Think of hot summer and fishermen think deep water. Deep may have been preferred just a few weeks prior to August in much of the south, but a combination of fishing pressure and a strong thermocline with poor water quality below will force bass and bait in shallower water in August. Depending on the lake and area of the country, this thermocline could be 16 feet or could be as shallow as just a few feet in stagnant backwater areas or smaller ponds. My recommendation is to start shallow or if you have the electronics to detect the thermocline, find it and make sure you are fishing at or above that level.
With a strong shallow thermocline on many lakes, my attention focuses on shallow water or up rivers. I’ll be looking for bluegill beds, heavy shallow cover such as willows, beaver huts or shallow channels that are not below the thermocline.
One of my favorite baits for August is a 3.5-inch Incredi-Craw. This bait is very weedless and has the bulk to imitate shallow bluegills as well as the crawfish it was intended to imitate. I rig this bait on a 4/0-wide-gap hook, and typically use a 3/8-oz. weight to fish shallow cover, especially shallow wood cover. If there are mats available, this bait fishes really well with a 1-oz. weight punching as well. I’ve even caught lots of big smallmouth pitching weed clumps on flats up north, typically with a 1/2-oz. weight. So it is not just a southern thing, it works everywhere.
What I look for are any signs that bluegills or crawfish are present, and then I flip any nearby heavy cover. Bama Bug is my hands-down favorite color, followed by Okeechobee. If the water is really muddy I’ll go straight to Black Neon or if it is really clear I’ll go Green Pumpkin. Usually in August, the water will have some stain from afternoon storms and algae blooms. If I’m fishing clay banks with heavy cover, I choose the natural color option of Carolina Clay, since all the crawfish adapt to match the color of the clay.
If you are on a lake without good shallow cover, you will most likely be forced offshore and shallow channels are my favorite because they are usually lined with stumps. You can use the same Texas rig setup, or use a swing head jig to fish the stumps. The thick body of the Incredi-Craw holds the hook well and lessens snags, so it works great around stumps. I prefer the 3.5-in. size this time of year since there is a lot of new forage growing into this size range.
Keep a stash of the Incredi-Craw at the ready this late summer for some great bass fishing!