Dog days of summer strategies

Jesse Tacoronte loves a good topwater bite as much as anyone, but when the dog days of summer bring chokingly hot conditions, the Elite angler from Orlando, Fla., knows it’s more or less an occasional warm up to the day’s main pattern.

Over the shell bars and hydrilla edges where bass drive baitfish to the surface, Tacoronte targets schoolers from the first hour after daybreak until intensifying sunlight stymies the fish’s surface affinity.

A steady cadence with a walking topwater is the best way to infiltrate the schooling activity — even after a fish misses. Follow-ups are common among hyper-competitive schoolers, but when surface activity slows, he’ll switch to a jerkbait or lipless crankbait to clean up any stragglers.

This is often a fast-paced game of cat-and-mouse, so stay alert and ready to throw in all directions. Best to give your partner a heads-up first, but when schoolers surface, turning aft and firing a cast over the motor takes less time than turning the bow toward the action. Seconds matter, so do what you’ve got to do — and realize this is just the appetizer.

“Believe it or not, the topwater bite is not as important as people think it is,” he said. “Most of the time, I will start by flipping Kissimmee grass or hydrilla first thing in the morning. You’ll catch your biggest fish of the day flipping in the morning — even when it’s almost still dark. They’re territorial; those fish live in the grass, their food source is there. They don’t leave just because it gets dark. They’re not migratory.”

Buried in cover

Once the topwater bite’s done — or if it never materializes — Tacoronte commits the majority of his day to the flipping/pitching game. Seeking solace from the stifling heat, summer bass typically park in the heavy cover and nap away the long, uncomfortable hours.