Great news: Summer is finally here, promising long, languid days filled with sunshine and balmy breezes, when your only worry is running out of ice to keep your beverage of choice properly chilled — unless you’re a serious bass fisherman, that is! Then you know that summer can give you plenty to worry about. Like, where the &%#@ are the fish? Are they still hanging around the shallows after spawning, or have they moved offshore into their deep hidey-holes? Then there’s the thrill of racing across the lake to take shelter under a boathouse during a pop-up lightning storm. And how do you deal with that most surreal of bite squelchers, a summer cold front? Elite Series pro Kyle Monti knows the ropes when it comes to fishing during a seasonal transition. Hop aboard his boat as he takes on Lake Q on an early summer day marked by dramatic weather changes.
6:14 a.m. It’s 72 degrees and raining as Monti and I pull into Lake Q’s deserted boat launch. He dons foul-weather gear and pulls an assortment of Denali rods from the Skeeter’s locker. “This is just the leading edge of a big storm system,” Monti says as he preps the boat for launching. “It could get real nasty out here today.”
7 HOURS LEFT
6:30 a.m. We launch the Skeeter. Monti checks the water temp: 80 degrees. What mode does he predict Lake Q’s bass will be in? “Even though bass have already spawned, there could still be some big fish up shallow, since bluegill are probably on bed now and they’re a favorite meal for postspawn lunkers. So, I’ll spend some time checking shallow areas with a topwater bait. Many bass could already be offshore, too, and I’ve found that deeper fish aren’t as negatively impacted by stormy weather as shallow fish are. Right now I’m going to drive around the lower end of the lake for a while to get the lay of the land.”
6:43 a.m. After idling around, Monti makes his first casts of the day to an offshore rockpile with a bone colored Reaction Innovations Vixen topwater stickbait. It’s raining harder as he dog-walks the plug across the shallow structure.
7:05 a.m. Monti races uplake to a large cove choked with lily pads and emergent shoreline grass (aka “water willow”). He attacks the cover with a green pumpkin Zoom Horny Toad weedless frog and a white 3/8-ounce Dirty Jigs swim jig with a matching Zoom Skinny Dipper trailer.
7:10 a.m. A bass nips the swim jig in the shoreline pads but doesn’t hook up. “The swim jig is my go-to shallow-vegetation lure in early summer; you can cover a lot of water quickly with it, then once you find them, you can slow down and flip or punch the grass, which often yields bigger fish.” The wind and rain have picked up considerably as the storm front intensifies.
7:21 a.m. Monti is working along a big pad field with the swim jig. “Bass gravitate to something different in pad fields. They’ll concentrate around isolated pads; the outer edge where the pads meet open water; holes, points and pockets within the pad field; and other irregularities in the cover.”
6 HOURS LEFT
7:30 a.m. Another short strike on the swim jig. “They’re just pecking at the trailer. Must be small fish.”
7:37 a.m. Monti ties on a homemade 3/8-ounce buzzbait with a gold blade and a green pumpkin/black/blue Reaction Innovations Spicy Beaver twin-tail trailer. “Hopefully, they’ll be able to hear this bait above the noise of the raindrops hitting the water.”
7:39 a.m. Monti spots a 2-pound bass cruising along a grassy shoreline and runs the buzzbait past the fish, which follows it a few feet before turning away.
7:41 a.m. Moving along the bank, Monti sees another keeper cruising; it ignores the buzzer. “At least there are some decent fish up shallow, even though I haven’t spotted any bluegill beds yet.”
7:52 a.m. Monti abandons this cove and runs back downlake into another cove; it’s thick with shoreline water willow but no pads. He probes the emergent grass with the swim jig, reeling the bait quickly through the cover while shaking his rod tip to activate the trailer. “I’ve caught a lot more big bass out of water willow than I have pads.” The rain has reached monsoon level, and my wet camera has quit working; Monti runs me back to my truck so I can attempt to dry it out while he continues casting.
8:16 a.m. The rain has finally slacked off. I text Monti to pick me up; my camera is dead, so I’ll be taking photos on my iPhone. “I graphed up some juicy-looking offshore brushpiles with fish on them,” he announces, grinning.
8:21 a.m. Monti runs to a nearby cove with multiple docks and shoreline water willow. He ties on a flipping rig consisting of a Spicy Beaver, a wide gap hook and a pegged tungsten sinker, then pitches it to the grass.
5 HOURS LEFT
8:33 a.m. Monti flips the Spicy Beaver into a thick patch of water willow on a steep point in the cove. “This little point drops off quickly to 12 feet. They could feed in this grass, then shoot back down deep.”
8:35 a.m. A bass taps the Beaver; Monti slams back his rod, but the fish shakes free. “That was a 2-pounder. Notice the bream beds against the bank? That’s why that fish was there.”
8:41 a.m. It’s stopped raining, and amazingly, blue sky is beginning to show through the clouds. “Wow, the air temp has dropped 10 degrees! Summer cold fronts are weird; on some lakes they’ll turn the fish on, but they’ll absolutely kill the bite on other lakes.”
8:44 a.m. Monti catches a short fish on the Beaver. “Little sucker hit it like a 6-pounder!”