Despite the oppressive heat of July, fishing can be the most fruitful and varied of the year. In fact, some anglers contend July's consistently hot weather is one reason the fishing is so superb.
July angling boosters say that anytime the weather is constant for a long spell, fishing is usually good. When the weather changes radically and frequently, as it often does in the fall and spring, fish frequently become mulish and difficult to entice.
Fishing can be so spectacular in the heat of July that some anglers make a game out of matching a heat index of 100 by catching and releasing 100 fish.
In years past, Terry Hinson, an inveterate crappie fishermen from Silver Lake, spent July 4th at Perry Lake, probing brush piles in 15 feet of water and catching 100 or more big crappie.
Likewise, Bob Laskey, a bass angler from Lawrence, often ventured to farm ponds and small community lakes on white-hot July days, and as he wielded four-inch plastic worms and small jigs, he beguiled 100 or more largemouth bass.
Even though crappie and largemouth bass fishing can be extraordinary in July, it is the white bass anglers of northeast Kansas who enjoy the greatest bounty.
During July, the diet of the white bass changes from aquatic insects and small crustaceans to small gizzard shad. White bass also congregate in large schools and forage upon schools of shad in 12 to 30 feet of water on submerged humps, roadbeds and main lake points.
For more than 30 Julys, Vic Oertle, a fishing guide from Manhattan, has employed jigging spoons on humps, roadbeds and points to allure untold numbers of white bass at Milford, Tuttle Creek, Perry, Pomona and Melvern lakes. It's not unheard of for two anglers to catch and release 85 white bass an hour on one of Oertle's Double W Shad Flutter Spoons, which he manufacturers and sells.
When the shad measure less than an inch, a half-ounce spoon is best, but as the shad grow to two inches in late July a three-quarter-ounce Double W is the ticket.
To catch white bass in 12 to 17 feet of water on a main lake point, Oertle places his boat on top of 20 feet of water and makes a long cast, using a bait-casting outfit spooled with 20-pound test line. Then he allows the spoon to fall to the bottom into 10 to 12 feet of water.
As the spoon falls, Oertle's rod is held parallel to the lake's surface. After the spoon reaches the bottom, Oertle hops it off the bottom by slowly lifting his rod until it is at a 90-degree angle from the lake's surface, and he holds the rod in that position until the spoon returns to the bottom. This slow hop is continued until the spoon is out of the white bass' lair.
Sometimes white bass engulf the spoon when it is lying on the bottom or as it is being raised off the bottom, but the preponderance of strikes come after the spoon reaches the apex of the lift and begins to fall towards the bottom.
When detecting a strike, Oertle quickly and gently sets the hook by lifting the rod and turning the reel handle.
While working a spoon, Oertle says many novice white bass anglers tend impart too much action to the spoon, which often causes the spoon to become snagged on boulders and rubble on the bottom of the lake. In addition, they often set the hook too hard and reel too fast, which pulls the spoon out to the white bass' mouth.
Still, even novices can catch scads of white bass by employing one of Oertle's spoons at the right spots at area reservoirs from now until mid-September.