July is when bass in Ross Barnett go to the lily pads that are plentiful in the reservoir, which is a relatively shallow lake, holding numbers of 5- to 6-pound fish.
The baitfish and the bass most often hold in the shade of the lily pads in the hot months, waiting to ambush bait. Some of the most-exciting fishing of the year will take place then, because the bass will be feeding at the surface.
Three types of lures pay dividends at Ross Barnett this month: a walking bait like a Zara Spook with a clear belly and a shad-colored back, a black or white rubber frog and a shaky head worm. I’ll have four lures tied on the four rods on my boat deck — a white frog, a black frog, a walking bait and a shaky head — ready to be fished once the bass tell me where they are and what they want to eat.
At first light, I’ll start fishing the edges of the lily pads with a walking bait on a 6-foot-10, medium-action Shimano baitcasting rod with a Curado K 7.5:1 reel spooled with 30-pound bass braid with a 23-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon leader. Since the sun isn’t up, bass don’t need the shade the lily pads provide.
The biggest bass will move out of the thickest part of the lily pads and roam around the outside edge in the deeper, cooler water. You won’t catch numbers of bass on this walking bait, but your odds of taking a bass 5 pounds or better are extremely good — early in the morning and late in the evening.
Because I want this topwater lure to swim close to the lily pads without getting hung, I’ll use a fast retrieve in the extremely clear water for the first hour of daylight to get a reaction strike. I don’t pause the lure at all but keep it coming all the way back to the boat. If you stop the walking bait, the bass will have time to see it longer, follow it a ways and then back away from it. A fast retrieve means the bass must make a quick decision of whether or not to eat the bait.
Probing the pads
My favorite lily pads to fish are those above Highway 43. I keep 7-foot-6, heavy action Shimano rods with 7.5:1 Curado K reels and 50-pound bass braid with black or white frogs tied on. I tie the line directly to the eye of the frog’s hook.
If I see any movement in the pads or hear bream smacking underneath while I’m fishing a walking bait, I’ll put that rod down and grab one of the frog rods, casting it to the spot. I’ll use this exciting way to fish, until the last hour of daylight, when I’ll pick up the walking bait again.
Anytime you fish a frog, don’t expect to catch more than 50 percent of the bass that attack. If a bass doesn’t eat my frog, I’ll twitch the frog in the same area where I’ve gotten a bite earlier to resemble an injured frog. Sometimes, bass will follow the rubber frog under the lily pads and attack it just as the lure reaches the edge of the lily pads.
While you’re fishing the rubber frog, you may spot bass schooling on top. Lay down that rod, pick up the walking bait and cast to that school. Once the school quits breaking the surface, put the walking bait down. Pick up the shaky head worm, which I fish on a spinning rod, and cast to the place where you’ve spotted the school of bass. On the spinning rod, fish with 15-pound bass braid and an 8- to 10-foot leader of 12-pound fluorocarbon. I’ll tie on a 1/8-ounce jig with a 6-inch, Mann’s shaky head warm in junebug to catch the most bass.