Terry Bates has an advantage over most avid bass fishermen, one that helps him decipher successful patterns in the toughest conditions.
Conditions like the brutal heat of July in Mississippi.
His scientific background helps him understand subtle nuances that many anglers overlook. Being in tune with the water and environment helps him be successful on a consistent basis. Bates draws from a lifetime of success on the water and in the classroom when searching for the next bass, the next limit and his next win.
Among his lessons: Bass may always relate to cooler deeper water in the summer, but they will go shallow where the oxygen is plentiful.
“The water will stratify during July and August once it gets hot,” said Bates. “It will stratify unless you have plenty of current like up at Pickwick Lake. Now Pickwick is a totally different than most of our other waters because it has current. You can catch them deep during the summer when the current is really flowing, but not in most waters.”
Sardis, Grenada, Enid and Barnett Reservoir, as well as any of the typical fish ponds, will stratify during the hot weather months so the bass will move relatively shallow and that’s where Bates searches for and finds bass.
“After the spawn the fish move into really deep water in the river to rest and recover,” Bates said. “They may be 15 to 30 feet deep and we can catch them 20 feet deep in June, but in July they move shallower due to the oxygen content.”
The cooler deeper water does still play a role, since bass will still relate to it even when shallow. In other words, Bates likes to stay near drop-offs that give fish options. He looks for breaks, ledges, and points 8 to 12 feet deep where he finds a drop with deep water running close to a point.
He also spends a lot of time looking for schools of shad along the ledges, which he says is another part of the equation. If the big fish are there, then he can usually catch them off of reaction strikes when he bounces a crankbait off of a ledge or other object.
“I’ll run that crankbait into a rock, log, barge, and bump it into anything I can find and then pause it,” Bates said. “I’ll just get it out as far as I can and reel it in, bumping and grinding until I find a pattern or catch a bass.”
Bates concentrates on points, drops and submerged ledges on Sardis, Enid, Grenada and other similar lakes.
“I’m fond of crankbaits in the chartreuse/black back, Sexy Shad, and Citrus Shad,” Bates said. “A lot depends on the number of anglers and fishing pressure, but I’m confident that I can find and catch bass shallow during the hot months. Ferguson does get a lot of pressure during the summer so you have to be ready to deal with that and have a slightly different strategy than most anglers.”
Bates likes to throw the 300 series crankbaits and uses the same baits because they still produce and he has confidence in them.
And, more importantly, they catch fish.
“The Bagley Balsa DB3s are still good but the new baits throw much better because they’re heavier,” Bates said. “The technology has changed so much in the last 10 to 15 years that it’s crazy. David Fritts and Berkley just came out with some new crankbaits and they’re going to be really different too.”
Another secret to Bates’ crankbait success is the fact that he never uses a snap or swivel. He ties a loop knot instead of using a snap, which allows the lure to run properly with no danger of losing a fish because the snap or swivel gets bent or straightened out from the power of a fish.
For a more in-depth look at summer bass fishing with Terry Bates, grab the July issue of Mississippi Sportsman and read Mike Giles’ story.