Column: Dog days of summer best for catching big bass

Photo Provided by Brandon Butler
Large bass, such as the one pictured, are most commonly caught during the dog days of summer.

By Brandon Butler

Northwest Indiana is known as an industrial epicenter of America but its natural splendor often goes unappreciated. At times, it can be hard for people to look deeper and see beyond the industry and embrace the region’s beauty but when you combine the attributes of Lake Michigan and her tributaries with the region’s numerous natural and man-made lakes, one is left with fishing destinations to rival all others.

LaPorte is one northern Indiana town especially important to me because the last time I fished with my Grandpa Kurpis, my first mentor in this life of angling bliss, we were on Pine Lake. We launched on Stone Lake and moved out into the bigger lake in search of crappies. His cancer was advanced and we both knew time was short. We sat anchored, worried little about catching fish, talking and laughing. A true treasure of a memory.

I enjoy spreading the word about northern Indiana and its amazing potential as an outdoor destination, because it is often overlooked when compared to all the incredible natural splendor of southern Indiana. There are so many unexpected jewels to be discovered for first time visitors. Even the locals are amazed once in a while.

On my most recent trip to the LaPorte area, the temperature was pushing 80 degrees. Not bad for July, but this was at 4 a.m. It was going to be hot and I was questioning myself for rising so early to chase bass in such extreme heat. But my buddy had promised big fish and lots of them and I knew him to be a man to deliver on such a statement.

The plan was fishing oversized top-water poppers across cabbage grass on a private lake. As the first rays of sunshine poked through the eastern tree line, we had already hooked into a number of fish.  Surface explosions were pleasantly disrupting morning silence. I fell into a rhythm of casting — pop, pop, popping my frog back to me — setting the hook, releasing a fish, and casting again.

Over the course of the next few hours, we repeated this scenario a couple of dozen times. In my opinion, and what I venture to assume is the personal opinion of countless others, few methods for catching bass are as exciting as top-water. Witnessing the crash of a bass both visually and audibly is outdoor excitement at its best and these dog days of summer are some of the best times of the year to catch bass on the surface.

The surface bite is best at dawn and dusk. It can also be great at night. Bass come out of deeper water to chase prey in the shallows. On top, they feed on bait fish, frogs, mice, snakes, and more. Any bait resembling a surface prey can fool a bass into executing a ferocious top-water predation.

Fishing for surface bass is fun for more reasons than the aggressive strikes. Targeting visible structure is enjoyable and exciting. Cast your lure next to obvious structure, like logs, lily pads, patches of weeds, cattails, docks, sea walls, rip rap, and dams are top producing areas. It’s fun to think “there should be a bass right there,” then cast to the spot and actually catch one.

These topwater tactics can be applied to waters all across Indiana but if you’ve never been up north to fish the many lakes around LaPorte, then maybe this summer it is worth a drive to take a short Indiana “stay-cation” and try your hand at catching a few of the big bass roaming the waters up there.

See you down the trail…

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