Structure and Strategies for Mid-Summer Heat

Structure and Strategies for Mid-Summer Heat
Lauren being Lauren like only she can do.

It sure got hot in a hurry. Warmer weather combined with continuing drought has pushed bay water temperatures into the mid-80s range. Early is the key this time of year for me, along with choosing areas where I have some water movement over the bottom structure that I prefer to fish. Since the 2021 freeze I have spent very little time in the northern portions of Aransas, Copano, St. Charles and San Antonio bays. This means that I have spent little time on our mid-bay reefs in these bay systems. I will definitely work these areas more this summer than I did last season.

No matter where you might choose to fish along the middle to lower Texas coast, you will want to get an early start so that you can capitalize on slightly cooler waters in the morning due to some slight but very critical nighttime cooling. Everything is more active in the cooler waters of early morning, so your odds of catching fish are much improved, I believe. I definitely try to target the proper areas during solunar majors and minors but extreme water temperatures in shallow flats and back lakes can many times trump even that card.

We talk a lot about fishing windward shorelines and areas that are windblown that possess the right bottom structure for the season. I am all about submerged grass and shallow shell with moving water during the dog days of summer. With this heat I try to be in the water in gray light, maybe even the dark, and then off the water before the noon sun starts cooking us.

A few years back, prior to the 2021 freeze, I had a shoreline that was close and easy to get to in the dark and, on one particular morning I never got out of the boat. My guys stepped out and had them on three at a time so I just sat there and watched. Okay, I did eventually jump out and get in the game, but I did watch for a good while. I am not that sit in the boat guy and when I become him I am going to quit because my clients will be losing the true value of having the coach in the game with them.

On this morning we had received a little rain overnight, so the cloud cover and the cooler water from the rainfall had decreased the surface water temperatures up shallow. In the shallows I had similar submerged grass beds just like I had out in 4 to 5 feet of water, an area I had been fishing extensively. My thought process on that morning, when I noticed the decreased water temperature on my water temperature gauge, was to start on the shallow structure in the dark and then ease out and cast downwind toward deeper grassbeds where bait and trout had been holding very reliably.

Remember that when we are fishing downwind or leeward areas, it is very important to angle your casts so that your lure is being presented in front of your targets versus working it from behind. The more angle you can create and still maintain good communication with your bait the better. I prefer a medium or medium-light rod with a fast action if I am building a great angle with the line. Braided line is also a must for me fishing this type of presentation. I honestly no longer use monofilament, although I do use Seaguar Fluorocarbon much of the time when bass fishing with my son, Ryan. For me, I have much better communication with the lure with the above described setup.

I judge an angler’s skill level on his or her ability to fish with greater angle in their casts. A few weeks back I watched James Plagg and David Rowsey create angle in really high winds, and both were very effective. It is very difficult to catch what you cannot feel. The new Henri K4 along with the Waterloo Slam Mag are excellent choices and these are two rods I have personally had in my hands almost exclusively under such conditions.

Due to the configuration of our shoreline drop-off zones, we many times are forced to fish leeward shorelines versus windward. Water depth will not allow us to position ourselves where it is possible to fish the deeper windward bottom structures that I prefer during the hottest times of the year. During periods of strong winds or strong tidal movements, I quite often see distinct water color changes developing over the top of my targeted bottom structures. A good working knowledge of exactly where the bottom structure exists along with good GPS marks enables my clients to fish over structure that they really can’t see.

When clarity turns off-colored to muddy, trout will often depend more on senses through the lateral line versus actual sight or smell in their feeding. Truth be told, larger trout often feed more aggressively when water clarity trends in this direction. This past week I had a couple of days where  the color change moved in close enough to cover the submerged grassbeds I was targeting. One day in particular it was lights out for about two hours. On that particular morning the peak solunar feeding influence also occurred in the very early morning hours, which no doubt aided in our success.

     On a different note, I am seeing a much higher level of aggression displayed by the dolphin population this year. I know that nature always finds a way to correct herself and that both dolphins and sharks are apex predators in our bay systems. Noting this behavior, I have decided to try and not educate them further to our abilities to provide easy meals for them. I am going to make them work for it. I suggest you do the same if you can find your way to do so.

I am throwing the Texas Customs Double D and MirrOlure Lil John XLs, Lil Johns, and also Bass Assassins. This time of year we experience a lot of “tail bites” with the softer baits but with extreme heating that little extra action of the softer baits can earn you more strikes. Just be sure to check the tails on the lure after every bite and every fish. Just the smallest amount of the tail missing will keep you from getting as many bites, I promise.

   I am very excited about the catch and release trend I am seeing coast wide by so many right now. I firmly believe that the more anglers who adopt and practice this the sooner we will see our trout fishery making a recovery toward the numbers we enjoyed before the freeze.

May your fishing always be catching!  -Guide, Jay Watkins