In July, Pickwick bass concentrate on points and mussel bars that are 18 to 24 feet deep. I'll concentrate most of my bass fishing between Cougar Island, just above the Natchez Trace Bridge, down to Second Creek to catch largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass.
Fish the Three-For-All
I'm fishing a new lure and a totally-new concept in bass fishing this July - a Mann's Three-For-All is three swim baits connected to resemble a small school of shad. Unlike the Alabama Rig, this rig doesn't have any wires to hold the swim baits together to make an umbrella rig.
This lure has a hook in one of the three 4-inch-long swim baits. The center swim bait has a ½-ounce jighead and a wing guard in it. The left and the right swim baits swim beside the lure that has the jighead in it.
When a bass attacks this cluster of three swim baits, the fish usually will get all three baits in its mouth at one time. The two swim baits without hooks act as teaser baits.
Every bass I've caught with this lure has weighed more than 2 pounds and has had all three swim baits in its mouth.
I like either the pearl-white or shad-color swim baits to fish on the ends of mussel bars for schooling bass, close to the main river channel. During July, bass will come up on top of the water, and start schooling and attacking shad.
I'll cast a Three-For-All at the school and reel it fairly quickly back to the boat, allowing my baits to swim just under the surface. This much-lighter-than-the-Alabama-Rig multi-lure rig catches more bass in hotter weather, while the Alabama Rig is more productive in cooler weather.
I'll cast this lure on 17-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, a 7-foot-2-inch medium-heavy Seeker graphite rod with a 7.3:1 Pinnacle reel.
Generally the bass bite better when the current's running. I'll let the Three-For-All go to the bottom near the ends of the mussel bars, and swim it slowly, reeling it with the current to catch the bass out of the school when they go deep.
I use the same type retrieve I do when swimming a worm or a jig close to the bottom and keep the bait moving slowly. Pull it off the bottom, and let it swim back to the bottom. Try several different retrieves to let the bass tell you how they want to see this bait.
This bait will catch every fish that swims, including stripers, drum, crappie and catfish.
Catch a school of bass breaking the surface
When you see schools of bass attacking the shad on the surface, use a Zara Spook or a Pop-R with a feather tail.
Cast past the school of bass, and work those topwater lures quickly through the school. Even two or three minutes after the school of bass has disappeared from the surface, you can bring them back to the surface and cause them to hit the lures.
I fish my topwater lures on 15-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, a 7-foot Seeker fiberglass topwater jerkbait rod and a 7.3:1 Pinnacle reel.
Bet on the worm
My third tactic for fishing Pickwick in July is to use a Mann's 12-inch Jelly Worm with a ¾-ounce bullet sinker to take that big worm down quickly.
If schooling fish are suspended off the bottom, that worm will fall past them so fast that they'll grab it and eat it. Bass won't have chances to really see a bait and study it, like they will a worm falling at a slower pace.
I'll fish the worm on a 7-foot-6-inch medium-heavy graphite rod with a 6.4:1 Pinnacle reel with 15-pound-test Berkley's Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line.
My favorite July colors for worms are either red shad or watermelon red when current's being pulled through Pickwick. If no current's coming through the lake, you still can catch bass by fishing the 12-inch Mann's Jelly Worm, letting it fall all the way to the bottom, snatching your rod up hard and allowing the worm to fall back to the bottom.
I fish a 12-inch worm instead of a 6-inch version because Pickwick has some really big bass in it. In the summer months when those big bass decide to eat, they generally want to get a mouth full of food.
A good day of July fishing will be catching 20 bass weighing from 1½ pounds to 6 or 7 pounds.
The current runs off and on all day at Pickwick, and you'll generally catch more fish when the current's running.
Pickwick is one of my favorite hot-weather lakes, and I believe these tactics will enable you to catch the most bass in the shortest time there.