I’m picking Okatibbee just north of Meridian to fish in July because it offers an early morning topwater bite, a good mid-morning technique and a tactic we can use to finish off the day.
Okatibbee has produced numbers of 5- to 6-pounders, and contains a combination of vegetation and ledges to fish.
I can mix up my fishing in the grass and on the edges of the grass early in the mornings and late afternoons. Once the sun climbs high in the sky, I can fish the ledges.
This lake has lily pads, alligator grass and reeds.
So, under morning’s low-light conditions and cool surface water temperatures, bass will move into shallow grass where I can fish plastic frogs, especially on the northern end of the lake.
I’ll have two Mann’s SuperFrogs rigged up — one white and the other black — on 65-pound braided line.
Just before first light in the morning, or on an overcast or rainy day, I’ll fish the black frog. As the sun comes up farther, I’ll fish the white frog.
I’ll use a Lew’s 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy action rod and a Team Lew’s 7.5:1 reel for both frogs.
I’ll walk the frog — the same retrieve I use with the Zara Spook — while working it through grass, lily pads and reeds.
Nothing’s more exciting than watching a big bass blow up on a frog.
However, you’ll only hook one out of four or five bass that attack the bait if you set the hook as soon as you see or feel the strike, which usually pulls the lure out of the fish’s mouth.
The second reason we often miss bass that attack frogs is because many times when the bass blows up on the bait, it will come under the bait, knock the lure high in the air and not have it in its mouth. By setting the hook when you see or feel the bite, you’re pulling the bait through the air instead of into the bass’ jaw.
However, frog fishing is exciting. I also feel I’ll catch more big bass (5- to 6-pounders) using a big bait like the frog.
Reel ’N Shads
When the frog bite shuts down, I’ll put two Reel ’N Shad rods out.
I’ll fish a 5-inch green pumpkin Reel ’N Shad with a tail dipped in chartreuse dye to resemble a bluegill on a 7-foot, 3-inch Team Lew’s medium-heavy rod with 23-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon line.
The other rod will have a 9-inch blue back with pearl sides Reel ’N Shad to resemble a gizzard shad and 26 -pound fluorocarbon on a 7-foot, 6-inch medium-action with a 7.5:1 reel.
I’ll rig these lures weedless and swim them along the edges of the grass in openings in the reeds and lily pads.
Manns 15+ and 20+ crankbaits
I’ll fish the Reel ’N Shads in the vegetation as long as I’m getting bites — sometimes all day. But then I switch to fishing ledges with Manns 15+ and 20+ crankbaits when the shallow water heats up.
I’ll be fishing 4 to 6 feet deep on tops of ledges or perhaps breaks 10 to 20 feet deep.
With the Manns black back and chartreuse 15+ crankbait to imitate a bluegill on the shallow ledges, I’ll use 20-pound fluorocarbon line with a 7-foort, 2-inch cranking rod and a Lew’s 6.8:1 reel.
I’ll fish the same 20-pound line on a 7-foot, 6-inch cranking rod with a Lew’s BB1 (a 5:1 reel), with a shad-colored 20+.
With the first lure, I’ll primarily fish the north end of the lake in its feeder creeks and ditches that run into the main Okatibbee creek channel. My goal is to deflect my crankbaits off the plentiful underwater stumps there.
I always point my rod at the crankbait to feel the lure approaching the stump, and then I slow my retrieve and let the crankbait glide over the stump or the root.
As soon as the bait is clear of the wood, I speed up my retrieve to make the crankbait look like it’s in a hurry.
I’ll also go to the southern end of the lake and fish my 20+ crankbait more in the middle of the lake on ledges 10 to 12 feet deep, before they fall off into the main creek channel.
Carolina-rigged HardNose Freefall Worm
While I’m fishing those crankbaits, I’ll also have a Carolina rig on my casting deck with a 3/4-ounce tear-drop weight up the line and a plastic bead below the weight.
I’ll tie the line to a barrel swivel, attach a 2 -oot leader onto the bottom eye of the barrel swivel and use a No. 4/0 wide gap hook with a Mann’s 4 inch, green pumpkin/chartreuse tail Freefall worm.
The Carolina-rigged worm will be my go-to tactic in both shallow and deep water where I find stumps and brush that my crankbait can’t come through without getting hung up.
I’ll retrieve the Carolina rig just like I do a Texas-rigged worm or a jig — by pulling it along the bottom, hopping it up and letting it fall back to the bottom.
If I don’t get a bite, I’ll slowly drag the Carolina rig along the bottom, into and out of the stumps, limbs and roots.
In July, if I catch eight to 12 bass at Okatibbee, I’ll feel I’ve had a good day of bass fishing. A good number of those bass will be 1 1/2-pounders, and one or two will be 5- to 6-pound bass.