectively do this.

When wood is present, slowing down the retrieve and “crawling” the SUPER-Z over the thickest parts of the cover can lead to higher catch rates. The SUPER-Z series has snagless qualities similar to a squarebill crankbait, like the S-CRANK. This characteristic makes it perfect for targeting cover in these areas. Making multiple casts to the same high percentage areas will trigger bass that may not have committed to an offering on the first attempt. Remember, it’s a narrow bite window so don’t be afraid to make repetitive casts and really pick apart the most high-potential areas.

With respect to color, our pros have found that high contrast offerings like Frozen Glass and Old-Z are great starting choices for this particular water clarity window. Where there is less clarity and/or low light conditions, start with the more aggressive OLD-Z colorway. Where there is clarity closer to that 15in upper range and/or increased light intensity throughout the day, switch to FROZEN GLASS and feel free to experiment with color changes to keep your bite window open for as long as possible.

Frozen Glass

We’ll often start with a deeper diving option like the SUPER-Z Z2, as we can target a wider range of depths simply by adjusting our rod tip (high for shallow, low for deeper, “kneel and reel” with tip submerged for bonus depth). We recommend 8-10lb fluorocarbon to achieve maximum depth and optimal action.

At 1/4oz, the SUPER-Z is certainly on the lighter end; however, the LBO II(PAT.) moving balancer system powers surprising cast distance for its class. We suggest anglers choose rods that align with their comfort level. For those with experience long-casting lighter plugs on baitcast setups, we recommend the DESTROYER P5 F2.5-611X KASUMI SIX ELEVEN, which has a slower taper that loads deep into the blank for intuitive cast control, “give” on the bite, and the quietly confident power to absorb surges throughout the fight. For those more accustomed to using spinning setups, we recommend the DESTROYER P5 F3-611XS LANDSAT, OROCHI XX F3-611XXS WHIPSNAKE, or LEVANTE F3-611LVS WHIPSNAKE. These rods have the length and actions necessary for long casts and bite-preserving tenacity throughout long fights.  

Late-summer fishing can be challenging, but armed with the right tools, anglers can continue their success into the fall transition.

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