How to Beat the Heat and Catch some Nice Bass

By Captain Keith Barker


Approached correctly, it is possible to enjoy the weather and very good fishing even during the hottest days of summer. Pay attention to the weather report. Keep track of the temperature throughout the day and come prepared for the weather. Have plenty of bottled water on ice. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothes and a cool, broad brimmed hat.


If you're going fishing in the peak of summer heat, be sure you know the symptoms of heatstroke and how to treat it. Health issues due to the heat come in three levels of increasing severity: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Children, elderly persons, and folks who are overweight are the most vulnerable to these conceerns. The early symptoms of heat illness include: profuse sweating, fatigue, thirst, and muscle cramps. Later symptoms of heat exhaustion include: headache; dizziness and lightheadedness; weakness; nausea and vomiting; cool, moist skin; and dark urine. The symptoms of heatstroke include: fever (temperature above 104 degrees); irrational behavior; extreme confusion; dry, hot, and red skin; rapid, shallow breathing; rapid, weak pulse; and seizures. (Read more at http://www.righthealth.com/topic/heat_stroke_symptom#ixzz1UoAToidb)


The best way to deal with heat-related health issues is to prevent them by dressing properly and staying well hydrated. The other solution is to spend a day on the water with a good guide who knows the symptoms and what to do to avoid problems and listen to what he tells you to do.


Use a good quality sunscreen. I use Coppertone Ultra Sweatproof in an SPF 50 (blue bottle). I put it on before I leave home by rubbing it in until my skin goes dry in order to get all day protection from one application. It will not migrate into your eyes from perspiration.


Wear a long-sleeved, moisture-wicking shirt and short pants. If youíve never worn a coarse-weave, broad-brimmed straw hat, youíll be amazed at how much cooler it is than a baseball cap. It took me a long time to get over the dorky look, but now that I know how much cooler the straw hat is, Iím definitely over the look. Drink at least one bottle of water an hour and a small bottle of Gatorade every three hours or so. Donít forget a pair of good quality polarized sunglasses.


Neck coolers by Blu Bandoo (www.blubandoo.com) are my secret weapon for countering the nasty heat of summer. These are bandannas rolled and sewn to enclose a special moisture-absorbing material. Soak them in ice water for 10 to 15 minutes, then tie one around your neck and head, and you have a personal air conditioner that will cool you down for the better part of an hour. Buy yourself two sets and swap them in and out of your cooler every half hour or so for all-day comfort.


Air temperature trends tell you whether youíre fishing mornings or evenings. With the first heat wave of hot summer weather when air temperatures approach triple digits, the water temperatures will be cool enough for a couple of weeks so that you can start your day at noon and fish until dark. Once the water temperatures hit 90 degrees, fishing slows way down. At this point, Iíll meet my clients at 5 to 5:30 a.m. and fish until 1 or 2 p.m. This way I avoid trying to fish when the high water temperatures hamper fishing success. As long as overnight air temperatures are in the 70s and lower 80s, water temperatures will be cool enough first thing in the morning (until the heat of the day peaks) so that the fish will be active and catchable. Also understand that the warmer the water temperature, the deeper the fish will be. Those shallow weedy coves that were hotspots earlier in the day will be void of fish once the water temperature hits 90 degrees or more. If you have to fish in 90-degree water, find drop offs leading to the shallow weedy coves that 10 to 12 feet deep or more.


The summertime hot-weather bass pattern will be a grass pattern. That is the predominate habitat on the Potomac and most tidal rivers of the Chesapeake. I look for grass beds with deeper water nearby. By that, I mean I want water within two or three boat lengths of where Iím fishing that is at least 50 percent deeper than the outside weed edge Iím fishing. For baits, I really like soft-plastic stickbaits rigged whacky style. My very favorite is the Big Magic Stik by Case Plastics in green pumpkin/gold flake. I like to fish outside weed edges for active fish. I also like the Big EZ swimbait by Gambler Baits.


Realize that beyond the weed edge that is visible on the surface, aquatic vegetation is also growing off the bottom. This grass is sometimes several feet high but does not reach the surface. Summer heat waves will cause many fish to bury deep in these shorter weeds. An unweighted Magic Stik will often lie at the top of these weeds and not get down to where the fish are. Using a weighted hook will help penetrate the weeds. Rigging the Magic Stik Tex-posed and using a bullet weight will also help. However, a weedless bait such as a swimbait fished Tex-posed on a weighted hook really gets down into the grass very well without fouling on the weeds. If it hangs in the weeds before reaching the bottom, just shake it a little until it slips to the bottom. Fish it with an irregular retrieve and hang on.


It is easier to monitor water conditions than you might think. Thanks to the Eyes on the Bay program on the Maryland DNR website (http://mddnr.chesapeakebay.net/eyesonthebay/index.cfm) and a similar program operated by the US Geological Service (also accessible from the Eyes on the Bay website), you can access water-quality monitoring stations via the Internet to get seasonal or up-to-the-minute data about water temperature, clarity, algae blooms, tidal flow, and other factors. These systems are active on tidal waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay system. The information available from these systems make it easy to see what is going on with the habitat and to make it much easier to plan what portion of the river you want to fish.


Donít let the heat and humidity of the stifling hot days of summer keep you off the water. A little homework and preparation will allow you to enjoy some of the best fishing of the year. My average hot-weather guide trip is producing 15 to 20 largemouth bass a day. Bear in mind some days we catch 5 fish, and some days we catch 30 fish, but most days will produce about 15 to 20 fish. Many conditions affect fishing, including weather, water quality, boat traffic, fishing pressure, and so on, so some days will be better than others will. However, if you go prepared and informed, you can enjoy good fishing in relative comfort throughout our vast tidal waters.


And the good news is that as the cooler temperatures of fall begin to appear, the fishing only gets better. But if you havenít been out there to know where theyíre hanging out, youíre shooting yourself in the foot before you even get started. So get out on the water and have some fun.


Captain Keith Barker has guided for Ken Penrodís Life Outdoors Unlimited for nearly 10 years. He has over 20 years of outdoor experience as an adult leader for Boy Scout Troop 403 in Bowie Maryland. Heís been a more than avid angler all his life and has serious fishing experience spanning more than 50 years; with about half that time having been on the tidal Potomac River. Captain Keith can be reached at 301-509-2102 or kwbarkerinc@comcast.net.