August is not a month that most bass fishermen associate with a topwater bite, but a lot of our lakes in South Carolina have a pretty good one this month.
You know that when fish really get in their summer pattern, in May, June and July, you can catch a lot of fish offshore on deep-diving crankbaits, big worms, a variety of baits. They’re really deep, and everybody anticipates them moving back shallow in the fall.
What really happens, however, is that a lot of bass will move up in the shallows in August and roam around. The shad and the blueback herring are extremely deep, and down that deep, you often have a water-quality problem: poor dissolved oxygen and pH. The baitfish have to be down there, but the bass can stand warmer water better. What they do is move up shallow and start looking for panfish.
By August, all of the bluegills and shellcrackers have spawned at least twice, maybe three times, in our big lakes. There are a lot of small bream up in shallow water. In a lot of our lakes, we have shallow grass, and that grass cleans up the water, adds oxygen to the water, and the bass really like that. The bream are up there because it’s their best chance to survive — being able to go so shallow that a big largemouth can’t get to them. I’ve seen bluegill pushed up on the bank, in the dirt, trying to get away from bass.
You get the best of both worlds because of this unique opportunity. I’ll admit, if I’m not fishing in a tournament, fishing all day in August can be a drag. But having fish shallow gives you the opportunity to fish the first two or three hours after daylight and catch two or three big fish. You get on the water at 6 and you’re off by 8 or 9, with a chance to catch big fish. This is really an overlooked bite.
The topwater bite in August is much better than it is in June or July. I feel like the really big fish are loaners, up in the shallows roaming. There should be some nice groups of 3- and 4-pound fish up, cruising the banks, looking for panfish.
What you want to do is cover a lot of shallow water in August. I think fish are roaming, so by covering water, you’re increasing your chances of running into a few of them. And you need to fish extremely shallow. I can’t overstate that. The little bream that are in the shallows will go as shallow as they can to get away from bass.
The first bait I use is a Rapala X-Rap Prop, which is a little two-prop topwater bait. Popping-type baits will also work, and I like to fish a Terminator buzzbait. I love baits that are shad or black with a little chartreuse; those are good bluegill colors. I’ll fish the little prop bait on a 6-foot-6 or 7-foot medium-action All-Star rod and a Pfleuger Patriarch baitcasting reel spooled with 15-pound Trilene Big Game mono. I don’t want to fish with fluorocarbon, because the weight of the line will inhibit the action of a topwater bait. When I’m fishing a buzzbait, I want to make some really longs casts, so I’ll fish a 7-foot rod and spool my reel with 20-pound Big Game.
Fishing for a few hours after daybreak is a treat in August. I’ve had mornings when I’ve caught three fish between 5 and 7 pounds and been home by 9, in time for breakfast. It’s something that bass fishermen who don’t want to fight the heat — and the pleasure-boat traffic — can do to stay sharp and get their bass fix this month.