July is not the time to “camp out” on a spot hoping fish will bite. You need to be fishing were they are biting, and that means moving water.
The water is hot here in North Carolina in July, in the upper 80s, even low 90s. While it is true the deer water is not that hot, it gets tricky in July because the thermocline has most-likely developed, leading to areas of cool water with no oxygen. The warmer upper layer is where the fish and oxygen are.
The depth you need to be fishing is totally dependent on the body of water you are on. When I was growing up, fishing Falls of the Neuse Lake all the time, the thermocline would often be around 14 to 16 feet deep, which is relatively deep. There will be two thermoclines, however, one in just the first 6 inches up to a little more that 3 feet, again depending on where you are fishing.
Here’s a case in point. If you jump in, the water will be hot from your head to your waist, then drastically cool below. This middle layer is still oxygenated and is where you need to be fishing. So on Falls in July, you want to be fishing between 3 and 16 feet deep unless you detect the deeper thermocline is different from what history tells me.
In ponds with little wind or current flow, there will generally be no oxygen at all below about 3 feet, so you need to be fishing shallow.
This gets me to my point — find current and find bass. Any current in the summer can generate feeding activity. Wind blowing under a bridge, a boat loading up powering on the ramp, and obviously the river sections of lakes or rivers themselves are all forms of current.
Current moves and oxygenates the water, making bass and bait more active. It is very tough to fish deep water that is not moving. Always call ahead or look up on the Internet any power generations or water releases from dams and try to fit in your fishing fix around those times. We all have a limited amount of time to fish, so make it count and go when they are biting.
Current will make fish less likely to suspend on deep structure, and it will make them position in predicable locations in shallow water as well. Bass like the current coming straight at them, bringing the food to them, so bends in channels are important this time of year.
Since fish with current will get on the bottom, bottom-bouncing baits like big crankbaits, worms and jigs are the ticket on deep structure. If there is no current, you may need to fish more up in the water column with an Alabama rig.
I really like to reel a crankbait really fast along the bottom — almost as fast a lipless bait — this gets schools fired up. I like 6th Senses’s Crush 500 for that 12- to 14-foot range. Once they slow down a little on the crank, I switch to a 9-inch Culprit Fat Max worm for a shot at a really big fish, then downsize to the skinnier Original Culprits in 10- and 7 1/2-inch sizes for finesse. As an alternative, I have a heavy Dave’s football-head jig on, and I’ll either drag it or try sweeping it up off the bottom to get a reaction bite.
For the shallow, current fish, I like topwaters, Dave’s Tiger Shad spinnerbait, Dave’s Swim jig with Culprit DW3 trailer, and my trusty 7-inch Fat Max worm for flipping cover in the current. I like baitfish colors in the Fat Max like black shad or darker colors in stained water like red shad.
Don’t settle for fishing stagnation this July — find some moving water and find the bass.