July brings plenty of changes to bass anglers, as fish begin to move toward the places where they’ll spend the summer. But they’ll still bite. A good topwater bite happens first thing in the morning early in the month. You might even find some fish grouped up – but not quite as good as they were in June.
When July really arrives, you’re going to be fishing in one of these three places in whatever lake you call home:
Close to the mouth of creeks
On the main lake
Up in the river
And when August arrives, you can add the backs of creeks, because some fish will be back there.
At lakes where fish get a lot of pressure, like High Rock, Norman and Wylie, there can be some big stringers caught by going up the river. You will find fish there that haven’t been pressured quite as much. They haven’t been caught 50 times before.
Most of the time, I’m going to start about halfway back in creeks and move to the mouth and the main lake. I’ll make a little milk run of spots to see where I find the most fish, then concentrate there. When I was fishing High Rock a lot, I could find an area where they were concentrated and fish it all day, sooner or later knowing where they’d be feeding and at what time.
But general areas aside, I’m going to be looking for one particular thing in July: a contour break. Fish will get on them in July. You might catch one, two or three on a spot. But you have to do a lot of idling and looking at your electronics to find spots where they’ll be hanging out.
A contour break is different from a channel break. A channel break is where a flat drops quickly into an old creek channel. In the areas we’re going to find the most fish, these kinds of places will be too deep to fish. In a lot of lakes, the creek channel breaks near the mouth of creeks and on the main lake will be too deep to hold fish.
Contour breaks are places where the bottom drops 2 to 5 feet very quickly. These kinds of places don’t always show up good on some of our maps. If they do, you’ll be able to see those contour lines close together where the bottom drops off. But a channel won’t be right there – but there might be one close by. Somewhere along those contour lines will be a contour break.
You find a lot of contour breaks around points that don’t get close to a channel. On one side, there might be a straight-off drop, a 2- to 5-foot break. On High Rock, I’d be looking for breaks from 12 to 15 feet. And at Buggs Island, maybe 15 to 18 feet, dropping into 20 to 22 feet. You fish a lot of contour breaks on a big, deep lake like Buggs Island because the channel breaks are so deep. Wylie and Norman are the same way.
To find contour breaks, you just roll down a flat, going back and forth, until you find a spot where the bottom falls away quickly. Somewhere along a section of about 100 yards on almost every flat will be a place that has a good drop, where the bottom drops straight off. Find it and you have a big advantage. That’s because bass will stay on places like this all the way into the fall. That’s why I’ve had so much success fishing tournaments in the fall. You find six or eight places like that – maybe more if you can – and you’ll have places where you can catch fish.
The good thing about these little drops is, they’ve usually got some good cover on them, especially shells or rocks. Put those two things together and you’ve got a big-fish combo in July.
A little contour drop will normally not have a smooth bottom. This is the place where, a long time ago, when you had a lot of current running past this place, it didn’t wash away the rocks and shells. It left you with a little high spot and a good drop.
In the old days, you’d look at a spot and try to get a decent line-up on it, lining up spots on the bank, maybe two trees or a corner of a dock and a tree up on the bank – anything that will help you get back to that spot. Now, guys just hit a waypoint on their GPS. You come back, find it on your side-vision or down-vision and set up in your boat where you need to be to hit it with your bait. I almost always set up deep and cast deep to shallow, then work my bait down the drop. I rarely fish parallel to a contour drop.
July is really crankbait time, deep-diving baits. I will be tying on a Berkley Dredger 20.5 or 25.5. I like the 25.5. It’s not a giant bait, but you can get it to run down to 21 or 22 feet consistently. With most of your fish in July on drops in 15 or 18 to 22 feet of water, you’ll need that depth.
I’ll have most of these baits tied on my 7-foot-11, Lew’s David Fritts cranking rod. A 7-foot-11 rod is only 5 inches longer than a 7-foot-6. But that makes a big difference. It can get you 5, 6 or 7 more yards on a cast, and you need all the casting distance you can get when you’re fishing 20 feet deep.
If I think bass are on a spot – sometimes you can’t see them on your electronics because they’re right on the bottom – I’ll start with a crankbait. But before I leave a spot without any fish, I’ll switch over to a Texas-rigged, 10-inch Power Worm. Those are basically the two baits you’ll need to fish these contour lines.
Idling and looking might not sound exciting. But if you fish one lake more than any others, spending that kind of time finding a bunch of spots like these will be well worth the effort. You will be able to fish them for a good 4 months, starting in July. And you’ll catch fish on them all the way to the time when they start moving back in the creeks. At that point, you’ll be fishing contour breaks and channel breaks – and you’ll find a lot of both back in a creek.