A MESSAGE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF GAME & FISH
This fishing report, provided by Dustin Berg of Go Unlimited (supporting disabled anglers) and the Department of Game and Fish, has been generated from the best information available from area officers and anglers. Conditions encountered after the report is compiled may differ, as stream, lake and weather conditions alter fish and angler activities.
In this week’s report, Berg offers bass fishing tips from friend Ben Newton.
Finesse fishing for bass with Ben Newton
Summer heat brings upon the “dog days” of summer for many bass. The exciting shallow spring fishing days accompanied by aggressive spawning bass have come and gone. The fish are still there and, by changing your fishing technique, you can still catch that big bass lurking in the cooler depths, avoiding the summer sun. For Ben Newton, of Logan, it’s one of his favorite seasons to target bass at Ute Lake.
Once bass are done spawning, they are actively feeding on bait fish, shad and crawdads. Various lures imitate these prey items and can be effective during the hot summer months. Newton’s top three favorite techniques for fishing summer bass are: top water, wacky rig and drop-shot. Newton usually fishes 5-to-12-feet of water on main lake flats or points that have submerged wood cover. You can cover these depths efficiently using these techniques:
Top Water: There is a wide variety of surface lures out there, but Newton’s favorite is the River2Sea Whopper Plopper. It can be retrieved at various speeds and can be paused or twitched. However, Newton prefers a moderate-paced retrieve, and he seldom pauses while reeling it in. Although the Whopper Plopper is often thought to be a lure for shallow water, it can also be deadly effective during late summer and early fall when fished on main lake bluff points over water as deep as 25 feet.
Wacky Rig: This is a simple and amazingly effective technique for catching summer bass. Depending on the targeted depth (more weight for deeper water), Newton uses a ⅛-to-¼-ounce Wack-E-Head Jig. He then center hooks it through a 4-inch Berkley General Stick bait, a Max Scent 4-inch Hit Worm or a 4-inch Wacky Stick bait.
Newton casts out his Wacky rig and lets it sink to the bottom. After the bait reaches the bottom, he says that you give it a slight shake and let it set for a few seconds. Then you move it about a foot and repeat the shake and pause. The most important thing to remember about this technique is that you cannot fish it too slow. Be patient— finesse fishing is often done with subtle movements.
Drop-Shot: This is Newton’s go-to technique when the water surface temperature gets warm and the bass move deeper out onto main lake points, drop-offs and flats. He uses a #1 or #1/0 finesse hook tied, using a Palomar Knot, about 12-to-18-inches from the end of the fishing line. He then attaches a ¼-ounce finesse drop-shot weight to the end of the line.
Two of his favorite baits to rig onto the hook are the Berkley Flat Nose Minnow and the Berkley 4-inch Flat Worm. Most people think drop-shotting is only a deep-water technique, but Newton will often cast it into shallow water and slowly work it towards deeper water. Much like wacky rig fishing the retrieve is slow with pauses and slight shakes as it moves.
Whether you are just beginning to get into finesse fishing for bass, or just want to sharpen your skills, finesse fishing is a handy tool to add to your tackle box. Newton advises, “hit the lake early, slow down and make ’em bite.”
The department reminds anglers it is their responsibility to be aware of closures and contact land managers for properties of interest when restrictions are lifted.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — blm.gov/new-mexico
U.S. Forest Service (USFS) — fs.usda.gov/about-agency/covid19-updates
New Mexico State Lands — nmstatelands.org/resources/recreational-access/
New Mexico State Parks — emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/
New Mexico Open Gate Properties — wildlife.state.nm.us/hunting/maps/open-gate-program/
New Mexico Wildlife Management Areas — wildlife.state.nm.us/conservation/state-game-commission-lands/
Consult local government websites for information regarding specific city and town fishing access.