FRANKFORT – The gorgeous weather combined with warming, but tolerable, temperatures make June one of the best months to be outside. The wonderful weather drives hordes of largemouth bass anglers to waters across Kentucky, filled with anticipation of catching a couple of five pounders.
Often, at the end of a day of fishing in perfect weather, they only have a few 12-inch fish to show for their efforts. Despite the great conditions for humans, June is a transitional time for largemouth bass.
“June can be a tough month,” said Dave Dreves, assistant director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Largemouth bass are done spawning, but haven’t yet moved into their full summer pattern. The fish can be anywhere in the lake.”
After spawning in shallow water in late spring, largemouth bass migrate toward the deeper spots where they spend most summer days. They use ditches, channels, points, roadbeds or even a row of stumps that once lined a fencerow as migration arteries to move from their shallow spawning areas to channel drops, offshore humps and deep points in June.
Continuing to fish too shallow is one of the main reasons many bass anglers struggle to catch quality fish in June. Those weedlines, fallen tree tops and other shoreline cover that held bass on Derby weekend don’t have many bass around them now.
“Flats adjacent to deep water are really good in June,” said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife who once served as the department’s black bass coordinator. “Bass use flats as a movement corridor or they just set up on them.”
Map study prior to fishing reveals bass holding flats. Wide spaces between the topographic depth lines of a fishing map denote flatter areas. Flats with a series of lines that are close together beside them show a drop-off into deeper water. These are June hot spots for largemouth bass; those with some cover, such as brush or stumps are best.
Check the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife website at www.fw.ky.gov and type in “lakes with fish attractors” in the search engine to complement your map study. The fish habitat structures placed by department employees are shown in detail for lakes across Kentucky. Anglers may also click on the “Where to Fish” tab, under the “Fish” tab, for new maps of lakes showing the bottom contours as well as the fish attractors.
A Carolina rig, with a 3/4- to 1-ounce egg sinker in front of a leader, is hard to beat in June for fishing flats and related drop-offs. The heavy weight gives great feedback to the angler, quickly revealing the bottom composition. Those who can afford tungsten weights get even more feedback.
Five- to 7-inch soft plastic stick baits such as the Senko on the business end of a Carolina rig is deadly on June largemouths. The shimmy action of these baits when retrieving the rig, as well as on the fall, provokes strikes. Ribbon-tailed worms in the same length also work well on a Carolina rig at this time of year.
Baby bass, green pumpkin, watermelon and red flake, junebug and black all make good colors for soft plastic stick baits and worms. Make sure to set the hook firmly when fishing deeper water with a Carolina rig.
In June, deep running crankbaits in the sexy shad color also work well retrieved over the deep end of flats as do 7-inch green pumpkin straight-tailed worms rigged on 3/16-ounce Shakey heads and dragged slowly on the bottom.
Deep points and submerged humps also hold largemouth bass in June. Points and humps tend to get better as June burns toward July. A 5/16-ounce jig in the soft- craw color with a matching crawfish imitating trailer works extremely well. Slowly crawl the jig down the point until you hit bass.
The crawling retrieve also does well on submerged humps with a 7-inch straight-tailed worm rigged on a Shakey head. Use the lightest head you can while still maintaining bottom contact. If all else fails, cast the rig and let it settle down to the hump. Then, reel in the slack and let the worm sit still, occasionally squeezing the rod handle. Finicky bass who passed up all other offerings often hit this “deadsticking” presentation in June.
Worms with contrasting tip sections perform best fishing deep humps in June. Black with a blue tip, brown with an orange tip and watermelon with a chartreuse tip all make good choices. Many anglers use scented dyes to color the tip section.
June has great weather for people, but largemouth bass are migrating and recuperating from the rigors of spawning. Don’t fish where you did earlier in spring. The bass have left the shallows for their more comfortable summer haunts.
Author Lee McClellan is a nationally award-winning associate editor for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He is a life-long hunter and angler, with a passion for smallmouth bass fishing.