Some days in late summer are so hot you want to unzip your skin and sit around in your bones.
The last of the dog days are better for jumping into Beaver Lake than catching fish out of it, at least when it comes to black bass. I try to go bass fishing once in August just to remind myself why I rarely go bass fishing in August. The first couple of weeks in September are no different.
Yet a morning of bass fishing in the summer swelter last month showed that a funky little lure puts fish in the boat when bass ignore others. When the water’s hot enough to poach a fish, tie on a Ned rig.
It’s such a simple little lure, this Ned rig. Just a lightweight, mushroom-shaped jig head paired with a piece of plastic worm about the length of a little finger.
Points on Beaver Lake are where I started that sticky August morning, hoping to catch a couple of spotted bass for dinner. Dawn was no picture-postcard scene. The sun popped up with a blinding glare. If eyeballs were camera lenses, it was an f/22 kind of morning.
I figured my chances of catching dinner were a notch above zero when I stopped the boat at a favorite point west of Rocky Branch park. If I could only fish one spot on the lake, it’d be this point.
But it was the peak of summer, and I can count the bass I’ve caught in August on one hand. My Ned rig splashed down in about 10 feet of water. I started working it deeper down the face of the rock point with my spin-cast rod. Six-pound line was spooled on the reel.
A couple of reel cranks and it felt like my Ned rig had hooked a leaf or weed off the lake bottom. Friends, and neighbors, set that hook. More often than not, a little extra weight is the only sensation of a subtle, summertime bite.
Indeed this was no leaf putting a deep bend in my fishing rod and walking me from the boat’s port side to starboard. I slipped the net under a fine 14-inch smallmouth bass, my favorite fish that swims.
Back in the lake it went. The length limit on smallmouths at Beaver is 15 inches, and I wouldn’t keep a smallmouth anyway. They’re way more fun to catch than eat, and Beaver is loaded with spotted bass — Kentuckies, most anglers call them — that are fine Fry Daddy fare.
My day was made, catching a nice smallmouth in August. But wait, the morning was still young. Steamy, but young.
Now my line tightened again. A stick or leaf? Vegetation doesn’t strip line off the reel like this fish that bit my Ned rig along the same point. When the fighter showed itself, I saw the telltale whiskers of a channel catfish.
Thank you, Mr. Channel Cat, but back in the lake you go. My mind was set on Kentuckies. Across the lake at another point, fish No. 3 bit. I could tell by the hard pull that this was no Kentucky, but another smallmouth. Sure enough right. There’s no mistaking the fight in these royal fish.
By 9:30 my hat was sweat-stained, and I looked for that zipper on my skin. But three fish in three hours? I’ll take that any August day.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org