An­glers beat the heat

Plas­tic worms cure sum­mer­time bass blues.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - FLIP PUTTHOFF

An­glers be­come deep thinkers when the dog days of fish­ing make it tough to get a bite.

Suc­cess­ful fish­er­men on the re­gion’s lakes work lures 10 to 20 feet deep in July and Au­gust when the quarry is black bass. Top-wa­ter lures might work when there’s a win­dow crack of shal­low op­por­tu­nity at first light.

The catch­ing is best down deep once the sun beats down. Plas­tic worms and other of­fer­ings of sup­ple, soft plas­tic are a fa­vorite for sum­mer­time bass fish­ing in the Ozarks. Af­ter sun­rise, they’re about the only lure Dwayne Cul­mer has tied to his fish­ing line.

Cul­mer lives near Beaver Lake in the Rocky Branch area and man­aged to wran­gle sev­eral fish into his boat on a hot and muggy Fri­day, June 26. A cloudy sky at dawn was wel­come, but the over­cast burned off shortly af­ter sun­rise.

The morn­ing found Cul­mer in one of his fa­vorite spots, a quiet cove in one of the creek arms close to Rocky Branch park. He cast a 6-inch plas­tic worm, green­ish in color, and worked it down un­der­wa­ter ledges.

There are lots of ways to rig a plas­tic worm. Cul­mer prefers the sim­ple shaky-head rig. It’s ba­si­cally thread­ing the worm on a jig head so the tail of the worm swims free to en­tice a strike. Cast the lure out and work it to­ward the boat with the rod tip, giv­ing it a few shakes. Reel up the slack line and re­peat.

It wasn’t long be­fore Cul­mer fought his first fish, a fine spot­ted bass that he ad­mired and re­leased. By noon, he’d caught and re­leased eight or 10 bass all on plas­tic worms worked 10 to 15 feet deep. He scored a tri­fecta by catch­ing all three species of black bass — large­mouth, small­mouth and spot­ted.

Fish­ing with plas­tic worms is easy, but Cul­mer said there’s a learn­ing curve, par­tic­u­larly feel­ing strikes.

“Some­times you just feel a lit­tle ex­tra weight. That’s how I feel most of my bites,” he said. Other times, bass hit like a freight train.

Bluegill can give a bass fish­er­man fits. They’ll peck at a plas­tic worm and an an­gler thinks Mr. Big is bit­ing. Bluegill pecks are fast and quick, al­most elec­tric in sen­sa­tion. When a bass hits, an an­gler may only feel the fish pick up the worm, or feel noth­ing at all.

“You get where you know those bluegill hits and you don’t set the hook,” Cul­mer said.

A spin­ning rod is his fa­vorite for cast­ing plas­tic worms. His reel is filled with 20-pound test braided line with a 4-foot leader of 10-pound test fluoro­car­bon line. The fluoro­car­bon is in­vis­i­ble to the fish, Cul­mer said.

The set up is sim­i­lar to what pro an­gler Greg Bo­han­nan of Ben­tonville uses for

sum­mer­time bass fish­ing at Beaver Lake. He fishes the FLW Tour with Old Spice as his lead spon­sor. Bo­han­nan has qual­i­fied to fish the FLW cham­pi­onship For­rest Wood Cup, which starts Aug. 11 at Lake Mur­ray in South Carolina.

Bo­han­nan fishes his plas­tic worms on fluoro­car­bon line, but rigs them dif­fer­ently. He likes a Texas rig, which uti­lizes a slip sinker that slides up and down the line above the worm and the hook. Bo­han­nan also uses a Carolina rig. It’s sim­i­lar, but a stop is used to keep the slip sinker 12 to 20 inches above the hook. The worm has a freer swim­ming mo­tion.

Wacky style is the ut­most in sim­plic­ity and pop­u­lar on Ozark wa­ters. Just push the hook through the cen­ter of the plas­tic worm and let the ends dan­gle. In­sert a small fin­ish­ing nail into one end of the worm for weight, or pur­chase spe­cial wacky worm weights.

“Once the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture gets up into the 80s, bass def­i­nitely pre­fer a soft plas­tic bait,” Bo­han­nan said.

He uses small fi­nesse-style plas­tic worms in spring, but likes a big 10-inch worm this time of year.

“They go through a phase dur­ing sum­mer where they want that big meal. I’ll fish it on a Texas or Carolina rig 10 to 25 feet deep, mainly around brush piles,” Bo­han­nan said. “I do best with a worm that has some red color, like wa­ter­melon red.”

He catches large­mouth bass 10 to 12 feet deep. Spot­ted bass are gen­er­ally deeper, he said.

Plas­tic worms are ver­sa­tile. An an­gler can drag the lure across the bot­tom, hop it along or swim it through the wa­ter col­umn.

“I like to use big hops if I’m fish­ing a dropoff. It gives the worm a yo- yo ef­fect. As soon as I feel the fish, I set the hook,” he said. Bo­han­nan works plas­tic worms the same for day or night fish­ing.

An­glers will catch more bass, he added, if they keep their hooks sharp and use a stiff rod. Both en­sure a good hook set when bass bite dur­ing sum­mer.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fput­thoff@nwadg.com or on Twit­ter @NWAFlip

“They go through a phase dur­ing sum­mer where they want that big meal. I’ll fish it on a Texas or Carolina rig 10 to 25 feet deep, mainly around brush piles. I do best with a worm that has some red color, like wa­ter­melon red.” — Greg Bo­hanan, pro­fes­sional an­gler

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF

Black bass can be caught at Beaver Lake with plas­tic worms day or night. Suc­cess­ful fish­er­men on the re­gion’s lakes work lures 10 to 20 feet deep in July and Au­gust.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF

Three ways to rig a plas­tic are wacky style (from left), Texas rig and Carolina rig. Wacky style is pop­u­lar on Ozark wa­ters.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF

Dwayne Cul­mer prefers to fish for bass in the sum­mer us­ing the sim­ple shaky-head rig — ba­si­cally thread­ing the worm on a jig head so the tail of the worm swims free to en­tice a strike.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF

Dwayne Cul­mer ad­mires a Beaver Lake large­mouth bass he caught in late June us­ing a plas­tic worm. Plas­tic worms are a fa­vorite sum­mer­time lure at all area lakes.

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