When it comes to the warmer months there are three setups you won’t catch me without. Two of them probably won’t come as a surprise to most but the third is a bait that I always find the time to throw. The three are a frog, punch, and a Whippersnapper. Out here on the Delta, you have to learn to adapt with the tides. When the water is low, I grind it out with a punch rig and pick apart the open water pockets with a frog. With the higher water, I throw a Whippersnapper anywhere I can in search of those summertime gill stalkers.
My punch setup is fairly simple. I generally stick with an ounce and a half weight. That weight tends to get through just about any sort of cover. I’ve bent out a lot of punch hooks before finding one that I truly felt could hold up to even the toughest situations. The Owner 4/0 Jungle hook passes the test. It’s stout with a very sharp point and doesn’t have any sort of give. The Missile Baits D Bomb and Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver have always been a staple in my flipping game but recently they have become an after thought. The release of the Spicy Beaver is to blame. The legs are similar to that of a Rage Craw but they kick even harder. It doesn’t take much to get the bait to move water. I hear a lot of people argue that a punch skirt is necessary but I’m not sure that’s entirely true. I generally keep two setups on the deck. One with a punch skirt and one without. The Irod Air 7’10 Bub Tosh Punch rod is by far the best rod for the application on the market. It is a little shorter than your prototypical 8’0 setup but I think the two less inches helps to make the short quick flips and it certainly doesn’t take away from the backbone of the rod. My braid choice is Pline TCB Braid in 65 pound test. You can jump up to 80 if you feel it is necessary but I’ve never had any issues with 65. I try to pick apart every canopy I can with the lower water. Those fish like to hunker down in the roots and wait for an easy meal. One mandatory factory when looking for the right vegetation is current. Don’t even waste your’e time in the summer months fishing stagnant water. You might get bites doing it but you have a better opportunity with some water movement. Craws and forage overpopulate the grass and the bass are never far away.
A frog is mandatory this time of year. It doesn’t matter if its high or low tide. They will eat a frog regardless if you put it in the right places. I like to pick apart shade lines and pockets. Fish gravitate towards the ambush points knowing that the forage is plentiful and easy pickings. I use my Nef Customs 7’8 heavy paired up with the Shimano DC. I think a lot of anglers this time of year shy away from a frog the minute the wind picks up but the bite doesn’t shut off with the breeze. The key for me is to vary my retrieve. On calm brutally hot days, I like to keep my frog walking with the least amount of commotion. When the wind comes into play, I put some force into each twitch. The Boom Boom Frog is a solid design because if you pop the bait hard its spits almost like a popping frog. That added spray and harder pops gets big bites this time of year. Use the wind to your advantage. I use to be the first one to hate the wind because I didn’t really know how to utilize it. That last hour of light is worth the trip. Pick your spots and hold on tight.
Last and probably my favorite of the three is the Toxic Baits Whippersnapper. I’ve had the pleasure of fishing this bait since it was created. There isn’t a swimbait on the market that puts as many fish in the boat on a consistent basis for me. It isn’t your typical big bait but that’s what makes it so deadly this time of year. If you pay attention to the size of the forage, the majority of the gills are bite sized. Clouds and clouds storm the vegetation this time of year and Bass gorge on them. The swimbait mentality is to go for those one or two key bites throughout the day but with this bait allows you to have the opportunity to catch fish all day long. My preferred setup is 7’10 Heavy fast paired up with a Bantam 7.1:1. I added the 95mm DRT Varial Handle for added comfort and performance. There isn’t a need to jump your line up past 20 pound test for this bait. I like to key in on any sort of structure I can find. Docks, lanes in tullies, tully pockets, rock banks, overhead cover, and isolated vegetation are some of the things I look for. Don’t be afraid to lose it. I like to pitch it in pockets like I would a frog but it gives me the opportunity to fish it above or below the surface. The crank down is generally my bread and butter. When the water is up, I slow roll the Snapper above the vegetation. The same can be said around overhead cover. I crank it down and fish it slow enough to keep the bait below the surface throwing in random pauses in my retrieve. A lot of times, you’ll watch the fish stalk it before they commit to eating it. Water clarity is key for me. I struggle to find the confidence to fish this time of year in areas that don’t have at least a few feet of visibility. If you’re struggling to get bit, vary the retrieve until you cause a reaction.
The heat might be brutal this time of year but it’s worth battling through to take advantage of the bite. A punch, frog, or small gill swimbait will put fish in the boat time and time again. I hope this article can help you reap the benefits of a very fun time of year. Summers almost over. Get out and enjoy yourself.