For anglers, it’s hunting season

Bass pro Pete Ponds' favorite "hunting" lure on small bodies of water is the Bandit Square Bill series. The lure helps find fish that are moving in changing weather and water conditions.

This crazy summer weather in Mississippi has forced bass fishermen to become creative in their efforts to consistently find and stay on fish.

Coming off a 10-day rainy and cooler period, temperatures are returning to the normal brutal mid 90s to triple digits. Water surface temperatures, which had dropped over 10 degrees to the lower 80s last week, are climbing again. In a word, this has made fishing…

“Brutal,” said Billy Wayne Russell of Hattiesburg. “And I mean that in so many ways. The heat is brutal. The humidity is brutal. The combination of the two is extremely brutal. The changing water temperatures have been brutal. Add it all up and the fishing is just plain brutal.

“But I guess it’s fair. While we had all that rain, I was on a hot streak. Everywhere I fished, I caught bass. Pascagoula River, the state lakes and even my buddy’s big subdivision lake, it didn’t matter. Most of it came on topwater.”

From the coastal region to at least the U.S. Highway 82 corridor, the reports are the same. It is like a transition between seasons.

The combination of constant overcast skies and cooler water temperatures brought fish shallow. But just as fast as they moved up, the weather turned and fish started moving again. Thus the challenge became finding where they were and how to catch them.

Bass pro Pete Ponds offers a suggestion, especially for fishermen who are searching for the fish between the shallows where fish have been recently and deep, where they really should be in mid-July — cover water.

“In a smaller body of water, where the transition doesn’t require a great deal of movement, I will throw a shallow square bill crankbait and let it hunt,” said Ponds, who refers to the square bills as hunters. “They have that erratic movement, right to left, especially when bouncing off structure that I call hunting. A square bill is a great hunter.

“This is important when you know the fish are somewhere between the banks or seawalls and the deep cover. You can cover water and you can vary your retrieves to get different depths. It’s a hunter.”

On bigger fisheries, like the Tenn-Tom, Barnett Reservoir and the U.S. Corps of Engineer lakes Grenada, Enid and Sardis, the challenge is greater simply because there is just more water. Regular Sardis fisherman James Turner of Oxford uses main lake points to find fish.

“Bass will be on the move, and the points are like highways,” Turner said. “I will have four rods on deck, each with different depth crankbaits. I hunt with them, starting shallow on the point and working it out to the deepest end. My fifth rod will have a 10-inch worm.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had the big variation in temperatures that I heard about at lakes like Barnett and Eagle well to our south, so our challenge wasn’t that difficult. The fish were still holding on the deeper halves of the long points. My best day was on a day when the surface temperatures dropped into the mid 80s and I moved up the point until I hit 10 feet. I yo-yoed a lipless crankbait and hammered a school of 3- and 4-pounders. I switched to the worm after it slowed and picked up a few more.”

Two days into this week, the surprise hot spot appears to be Eagle Lake.

“I got on the deep side of Eagle and really got a great bite Monday and Tuesday mornings,” John Lindsey of Greenville said. “I was using two lures, a lipless crankbait and a shallow square bill, to find fish. Then I slowed down and used soft plastic and hard jerkbaits to catch fish. Every time I found a fish or two on the lures I’d keep throwing. If I couldn’t get anymore cranking, then I’d whip out a jerkbait and catch another two or three. The bigger fish wanted the jerkbaits.

“I got a big thrill mid-morning on Tuesday when I changed to a jerkbait about the same time a school of hybrid stripers came through and I caught three in a row about 7 or 8 pounds. They tore up a Pro Pointer.”

Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1228 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.

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