It’s one of fishing’s axioms — when the action is slow, go small.
The dog days of late July and August usually result in a downturn of fishing success, but many veteran anglers meet the challenge by switching to little baits and lures.
Smaller minnows are one example. Wax worms and meal worms instead of nightcrawlers are another. With lures, selections can range from 4-inch plastic worms for largemouth bass fishing to very small items like popping bugs and Roostertails for several species, including bream.
A bit of history here pertaining to popping bugs and bream. Almost 60 years ago, bream fishing started Lake Conway toward its legendary status. Remarkable strings of bream came in from 1951 through the 1960s and later.
Various baits, live red worms and crickets, of course, but others like wasp larvae, were commonly used, and many bream fishermen were highly successful with popping bugs. These were usually worked on fly rods but not in the traditional whip back and forth action we often associate with fly fishing. The fly rod with a popping bug was used more like a cane pole, but the limber rod gave the lure more action and the fisherman more range.
Popping bugs are still around, if you look for them. Very light and with tiny hooks, often with thin legs poking out from the body, the idea was to toss the lure out, let it set still for a few seconds then bring it back in short jerks in which it makes a slight popping sound. This got the attention of those big bream, which were bluegills. Red-ear bream came to the forefront later.
The theory of small baits and lures during really hot weather is that fish metabolism slows down with heat as it does with cold. When the water temperature is bumping 90 degrees, fish are not nearly as active as they are in 65- or 70-degree water. Give ‘em something small so they don’t have to chase or fight it as much.
Another venerable bream catcher for decades has been a very small and thin plastic worm sold with two or three small gold-colored hooks attached. Some versions have a couple of tiny colored beads in the front end.
The Roostertail is versatile. It comes in several sizes and can be used for bass, walleye, trout, bream and crappie — the latter two in the smaller versions. Roostertails are weighted straight shafts with a leaf-type spinner on the front and single or treble hooks amid feathery material on the back. Similar is the Panther Martin, and both of these lures have been around for decades.
Another multi-size, multi-species lures is the Beetle Spin. It can be found in a wide range of colors, and the smallest ones are handy for bream and crappie work also.
A favorite of many fishermen using small lures is the Rebel Crick-Hopper. Like the name suggests, it resembles both crickets and grasshoppers and also is made in a variety of colors and patterns.
Little lures like these require light line for best performance. It’s part of the "go small" theory.
Skipping over the bass fishing lines that are strong and heavy, the 14-pound test and upward, many anglers routinely fish with 10-pound test line. It’s what comes on a lot of pre-spooled reels, and it’s a good middle of the road choice in line. But 10-pound may be too heavy for small lures, and it certainly is for popping bugs.
The solution is to rig up with 6-pound test line or even 4-pound test. Yes, there is a 2-pound test, but it is usually chosen for clear waters like trout streams.
With 4-pound or 6-pound line and one of these very small lures, an average fisherman can cast out 15 or 20 feet, and this should be enough for dog days fishing, especially where there is shade that fish — as well as fishermen — like.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.