By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
When Bassmaster Elite Series pro Clent Davis goes fun-fishing in the summertime, he almost always arrives at the launch before daybreak and rarely stays on the water past 11 a.m. And except in rare cases, the first bait he throws is a walking topwater plug.
Chances are good that he'll start out either in the back of a creek (especially if there's been recent rain and there's new water coming in) or a shallow area where the depth quickly drops off to 20 feet or more. Such places at Lay Lake or Lake Mitchell near his home in Montevallo, Ala. have surrendered some 7-plus-pound pound largemouths and a lot of spotted bass in the 4- to 5-pound class.
"They need to be able to slide out to 20 feet pretty quickly after they pull up and feed, so you're usually talking sharper points, channel swings and things like that," said the former FLW Cup winner.
His favorite bait for this application is a Yo-Zuri 3DB Pencil. He prefers the 4-inch model over the 5-inch for the summer when there's a lot of smaller baitfish around as a result of the shad spawn.
There's on color that he relies on far more than any other.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time I throw bone," he said. "If I get in gin-clear water I'll throw prism silver blue because I just think that when it's really clear they don't get a good look at it. They still the silhouette, but they're more likely to get fooled."
Keep Your Distance
When you arrive at a place where bass are feeding shallow before the sun gets high, stay as far away as you can prior to making your initial casts.
"You want to make as long a cast as possible, especially now with all of the lakes getting so much pressure," Davis said. "The farther back you can stay and still make a good presentation, the better your chances of getting bit."
He walks the bait as fast as possible on the first few casts to determine whether the fish are aggressive enough to react to that rate of retrieve. If not, he'll slow down incrementally in a quest to find the speed they prefer.
He has the same issue that plagues the majority of anglers when throwing topwaters.
"The first bite usually scares me so bad that I don't catch it unless the fish has totally eaten it."
If a fish misses it, he won't let the bait rest, but instead puts it back into a fast-paced cadence with the belief that such a tactic results in more second-chance strikes.
He uses a medium-light 7'1" Phenix Feather rod because it has some give in the tip, but he ties the Pencil to straight braid (50-pound).
"If you go with braid that's too big you'll lose casting distance, but if it's too small it digs into itself.
It's Happening Somewhere
Davis believes that there's a topwater bite to be had on every summer morning and afternoon on any lake that harbors bass. It just might not be where you're fishing.
"More than anything, and I say this no matter what you're throwing, a lot of times it's not as much about the bait as it is the location," he said. "If you don't have success one day and you're going back out the next day, don't be scared to try it again in a different place.
"A lot of times guys will come back to the dock after a tournament day and say, 'They weren't hitting on topwater,' but some other guy will have won the tournament doing it. Yeah, they were hitting on it, but just not where you were."