Milder than normal surface temperatures, thanks to recent and frequent dog day rain storms, have left most Mississippi waters a good 10 degrees cooler than normal for summer.

It has created problems for fishermen, who are scratching their collective noggins trying to figure out where the bass are hiding. From Eagle Lake east to the Tenn-Tom Waterway and from Pickwick Lake south to the coastal rivers, it has been a headache.

Just what you'd expect in 2012, which has been a strange year from the get-go. How else could you explain catching bass on a swimming jig around shallow vegetation in mid August?

"It's just been a weird year," said avid angler Larry Pugh, who also serves as assistant chief of fisheries for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "From the very start, back in the spawn, it has been different. The mild winter and early spring had fish trying to figure out when to spawn.

"That carried into the late spring and summer, and then we had such a mild, wet summer that it is still creating problems for fishermen. I know up in northeast Mississippi, like at Pickwick and Bay Springs, they were catching fish in late July and in August on patterns we don't normally see until late August, September and even October - shallow. The deep ledge fishing, which I love, never got cranked up like it usually does in the summer. It has just been a very strange year."

Veteran angler Ed Dunnaway of Flowood took most of the summer off, but decided to give Barnett Reservoir a try on Tuesday. He struggled early before he relied on the most basic fishing principle.

"Follow the food," he said. "When all else fails, follow the food. And with the water already cooling toward fall temperatures, even this early, I started heading into the backwaters off the river and I started catching fish.

"Just a couple, but that's a start. I am going to look for shad, find where they are holding and start fishing."

Tuesday afternoon, during a brief overcast period, even a swim jig fished around pads in pockets off the river produced bass for this writer. Shad were there and so were the bass.

Jimmy Carruth, also of Flowood, figured out the same thing weeks earlier, when he realized his favorite pattern, punching matted vegetation, was back in play.

"Usually, 90 degree water means that's over," Carruth said of flipping heavy jigs through the vegetation. "Once we see 90, it's like they all leave the vegetation and head for the river and deep cover. We had some 90s this summer but that was in July and it didn't last long. It's been a long time since we had a summer when the grass has been as productive throughout like it has this year.

"I'm not saying it's great, but we've been able to go and flip the grass and pick up some good, heavy bass all summer."

With the shad moving in, it will get better.

"You bet," Carruth said. "Last weekend, I couldn't believe the thousands of shad we spotted back in the grass. It's like fall. There were people throwing frogs like they usually do in the summer, but they weren't just out on the river points. They were back in the backwaters."

Fishing pads has produced good at Eagle Lake, too. Shad have headed into the shallow water and the bass have followed.

"The frog bite in the pads has been phenomenal this month," said Gary Thomas of Vicksburg. "I went down to the pads past Garfield's Landing to scout for a friend who has an alligator tag for September. I didn't see a lot of gators but I saw a lot of activity in the pads. There were shad all in there and you could hear a few bass strikes.

"So I tied on a frog and started throwing it, even though I didn't have a good frog rod in the boat. I hooked up pretty quick and broke it off in the roots. The next day I went back in there with a frog rod and heavy braid and caught five or six good ones and it's been that way ever since."

Dan Smith of Madison couldn't find fish at two of his favorite fishing holes, but remembered a story from the ms-sportsman.com website and put bass pro Pete Ponds' advice to good use.

"I thought about how he said to take a shallow crankbait and bang timber in the backs of pockets in 5 to 8 feet of water," said Smith, who primarily fishes smaller private lakes averaging less than 200 acres. "I did that and was amazed at how it worked. I started catching bass, and I mean thick chunks, off brush piles. They weren't stacked on anything anywhere, but I moved around a good bit and hit enough wood to manage a great couple of days of fishing."

There's still a month of summer left on the calendar, and it should be good and carry us into a good fall season.

But, as Pugh warned, there's room for doubt.

"It's just been a strange, weird year," he said.