Because bass don’t have sunscreen, sunglasses or air conditioning, in August, they’re looking for shade and cool water. Ross Barnett Reservoir has numerous lily pads, providing shade and cooler water where the baitfish also can feed on the algae on the lily pads’ bottoms, and big, thick clumps of grass.
Wake up bass
Just at first light, I’ll fish top-water lures like a Zara Spook and a Pop –R to determine the bass’ mood: lazy and lethargic, which means they’ll prefer a big, gliding bait that they can spot and come out of the lily pads to eat; or actively feeding, when they’ll like a fast moving bait that creates a disturbance in the water. If you locate schooling bass on the surface, generally 12- to 14- inch fish, cast the Zara Spook and the Pop-R past the school on a medium to medium fast retrieve. I’ll keep popping the Pop-R if the bass are hitting it. I’ll use an 8.3:1 Lew’s reel with 30 pound test braided line and an 8- to 10-inch monofilament leader tied to the lure’s eye with a uni knot and a 6’10” Lew’s medium-heavy rod. Braided line often will get tangled in the hooks when the lure’s in flight, so I like monofilament line as a leader. Braided line tends to sink too, while monofilament floats more.
I’ll also cast a Little George, a lead headed tail spinner, into the school, after the bass vanish from the surface. Remember, bigger bass are generally smarter than schooling bass and will hold at the bottom of the school to catch the bait fish that the younger bass have killed and maimed. I’ll hop the Little George up 1-2 feet and let it fall back. I’ll fish the Little George on 23 pound White Peacock fluorocarbon line with a 7’3” Lew’s medium-heavy rod and a 7.5:1 Lew’s reel.
Frog the pads when bass are schooling
I generally catch some of the biggest bass on the outside lily pad edges that may grow out to the 10 foot deep creek channels and sometimes right in the lily pads, once the sun comes up. Then the bass may move into more shallow water, farther in the pads. I’ll fish a white Mann’s Super Frog, a gliding bait, fast, and the black Pygmy Frog that you pop slowly, for these schooling bass in the pads, using the two lure approach again to determine the bass’ mood. You can fish the Super Frog over the tops of the lily pads. The Pygmy Frog has a cupped-out lip, and you can pop it in the lily pads’ open water holes to catch bass.
I’ll use a Lew’s 7’6” medium-heavy rod with a 7.5:1 Lew’s reel with 65-pound test braided line for the frogs. If the bass are schooling in the lily pads, I’ll throw the Super Frog past the school and through the school. When the Pygmy Frog comes to open water, I’ll just twitch it, instead of popping it, to make a small disturbance on the surface of the water, so the bass will move out from the lily pads and take the frog. To pinpoint open water and lily pads in August, go to where the ditches or feeder creeks run through the lily pads.
Getting the bass out of the lily pads after you hook it is the challenge. Make sure the bass has the frog in its mouth, set the hook really hard to get the bass’ head turned up and toward the boat, and don’t stop reeling. If the bass gets hung up, turn on your trolling motor to move into the lily pads. In the past my fishing partner has had to hold my feet and legs in the boat to keep me from falling in once my head, shoulders and chest are underwater trying to grab a bass by the lip and pull it out of the lily pads.
Punch the grass
Ross Barnett bass like to get into thick grass clumps. I’ll use a 1½ to 2 ounce bullet sinker on 65-pound-test braided line; run a black and blue spinnerbait skirt’s center through the tag end of my line; tie the line’s end to a No. 6/0 wide gap hook; attach a black and blue craw worm to the hook; and rig it Texas style. This weedless bait can punch through the grass without the hook getting hung.
My longer 9’ medium-heavy Lew’s Ledge rod gives me a stronger hook set and the power needed to drag a bass through matted grass and get it in open water to bring it to the boat and lip it. This punch tactic in August often enables you to catch some big bass.