STURGIS — There are two rules about bass fishing in the hottest part of the summer, says Mark Zona, the 12-foot rule and the 15-foot rule.
The 12-foot rule, Zona says, is what most anglers follow. They fish 12 feet of water or less.
“You’ll catch small fish and get just enough to keep you there and then all of a sudden you’ll catch a good one and then you’ll stay there all day,” Zona explained. “But most of his relatives — especially the big ones — are out behind your boat.”
The 15-foot rule? Simple: “I never want my bait to hit the bottom in less than 15 feet,” Zona said. “Ever.”
As it was, Zona had his boat out in 32-feet of water on a hot, sunny summer day on a smallish lake in St. Joseph County.
We were casting into shallower water (and by shallower, I expect it was at least 25 feet) and bringing it back through the sand grass on the bottom. And we were catching largemouths, good ones.
We were fishing with big (3/4 or one ounce) football-shaped jigs dressed with big, bulky Strike King Rage Craw trailers. We wanted big baits, Zona said, to attract big bites. And we wanted something that fell like a cinder block in the water column so the fish didn’t have time to decide, they just had time to react.
“The fish are out here and will stay here until mid-September to late October, when they move back in,” Zona said. “Then they’ll come back out here around deer season and stay the rest of the year.
“I’ll bet the bass spend 70 percent of their time in this zone. They’re like a big deer — they want a food source, comfort, safety. It’s the same principle. The only time they get stupid is when they breed.”