Fish are going to be deep, and fishing is going to be tough, so you have to be ready to put every fish that bites in the boat. You have to anticipate anything and everything that can go wrong, because losing one fish at the boat or not getting a good hook-set on a fish, either one of those mistakes can cost you more than a single mistake might cost you in March or May or October.
For me, it means that every single piece of my fishing tackle needs to be perfectly matched to the task at hand. If I'm cranking a big crankbait down to 18 or 20 feet, everything in my hands has got to fit together perfectly. The same thing goes if I'm fishing a Texas- or Carolina-rigged worm down in a deep brushpile, or even - and I hate to admit this - fishing something finesse if I need an extra fish to fill out a limit.
I crank a lot, and for years, I have stressed the importance of matching up your tackle, from the rod you hold in your hands to the hooks that the fish bite. To fish a crankbait as near-perfect as you can, everything needs to fit together. When I'm fishing a Rapala DT-16 or DT-20 crankbait, I'll usually use my American RodSmiths signature-series cranking rod. It's a glass rod, and I'll use either the 7-foot-6 or 7-foot-11 models.
Rods that long give you two big advantages. First, you can really cast a big crankbait a long way, and that helps you get it down to its maximum depth. Second, those rods are a little bit beefier than shorter crankbait rods, and that helps get those baits down a little deeper and also handle bigger fish when they bite. The fiberglass action is a little slower, and that allows you to feel a fish inhale a crankbait just a second or two before the fish realizes he's messed up. That's all the time you need to give the reel handle two or three turns or make a quick hook-set. You know you've got him even before he knows you've got him, and that makes a lot of difference. You can get the bait deeper in his mouth, get both hooks in him, and you stand a better chance of getting him in the boat.
I'm working with Lew's again - they're coming back on the market with the BB-1N, probably next spring. They're retooling it to make it like the old BB-1N, which I have always believed was the best reel made to fish a deep crankbait. It's a smooth-casting reel and the gear ratio is nice and slow, perfect for retrieving a big plug.
I'm fishing crankbaits on 10-pound test Sufix Pro-Mix right now, a very low-stretch line. Because you're fishing a big, soft rod, you don't want to be fishing a line that's got much stretch, because you're not going to get as good a hook-set. Because your rod gives, you don't want your line to give, and the Pro-Mix is real good about that.
For August, anything chartreuse is good. The old "homer" color - chartreuse with a green back - is always a great one, along with Hot Mustard or Parrot, and even pearl/gray shad. And make sure all of your crankbaits are rigged with VMC Sure Set treble hooks. That one big barb will make a lot of difference on the kind of hook-sets you get.
My other big August baits are Zoom Ol' Monster or Big Dead Ringer worms, and a full-sized Brush Hog. I fish them Texas-rigged and Carolina-rigged, and I try to use at least a half-ounce or heavier sinker in both cases. When I'm fishing a Carolina rig in August, I don't like to use a long leader unless I'm fishing a lake that's got grass. I'll stick with about an 18-inch leader, and I'll go with 15-pound Sufix fluorocarbon, because it's abrasion-resistant.
Because I believe that big baits will catch big fish; I think they trigger bites better. But that presents another problem. You have a bait out 60 feet and maybe down 20 feet, and you get a bite - that's a tough hook-set to get. I'm using a big rod, something like a 7½-foot flipping stick, an American RodSmiths H3 Titanium model. The other baits I like to fish in August are a 1-ounce Hot Spot or a 1-ounce Hopkins jigging spoons, and I go for even heavier line and a bigger stick for those. I like 20-pound Sufix Pro Mix on an 8-foot rod - at the very least, a flipping stick. Man, I want a rod that's like a broom handle, because you're sitting over 25 feet of water trying to get good penetration on a hook-set.
I found out in my last FLW tournament at Lake Guntersville in June that one of the things that helped me when I was fishing a Brush Hog was a VMC FastGrip worm hook. It's got three barbs, and if the fish is deep enough to make a hook-set difficult, then having those three barbs really helps. If you can get just one of those barbs in him, you've got him.
My third-place finish at Guntersville got me into the FLW Tour Championship, which will be this month on Lake Lanier in Georgia. Lanier is not my favorite kind of lake, because there will be a lot of fish caught really deep on finesse baits- a lot of spotted bass. I think I'm going to wind up going way up the river toward Gainesville (Ga.) and trying to catch some fish out on those river points. The rest of the field will be down the lake fishing topwaters and Flukes along with the finesse kind of stuff. Hopefully, my strategy will work out and I'll do well.
David Fritts is a 53-year-old pro bass fisherman from Lexington. He won the 1993 Bassmasters Classic champion and the 1997 FLW Tour Championship, and he was the 1994 BASS Angler of the Year. He is sponsored by Tums, Ranger boats, Evinrude outboards, Rapala, VMC hooks, Zoom, American RodSmiths and Bass Pro Shops.