Shade is essential when targeting bass in the late summer. The water temps across much of the country have reached their peak by midsummer, and while some fish go deeper to seek out cooler waters, many still stay shallow. Those that do stay shallow relate heavily to shade. But shade matter down deeper too, and not all shade is apparent to the naked eye.
Many of us fish submerged grass, brush and other structure without every really thinking about the fact that this cover is still blocking out sunlight and thus casting shade in some direction underneath the water’s surface. So today, we’re going to shed a little light on the importance of shade and talk about some of the key ways to target fish relative to that shade.
Why is Shade so Important?
Bass are, in part at least, visual feeders. So some light can help them hunt. But too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing and it can actually be too bright at times. Since bass don’t have eyelids, the only way for them to not have the bright sun in their eyes is for them to seek cover that provides shade. Bass are also cold blooded, so their body temperatures are regulated by their surroundings. In cooler water, a bass’s metabolism slows, which means it doesn’t need to eat as much since it’s not burning as much energy.
In the cooler shade, their bodies also aren’t absorbing sunlight, which again helps them stay cooler and this allows them to rest a bit. But the shady spots often have the additional advantage of being adjacent to pickoff points where the bass can ambush prey. So they don’t have to eat as much, but they’re also putting themselves into a perfect position for an opportunity to do so if food does come their way.
Most of us know as anglers that the first hour and last hour of daylight are some of the best times to fish during the summer. And though there are other contributing factors to these being great feeding windows, a large part of it is that these are lowlight time frames. Bass are typically more aggressive in lower light and prefer it.
A lot of shade is visible to the naked eye. Over hanging bushes, docks, boats, bridges and other cover provide visible shade that you can readily identify. All of these are great places to target fish seeking shelter from the bright sun. You can also target shade lines along banks as the sun works its way farther overhead. As the sun rises higher in the sky, the shade is inevitably going to get tighter and tighter to certain banks. This typically pulls the bass in closer and closer to those banks as well, condensing the fish into a tighter strikezone.
Shade is Shade
Shade is even part of what attracts a bass to a brush pile in 20- feet of water. The sunlight is already broken up some as it makes its way through the ripples on the water’s surface. But still, you’ll often find that the bass setup on the shady side of brush underwater as well, especially shallower brush. The same is the case for submerged lines of vegetation, boulders, stumps, standing timber and other cover.
You’ll want to try to visualize where the shade is for these submerged pieces of cover. Sometimes in shallow water, you’ll be able to look through the water’s surface and see the direction the shade is being cast. But other times, you’ll need to get a bearing on where the sun is and then try to picture the direction of the shade. This is really important when fishing submerged lines of vegetation for instance.
If you go down a line of hydrilla that’s between you and the sun, the shade will be cast in your direction. Often in this case, the fish will be staged out in front of the grass. But on the other side of the same pocket, the sun is hitting a the face of a similar grass line and the bass are buried up in it instead. That could mean the difference in being able to get bit on a spinnerbait or swimbait out in front of one grass line or needing to pitch a soft plastic over into the other.
Paying attention to submerged shade lines can help you turn a good stretch of grass where you got a few bites into a pattern that you can duplicate on other grass lines that have a similar orientation to the sun. Or it may mean that a bank that can be fished one way in the morning has to be fished another way in the evening. So it’s critical that you pay attention to the position of the sun and try to visualize the shade that you can’t see.
And don’t take shade you can see for granted either. It’s extremely important in the summer. Making your cast by the shady side of a stump versus the sunny side may be the difference in getting bit and never knowing a fish was even there. Bass are cold blooded, opportunistic predators. So they’ll try to be comfortable while also putting themselves in a good position to pickoff prey. Shady cover presents a great combination that appeals to both these instinctual habits of a bass. So you’re odds of getting bit in the summer rise exponentially when you target shade.