During August, I'll fish the Alabama rig two ways to catch these schooling bass, and, yes, many times you'll catch two or more bass on the same rig. Since the bass will be schooling on shad, you'll catch more big bass on the bigger baits.
I'll rig up two Alabama rigs - one with 1/4-ounce lead-heads and the other with ½-ounce lead-heads.
We'll be using a pearl Mann's 5-inch HardNose swimbait on the ½-ounce jigs and a pearl 4 ½-inch Mann's HardNose swimbait on the Alabama rig that has the 1/4-ounce jigheads.
When I see bass schooling on the surface, I'll cast out the Alabama Rig with the 1/4-ounce lead heads and reel the rig really fast. I'll be using a 6.4:1 Pinnacle baitcasting reel with a Seeker fiberglass Alabama rig rod. You should be able to catch seven to 10 bass weighing 1 ½- to 3 pounds each when they come up on top and start busting the surface of the water, chasing and eating shad. Of course, how many you catch depends on how long the school stays on the surface.
Expect to catch a lot of doubles (two fish on the same rig caught at the same time). I'll be casting the Alabama rig on 65-pound-test Berkley FluoroBraid.
You'll find most of the schooling activity occurring out on the river channel when current is coming through the lake. Look for the channel bars and secondary bars just off the channel.
One of the real secrets to finding schooling fish when you can't see them breaking the surface of the water is to watch for what anglers call working-birds: seagulls diving on shad. The seagulls dive on the shad because the bass are below the shad, pushing the baitfish to the surface. As the baitfish move to the surface, the birds will get them. Or if the shad dive down deep, the bass will eat them. When you see diving birds, you know that school of shad's in a world of hurt.
When you don't spot bass schooling on the surface, you'll know that the schooling fish are in deep water, and you can locate them on your depth finder out on the same river bars and secondary bars.
However, these bass will be holding in 17- to 23-foot-deep water, and usually will be bigger than the surface-feeding bass.
I'll pick up my rod with the ½-ounce jigheads and 5-inch swimbaits. I'll cast the rig out and slow-roll it on the bottom.
If you don't have a problem with the wind, cast the Alabama rig upcurrent and swim it back to you.
These schooling fish generally will be on the points of bars or off to the side of the bars. Let the Alabama rig just tick the bottom of those mussel-shell beds.
You'll catch the most big bass - 5 to 6 pounders - using this technique and fishing in that deep water. You also can expect to catch a mixed bag of largemouth, spotted and smallmouth bass - another reason I like to fish Pickwick Lake in August.
You never know which type of bass you'll catch, and you can catch some really big bass.
The next tactic I'll use for these August Pickwick Lake bass is a Carolina rig to fish these same mussel-shell bars.
I'll fish with a 1-ounce weight up the line of a 3-foot leader of 20-pound-test Berkley Trilene Big Game line. I like this line, since it has some stretch to it. Then when you set the hook in a Mann's 12-inch strawberry jelly worm on a big bass, you won't break your line.
I'll have 50-pound-test Stren Sonic Braid on the reel on a 7-foot, 11-inch Seeker graphite rod with a medium-heavy action.
On the end of the leader, I'll tie a No. 6 Gamakatsu hook.
I'll fish the worm just like I've fished the Alabama rig: I'll let it tag the bottom and work it really slowly off the sides of the bars and the points of the bars. I'll cast the Carolina rig upstream and allow that weight to crawl across the bottom and the bars as the current pushes the boat. I'll hardly reel the Carolina rig at all.
I'll also fish a Mann's 20+ crankbait in the grey ghost color in August by casting it on 10-pound-test fluorocarbon line with a Seeker Paul Elias cranking rod and a 4.7:1 gear ratio reel.
I'll cast the crankbait upcurrent and crank it over the points of the bars and down the sides of the bars. I'll be burning the crankbait (reeling it as fast as I can). Then I'll stop it, burn it again and stop it.
Most of the time the bass will take the crankbait when it's sitting still. I've found that on clear, hot days, I catch the most and the biggest bass on Pickwick using these tactics this month.