This month we're going to 512-acre Calling Panther Lake near Crystal Springs because that's where the big bass are in July in the deep water. The record for bass there is a little more than 13 pounds.

Study the lake

When you decide to fish a lake you've never fished before, study the history of the lake to learn where the bass will be, and why they're there.

Calling Panther's dam area is the only part of the lake where the bottom was cleared before the backing up of the lake. The original large rock outcroppings are now underwater, close to the dam and provide the cool water and structure the bass need. Use your depth finder to locate the rocks on the bottom, and mark them with your GPS.

 

Catch the dam fish

I'll be fishing a citrus shad Mann's 20+ crankbait on 12-pound-test Berkley Fluorocarbon on a Quantum Paul Elias Signature Series cranking rod with a Quantum 5:1 cranking reel. I'll make long casts and crash the crankbait into the rocks, letting the bass tell me how they want me to retrieve it. I'll definitely make that crankbait bounce off those rocks in 12 to 16 feet of water.

First I'll hit the rocks with the crankbait, pause the bait, let it float up and crank it hard and fast. I want the Mann's 20+ to look like a baitfish that's been addled by hitting a rock and then swims away fast to get away from a bass. Or I may let the bait sit longer after it crashes into the rocks or swim it slower away from the rock after the crash. You may catch a 2- to 12-pound bass around the dam.

 

Hunt the Panther jungle

Calling Panther has so much standing timber that you may lose 50 percent of the bass that strike your lure. In this jungle, I'll slow-roll a 3/4-ounce Mann's Classic spinnerbait with a chartreuse/white skirt. The front blade will be a No. 3 silver Indiana blade, and the back blade will be a No. 6 gold willowleaf in water 15- to 20-feet deep.

I'll use 40-pound-test Stren Sonic Braid to get a quick hookset on a 7-foot, 11-inch Quantum Signature Series Greg Hackney flipping stick with a 6.3:1 Quantum baitcasting reel. This thick timber means you have to use heavy line and a long, stiff rod.

To get these bass out of the jungle, after you've set the hook hard and keep the fish moving toward the surface. Don't let the fish dive, and wrap the line around limbs.

 

Snake the Panther

Although my third tactic won't get as many strikes on Calling Panther, I'll land more of the bass that take this bait - the Mann's 9-inch HardNose Snake. I'll fish it on top of the water in heavy timber and use the same rod, reel and line as with the spinnerbait. If the bass are suspended in 12 to 16 feet of water, they usually can see that Snake on the surface. If I can convince a bass to come to the surface and take the Snake, I've got a far-better chance of landing it than when a bass takes the spinnerbait down into the standing timber.

Most fishermen recommend that you not set the hook when a bass takes the Mann's Snake on the top, and believe you need to let the fish tighten up the line, while you reel down to get an effective hookset.

However, on this lake, when I'm swimming the Snake on the surface, I'll set the hook as hard and as fast as I can to keep the bass from swimming down into the timber and hanging me up. I particularly like the brown/black Snake because it resembles a water moccasin, which bass like to eat. I'll rig the Snake Texas-style, with a No. 6/0 Gamakatsu Superline hook.

Don't forget when you're putting a hook on the line, you must make sure the knot - usually a double-improved clinch knot - doesn't slip. I glue that knot with the stuff ladies use to glue on false fingernails.

 

Expect to catch bass

One question I'm always asked about my lake of the month picks is, "How many bass do you expect to catch on an average day of fishing?" Well, to start with, there is no such thing as an average day of fishing. But when I go to Calling Panther in July, I believe if I can catch 15-20 keepers (I'll generally set the hook on 30 to 40 bass to get these keepers), then I've had a good day. I do release all my bass. These Calling Panther bass are highly trained in breaking line, pulling off lures and wrapping line around standing timber.