By Bob and Ginny Riege
Maybe around the middle of June you will find bass starting to inhabit weedbeds to feed. Males will be off the nest, and females will be recovering from spawning. Often this will coincide with a spell of continuous hot days with high humidity and calm winds. It feels like summer to you, and to the bass.
From this point on to some time in the fall, bass will be either in or very near the weeds. There are a variety of ways to catch them, including chucking spinnerbaits at the banks and fishing the thin weeds in the shallows or patiently probing the depths of the weedbed with heavily weighted Texas-rigged worms.
I am going to be looking for the most active and aggressive fish in the weedbed. They're going to be in two kinds of places, either up high along the top of the weeds or right along the front of the deep weedline. In order to present your lure in the most natural fashion to these bass you need a two step approach. Some would call this a search technique and a finesse technique. For our purpose let's call it the two step shuffle. First step is going to use the search techniques of a crankbait and a baitcasting rod. The beauty of the crankbait is its ability to cover a lot of water quickly.
You can work the crankbait several ways. One of the simplest is to simply throw it parallel to the weedline right tight to the weeds. Run it back as close to the weeds as you can without getting hung up all the time. Flipping and pitching my crankbait along the weed edges like this, I want a good 6-foot rod medium heavy. I would team it up with a Shimano reel and spool on some 12 lb. Berkley XT line. The next step is to use the finesse style. This would consist of a jig worm and a spinning rod and reel combination. Since the jigs I will be using are fairly light I will need thinner diameter line to keep in contact with what my line is doing. The 8 lb. test will handle the weedline bass well enough if you are careful to tie good knots and check your last foot of line frequently for nicks.
As with other game fish bass can be provoked into striking by changing the pace of your retrieve. One retrieve which works well for me is to stop the bait for a second when it is about halfway to the boat, then continuing a normal retrieve until the bait is close to the boat. Then, right next to the boat, lift your rod up quickly to make the bait zip to the surface. The size of your crankbait should relate to the weather and time of year. Keep switching sizes and colors until the right one is found. Early in the summer and on sunny, cool days the bass will be relatively inactive; they won't want to chase lures much then. At these times you'll do better with small lures, baits of about 1/8 to 1/4 ounce, and work them back slowly to give the fish more of a chance to respond to them. In hotter weather you'll get more action on quickly retrieved lures of 1/4 to 3/8 ounce size.
The jigworm is where the fun begins. You want a plain jig (no body) in 1/8-ounce size. It has been my experience that the color of the jig head makes no difference, though the color of the worm does. Your worm should be from 4 to 6 inches long, and I strongly favor those with action tails. I feel the flutter of the tail is attractive to bass, and it might even be important in slowing down the drop of the worm to speeds, which are easier to fish.
Once you've cast the worm up onto the weeds, allow it to sink until it stops. Because it is light it will almost always come to rest somewhere in the weeds. Remember to keep the line tight, so if a bass hits, you will know and be ready to set the hook. After the worm stops falling, pick it up again and keep it working back toward the boat. I usually like to pop it off one weed and let it drop again. Once the jig has cleared the top of the front edge of the weeds you can let it fall all the way to the bottom, give it a couple hops in the clear water in front of the weeds, then bring it back for another cast.
There really isn't any wrong way to work the jigworm. Any kind of swimming dropping hopping action will get strikes. Bass will most often grab the worm when it is dropping. Always try to keep in touch with your lure so you know when a bass has taken it.
The speed of the crankbait and deadly attractiveness of the softly dropping worm give you a two step shuffle for weedline summer bass, give it a try and you will be amazed!