Phillip Chisolm pitched his Bandit crankbait onto the rocky shoals of Okatibbee Creek, and began working the lure slowly back until it was stopped dead in its tracks, engulfed by a ravenous spotted bass. The diminutive fish fought with a vengeance rivaled only by its cousin, the hard-fighting smallmouth bass.

In the Central Mississippi area, however, the spotted bass is king of the creeks, as no smallies are to be found this far south. Chisolm held on for dear life as the spot rose to the surface, and wallowed across the turbulent water.

With sizzling air and water temperatures during August, the cool, fresh, flowing streams and creeks are just the ticket for catching bass during the dog days of summer.

Our state is blessed with an abundance of small creeks and streams that have cooler free-flowing waters that are full of hungry spotted bass. And there's no better time to catch them than during the heat of summer.

An added bonus is the canopy of overhanging trees that provide shade and cooler temperatures in many areas along the smaller creeks. And if you get a little overheated, just take a dip in the creek and you'll cool off in a hurry, and usually dry off by the time you get back to the truck.

Okatibbee Creek flows south out of Okatibbee Lake some 8 miles north of Meridian, and meanders its way back and forth right through the western edge of Meridian. It continues flowing south until it merges with the Chunky River near Enterprise.

While the creek crosses many public roads allowing easy access, most of it remains untouched by anglers, except for a little fishing pressure along the roads. Otherwise, many of the spotted bass rarely see an angler or lure, and that makes for some prime bass angling, even in August.

Swift-water bass

As Chisolm maneuvered through the rocky shoals, we quickly moved to the west side of the creek, anchored the Coleman Scanoe and began fan-casting in the turbulent water below the shoals. It didn't take long for Chisolm to hook up with another spotted bass.

This time Chisolm pitched his brown jig-n-pig right into the swift water, and let it flow under an overhanging limb, where the bass nailed it.

This bass also fought like a much-larger lunker, exploded out of the rapids and tail-walked across the top until Chisolm wore him down and landed him. After admiring the bass and taking a couple photos, he quickly released the fish to grow some more. While Chisolm does keep a few fish to eat occasionally, he practices and enjoys catch and release most of the time.

During the hot summer months, bass are on a slightly deeper pattern than in the fall when they strike jerkbaits and topwaters ferociously. Chisolm usually patterns the bass each trip, and has several different patterns that keep producing over and over.

"I like to target the small creeks or streams that pour into the main creek," he said. "Many times, the bass lie in the deeper water and attack any baitfish or food that happens to be swept out into the main creek, and most of the time they're easy pickings."

Chisolm usually casts his old-faithful brown or black jig-n-pig combo up into the shallow water and lets the current carry it out over the deeper ledge. Usually that's all it takes if a spotted bass is waiting nearby.

"I'll make several casts into a place like that, and many times I'll catch more than one bass," he said.

He continues fishing the area until he's convinced he's worked it thoroughly and put his lure in front of any hungry bass that may be waiting in ambush. And on these types of waters, the bass usually don't hold back, as they are not lure-shy.

Chisolm also targets any laydown logs or fallen brushtops that serve as ambush points.

"I like to pitch a jig into brushtops, as well as around stumps and logs," he said. "Many times those bass are lying in the brush, or just behind the top or log, and they will attack your lure with a vengeance when it swims past."

Then it's simply a matter of hanging on, as the spots will usually set the hook themselves, since they strike so hard.

"When I'm floating downstream, I'll usually fish a small Bandit or Norman crankbait along sandbars, cypress roots and knees until I come to areas where I want to fish the jig," Chisolm said.

By thoroughly covering a lot of water quickly with the crankbaits, Chisolm will find and catch bass that he might have overlooked.

Shoals bass

During our recent trip, Chisolm's favorite fishing spots were located on the downstream side of the rocky shoals. Okatibbee Creek is full of miniature rapids, and they are about the closest thing to whitewater you'll find in Mississippi. The spotted bass love them, and congregate in the swift water just below the most turbulent currents. They take advantage of the current for comfort, as well as feeding on unsuspecting prey that may swim past half dazed.

"I like to position the boat to the side of the creek opposite the swiftest current," Chisolm said. "Then you can pitch that lure across the stream into the swift water, and let the jig, or lure of preference, free flow downstream while keeping a tight line. And many times those spotted bass will suck the lure in, and take off."

Chisolm stressed the importance of keeping a tight line when fishing in heavy current.

"If you don't keep a tight line, the lure will get washed under a rock and get hung in a hurry," he said. "However, if you keep the slack out of the line and jig it occasionally, it will continue on downstream until you get a bite or run out of current."

Just about that time, Chisolm bowed up on a lunker spot.

"This is a good one, bigger than those we've been catching," he said.

The spunky Kentucky bass tail-walked on the water surface near the boat, made one last kick and vaulted skyward just about the time Chisolm tried to swing it into the boat.

Okatoma Creek

Long known as a summertime hotspot for canoeists and kayak enthusiasts, Okatoma Creek, located near Seminary and running to Hattiesburg, is also a haven for feisty spotted bass. The bass fishing on Okatoma is a well-kept secret even to many bass fishermen.

In fact, several avid local anglers I talked to had never even fished this ice-cold creek. While that may be due to the large numbers of recreational users that frequent the river during the summer weekends, it still doesn't explain why local anglers have written off the creek without even trying their hand at fishing it.

After canoeing down the creek with a group of family and friends a couple times, I was more determined than ever to make a bass fishing trip on the beautiful creek as soon as possible. While the creek is perfect for floating and relaxing, it is also one of the most gorgeous rivers in our state.

And while it is very docile for the most part, it is also home to the only class-one whitewater rapids in our state. In fact, on one popular stretch of the creek, there are four significant drops in elevation that will test all but the most skilled canoeists.

Below each of these rapids areas, however, lay deep pools of dark water that are home to numbers of spotted bass. Crankbaits and jigs are just the ticket below the rapids areas, and will produce many strikes when the bass are turned on. While these areas are prime spots, be forewarned that they will also be heavily pressured by weekend swimmers and thrill seekers on Saturdays and Sundays. Weekdays are another matter, however.

Ronnie Robinson of Okatoma Outdoor Post owns one of the oldest and most popular canoe-rental companies on Okatoma that caters primarily to canoeing and swimming enthusiasts. As for fishing of any type, Robinson had one stretch of the river in mind when I talked to him.

"If you want to catch bass or catfish, the stretch of river from Fairchild Landing to the Okatoma Outdoor Post is the place to be," he said. "Just below Fairchild, the river gets deeper and holds more fish than perhaps any other stretch. Several big catfish have been caught along that section of the river as well."

During my first fishing trip to the creek, my partner and I tried numerous lures and spots along the creek, but we didn't really get into the bass until we floated past Fairchild Landing. After passing the landing, the creek narrowed significantly and got deeper in a hurry, just as Robinson had told me.

It didn't take many casts before my partner hooked up with a nice spotted bass. A few casts later, I caught another bass on a small chrome/black back/orange belly crankbait, and the game was on.

Once we caught a fish in a spot, we simply put out an anchor and fished the area thoroughly. After fishing one side of the boat, we worked the other bank over before moving on. Continuing downstream, the creek color turned into a beautiful black color. The surface water was clear, but the underlying water was deep and dark.

This water color proved to be a boon to the fish and anglers alike. The bass positioned themselves in the deep, cool water and waited for unsuspecting prey to swim by. And that turned out good for us as well, as the bass hit our crankbaits with abandon.

While fishing one stretch of the river, we hardly went more than a couple of casts without getting a strike, and most of the time we caught nice spotted bass to boot.

While crankbaits were the ticket on my trip to Okatoma, other swift-water anglers prefer spinner-type lures. All American and FLW Championship qualifier Ken Murphy prefers fishing a white custom-made spinnerbait with two nickel-plated Colorado hammered blades. This combination is deadly on almost any creek or river system, and Murphy has proven it will catch fish from the deep waters of the Tombigbee and Alabama rivers in West Alabama to the smaller creeks, rivers and streams in East-central and South Mississippi.

Murphy always looks for current breaks on the rivers. Current breaks are any objects in the water that impede water flow, making it slow down or go around the object. No matter how big or small the creek, the bass react much the same. And the smaller the creek or stream, the more precise the pattern will get.

"I look for any type current break, whether it is a laydown log, brushtop or stump," he said. "The bass will lay behind these objects just out of the heavy current and attack with a fury when the baitfish swims by their sanctuary."

During one fishing expedition on a small creek, Murphy spent the afternoon making short pitch-casts to stumps, logs and brushtops that had current flowing around them.

"In the span of a couple hours, I hit the hotspots and caught 18 spotted bass without slowing down," he said. "I targeted the aggressive bass that were positioned in ambush spots behind those breaks and attacking anything that moved. Then it became real simple - just put the lure in the strike zone, and you would get a bite."

If you're looking for fast-paced action during the dog days of summer, then look no further than your nearest small river, creek or stream that's not accessible to large bass or ski boats. Small rivers or creeks like Okatibbee and Okatoma are home to some of the best summertime fishing anywhere.