I don't know how to fish Hagg in the summer

bass

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I had a great trip on the Willamette this past Sunday. I posted that report on the Willamette page since I accidentally caught an 8lb 3oz steelhead.

Yesterday I went to Hagg and got my butt handed to me. 10 hours on the water for 4 bass (1 largemouth and 3 smallmouth). Fish were in the pound to pound and half range.

Part of my problem was the failure of my master plan. Before my Sunday trip I went ahead and spent $15 for a one year subscription to the Navionics app for my phone so that I could use it while fishing. I know I could use the web page but the app is nicer and seems a lot faster. That worked great and I highly recommend it if you don't have great maps already.

My plan on Sunday was to do the same thing at Hagg. I trout fish there a lot but have not done a ton of bass fishing and don't know the lake all that well. I was going to use the app to get in the general area where things looked good and then fish and map out those areas on my FF.

Joke was on me. No cell service while I was on the water and the offline version of the app only has the outlike of the lake. That was a bit of a punch in the gut. I would have prepared a lot more carefully had I realized that.

So I decided to fish the areas that I knew the best. A nice shelf/gentle slope out to about 10-15' deep with a sharper drop into 20-30'. There is good grass that grows most to all of the way out to the steeper drop.

Seemed like pretty ideal water and there was nice cloud cover to boot. I started at ramp C and quickly went down to the spot that I liked. I fished a little along the way but just a couple of quick casts here and there.

I started with a topwater even though I did not see any surface activity of any kind. I threw that for about 1/2 an hour changing styles a few times and decided it was not going to be a topwater day.

I picked up a jerkbait because some days the bass seem happy to kill things near the surface but don't want to eat a topwater. I began making casts covering from the visible weed edges and fanning out to deeper water.

OK, it is not a jerkbait day either. I then went through a plethora of hard baits selecting deeper and deeper running lures as I worked over the area.

OK, it is not a hard bait day. I figured I needed to break out the soft plastic. So I picked up a Ned rig and within a dozen casts I catch a smallmouth out of a weedy area. I bought some of the Ned rig heads that have the 2 wires to make them weedless and I will say that they work great in reducing hangups in weeds and rocks.

I thought, OK, now we are cooking.... 2 hours later.

Still fishing the Ned rig. Occasionally think I may have had a bite, but nothing to show for it. I decide maybe the thing to do is throw way out past the weed edge into the 25-30' water and work it back in. After about 10 minutes of doing that I feel my lure just get to the weed edge when I see my line jump. I set the hook and catch this nice little largemouth.



I think, OK, maybe this is the deal - it was not the deal.

After 4 hours of hard fishing with only 2 fish to show for it I decided a change of plans is in order. I decide to head up past boat ramp C and fish any main lake points that I can find that have grass on them. That was always a good summer strategy in PA and NC. I put down the Ned rig and pick up a Carolina rig because I feel that is the best way to quickly cover water with soft plastics and I was in full search mode.

For this type of fishing I love a 4" dead ringer. I have caught a lot of big fish on that little lure and of course smaller fish like it too. I just wanted to catch something at this point.

On the first grassy point past Sain Creek. I am working through the weeds and I connect with a skinny smallmouth, but hey it felt so good after the long drought.



I picked up that fishes twin after working that area for another 15 minutes or so. Once again I was thinking I had figured something out but once again that was a big nope.

In desperation, I decided to pedal down to the dam. I figured that there had to be smallmouth along the dam. I tried cranks, jerkbaits, Ned rigs, Carolina rigs. The most action I had was retying after hanging up. I couldn't believe I that I couldn't scrape a bass off the rip rap.

About half way down I completely threw in the towel and picked up my ultralight and went panfishing. That was pretty fun. Plenty of nice bluegill and a bunch of 6" smallmouth which are fun on the UL.



When I got to the far edge of the dam I decided to try and hit a few points quickly on the ramp A side on the way back thinking that maybe the more vertical structures were holding bass but of course, that was just a bit more casting practice.

I pedaled back to ramp C with my tail between my legs.

However, I will say that while having a crappy fishing day on Hagg stinks at least you can pick up some fried chicken from the Lakestop store on the way home! Fried chicken definitely helps with the pain.

So I have to ask, did I fish stupidly? Wrong structures? Wrong covers? Any input is appreciated.
 

Aervax

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Nice report. The post spawn condrum. Where'd all the #*@& bass go? Lake bass can be tougher to find in mid summer and more effected by changes than river fish. I have never fished Haag, so I don't have answers. Just questions. Hopefully the regulars there have a few sage words for you. What was weather like their when you were fishing, barometer, wind, cloud cover, clear? What time did you start and finish? Water temp? Water turbidity/color?
 

bass

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I think the bass at Hagg are in their summer pattern (whatever that is). I had high hopes for the day since there was good cloud cover all day. I agree about barometric pressure affecting lake fish quite a bit and river fish hardly at all. I am so used to fishing for river fish that I don't even check anymore. I just looked and the pressure looked pretty steady, a tiny bit low but nothing that should have put the bite off (I think).

The patterns I used are ones that I used in the summers on the East coast. I can't figure out why bass would not be feeding in weeds and especially along the deep edge. That is such a classic summer pattern.

One thing that may have factored in a little is that I believe there is a ton of bluegill fry in the lake right now. I found some in the bottom of the kayak when I got home (3/4" long at most). I guess one of the bass puked them up. All day long on my FF I saw little speckles from about 5' down to about 10 or 12' in a lot of the lake. At the time I thought it was algae or something but perhaps it is all bluegill fry.
 

Aervax

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Having fished with you I expect much of this will be rehashing things you already know and do, but I am covering more bases than probably needed in hope of sharing ideas new to some of the forum members who are just getting into lake bass. My experience with July bass on lakes other than Haag is that multiple feeding patterns emerge and make it seem like there isn't a pattern at all. Their primary food sources are peaking in availability by midsummer. Bass don't have to work very hard to fill up on panfish or their fry. Shiners and dace or other minnows have reproduced and are everywhere, and same goes for crawdads. I think when summer bass are hungry they go on an aggressive binge and fill up easily and quickly. That's why the bite turns on and off so suddenly. My take is that they are eating opportunisticaly all the time, but if they aren't really hungry they just sit back on their favorite structure and wait for a suicide meal to present itself to their open jaws. That means our lures have to be right on top of whatever structure they are focused on to get bit. And after the spawn they have spread out to favored structures within the lake. Some are still shallow in weed beds binging on blue gill and crawdads. Some are suspended off points waiting for balls of bait to swim past. Others are now hunkered down in brush piles inhaling anything that dares to enter. Then there are deepwater stumps and boulders to probe and so on. I think being at the right place at the right time is half the battle with bass this time of year. You get that early bite going on in the morning, and the late bite just before dusk because it's easier pickings for them then; and maybe they are hungrier then, too. A falling barometer activates their food source and they can go on an unexpected binge. Wind can do the same by creating current and ambush spots around points and other structure as bait fish swim with the current. Sometimes downwind shorelines are good too as plankton and baitfish stack up where the wind is pushing all their good eats. It's a different set of cues and more of them to read, I guess, than river fishing where the main concern is how bass are relating to current and structure in a way that makes feeding as efficient as possible. On a lake pretty much anything we try will catch a few fish if we do it all day long, but those are caught sort of at random as our chosen lure happens upon the right place at the right time. Once the spawn is over and lake bass aren't biting out of sheer aggression or protection of their bed, start focusing just on the sweet spots of each structure you come across with a technique specific to that structure. A weed bed for example, run a spinner bait down any open lanes and along the deepwater edge. Throw a frog or popper into openings in the weeds. Follow that with a Senko in the sweetest best gaps. Put 10 minutes into it. If nothing happens move onto the next structure. Standing timber in 30 feet of water, Texas rig a worm or pitch jigs and get them to fall literally against the base. Bounce a couple times. Do the same on the other side of it. Move to the next stump and repeat. No bites in 15 minutes move to the next structure and technique. Start banging crankbaits or speedtraps off the the rocks on a submerged point where the wind is making a little current. Bang it into the structure, hesitate, rip it, hesitate, bang it it off the bottom and hesitate again. If any one thing is working well, then start focusing on that type of structure and technique throughout the lake. Summer lake fishing is a weird combination of hyper-focus on specific structure and technique combined with flexibility to keep changing it up in a non-random very focused way. You catch a few bass here and there, then hit a hit streak for twenty minutes, then have to start over again with working it out on the next structure you come to. That is how I have had my best summer bass days. It sounds predictable and easy, but it is anything but that. It really takes some practice time on a specific lake to figure out where the productive structure is and how to fish it. That's where the fun comes in when we get to spend lots of time on a specific lake learning secrets about it that no else had figured out, yet. River fishing can be easy in comparison. All of it is so much fun!
 

bass

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Great reply @Aervax. I try to take a similar surgical approach to fishing.

Usually, I start shallow and slowly work deeper and deeper until I find fish. At each depth range I like to try a variety of lure types based on speed and depth (cover top to bottom with various speeds). I have been leaning on a jerkbait for covering near the surface, crankbaits for mid-depths to bottom with speed (a spinnerbait if I hang up the crank too much) and then soft plastic for a low and slow presentation. Usually, at some point you put together a pattern of a certain depth and speed being at least somewhat productive.

A challenge I always face that you address nicely is running and gunning versus being thorough. I started the day fishing more thoroughly than I usually fish because I know this one long weedbed always has fish on it. I probably spent too much time trying to will them to bite. Later in the day, I fished at my more usual and faster pace but neither approach really panned out.

The thing that confounds me about Hagg is that I know I have to be fishing over fish but I was not getting bit on any approach. Maybe they were stuffed with those tiny bluegill, maybe they are suspending out over open water hunting trout. The other factor is that the lake is starting to drop. Down 6' now and it usually drops about 30' by late fall.

I will need to make another trip to Hagg this summer. Next time I will make sure that we have a nice stable weather pattern so the fish should be acting "normal".

Thanks for taking the time to write that up. Everyone should read that very carefully!
 

GungasUncle

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I think the unstable water conditions lead to this issue in Hagg specifically. For me the best bass fishing comes early and late in the year out there - when water levels are pretty stable. I love spring Hagg, when the water is up at full pool, and there's lots of flooded grass and wood. Once the lake starts dropping, the fish get put off and it becomes a hunting game - I've had my best success following shelves and fishing points, along with any submerged wood I can find when the water drops. Tanner creek on the north end can still be good. Deep water by the dam can also be good for both large and smallmouth. Lipless cranks, deep running cranks, and soft plastics are my go to baits at that point.

In the fall, once irrigation has ended and the levels normalize, the fish will move shallow again. I've had great days in September and October throwing top water almost all day long. Zara Spook Jr becomes a favorite bait at that point.

When the surface temps climb toward 80, I try to find springs and creek inlets as well - access to cooler fresher water seems to draw both the trout and the smaller fish bass feed on.

Good luck dude, Hagg bass are finicky at best on a good day out there due to the pressure - if you get them in an eating mood it gets pretty glorious, but it seems rare!
 
I have a lot of trouble at hagg in summer too. A lot of people talk about the summer pattern for large mouth in general being either shallow cover or deep. Hagg is plenty deep, easily 100 feet at the damn end, but once the water starts to fall there is next to 0 shallow cover. Just muddy bottom for what seems like forever. I have a feeling you could find them suspended some place out in open water but that's tough in a kayak. You'd spend a lot of energy looking. I was there in September 2016 for the purpose of just mapping the bottom because the water was so low you could see everything at the upper end, and found it quite uninteresting. The creek channel of scoggins Creek may be a good place to try if there is still water in the flooded grass back that way, and the channel has a sheer wall that they may be able to ambush against. But I've not tried that this late into the year. Once I discovered the smallie bite on the Willamette in summer, I haven't been to hagg much after spring!
 

bass

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I think the unstable water conditions lead to this issue in Hagg specifically. For me the best bass fishing comes early and late in the year out there - when water levels are pretty stable. I love spring Hagg, when the water is up at full pool, and there's lots of flooded grass and wood. Once the lake starts dropping, the fish get put off and it becomes a hunting game - I've had my best success following shelves and fishing points, along with any submerged wood I can find when the water drops. Tanner creek on the north end can still be good. Deep water by the dam can also be good for both large and smallmouth. Lipless cranks, deep running cranks, and soft plastics are my go to baits at that point.

In the fall, once irrigation has ended and the levels normalize, the fish will move shallow again. I've had great days in September and October throwing top water almost all day long. Zara Spook Jr becomes a favorite bait at that point.

When the surface temps climb toward 80, I try to find springs and creek inlets as well - access to cooler fresher water seems to draw both the trout and the smaller fish bass feed on.

Good luck dude, Hagg bass are finicky at best on a good day out there due to the pressure - if you get them in an eating mood it gets pretty glorious, but it seems rare!
Thanks for your input. I think my experience matches yours in the spring, but I usually troll for trout in the fall. I figured as the water dropped that the points with grass would be an absolute magnet for a while, but that did not seem to be the case last time I went. Maybe when it drops a little more that will happen. I have to believe as the shoreline cover dries up they have to go on the grassy points for a while. Of course eventually even that dries up. Then I have no idea what they do.
 

bass

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I have a lot of trouble at hagg in summer too. A lot of people talk about the summer pattern for large mouth in general being either shallow cover or deep. Hagg is plenty deep, easily 100 feet at the damn end, but once the water starts to fall there is next to 0 shallow cover. Just muddy bottom for what seems like forever. I have a feeling you could find them suspended some place out in open water but that's tough in a kayak. You'd spend a lot of energy looking. I was there in September 2016 for the purpose of just mapping the bottom because the water was so low you could see everything at the upper end, and found it quite uninteresting. The creek channel of scoggins Creek may be a good place to try if there is still water in the flooded grass back that way, and the channel has a sheer wall that they may be able to ambush against. But I've not tried that this late into the year. Once I discovered the smallie bite on the Willamette in summer, I haven't been to hagg much after spring!
I agree with your assessment. When Hagg is full it seems like a rice fishery but as it drops it seems pretty sterile. I think if I could find the stumps and stuff at the right depth once it really drops would be the thing. It makes sense that must congregate at places like that ( as @GungasUncle seemed to indicate that).
 

Pole Bendahz

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From May to July I like to fish shallow. Weightless Texas-rigged trick worms work well for me shallow and drop shots if you're fishing 5+ ft deep. I don't think many o the fish hang deep unless the air temps getting into the high 90s, the lake water tends to run cool enough for the bass to stay shallow throughout the summer.
 

bass

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Thanks for that info @Pole Bendahz . That is different from what I would have guessed. I love learning new things. I bet I have spent time fishing too deep in the summer. Do you target the mud lines near shore?
 

tbrinks

Member
Before my Sunday trip I went ahead and spent $15 for a one year subscription to the Navionics app for my phone so that I could use it while fishing. I know I could use the web page but the app is nicer and seems a lot faster. That worked great and I highly recommend it if you don't have great maps already.
+1 on this. I've been using the depth shading on my app a bunch lately. Really helps to find areas.

 

bass

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+1 on this. I've been using the depth shading on my app a bunch lately. Really helps to find areas.

That is cool, I did not know you could do this in the app. I do this on my Garmin Quickdraw contours and really like it there. Thanks for the tip!
 

tbrinks

Member
That is cool, I did not know you could do this in the app. I do this on my Garmin Quickdraw contours and really like it there. Thanks for the tip!
Yeah, it's been awesome. Also been using the water level offset as many of the lakes I fish are a little low right now.

 
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