Whether we are novice anglers or the
seasoned tournament veteran, there comes a time
when we all find ourselves fishing unfamiliar
lakes and rivers. It is then when we must rely
on our abilities as fisherman to locate bass and
not just depend on "spots" that have produced in
the past. There are a number of tactics that you
can take to increase your odds of being
Do Your Homework!
Prior to getting to the lake, purchase a
good topographic map and study it hard as there
is much that can be learned from reading it.
First, you can get familiar with the layout of
the lake and it's prominent features such as
creeks, points, and coves. It will also help in
locating and avoiding navigation hazards. Check
your starting point from where you will be
launching and closest marinas in case of
inclement weather or an emergency.
Determine what seasonal pattern the fish
are most likely to be in and that should clue
you in to what areas of the lake to concentrate
in. Now take that and apply it to your contour
map. This can help to eliminate water and wasted
time, maximizing your chances of finding a
pattern. Develop a back-up plan and locate these
areas on your map as well. Areas that you can
explore both your primary plan and back-up plan
without having to waste a lot of time driving
are places to start looking for your pattern.
When you get there, keep your eyes open!
Once on the water, visualize your map
and it's features. Check your water clarity,
temperature, wind and sky conditions. Then ask,
"do the conditions change anything in what
pattern I think will be working?" You may need
to make adjustments, or the condition may help
to fine tune a pattern or even tell you what
lures or presentation to use. Being observant
before you even put the boat in the water will
help you tremendously.
As you head out to your first area, look
around to see what types of visible cover may
exist. Are the banks rocky and steep or gradual?
It is heavily populated and lined with docks?
Are they floating or stationary docks? Is there
any emergent vegetation such as bull rushes or
lily pads? Take note of anything that sticks out
in your mind. Of course, obvious cover is often
heavily pressured by other anglers but the
obvious visible cover may give clues as to what
lies beneath the surface and help pattern other
productive areas that you may "stumble" onto.
Also note the location of other boats on the
water, sometimes theses boats may give away the
location of a submerged island, grassline, or
dropoff. Obviouly, be sportsmanlike and do not
encroach upon water another angler is fishing.
There is always time to fish that spot later.
Being Friendly Only Helps!
Whether it is at
the ramp or while out on the water, being
friendly to other anglers will only help. Don't
hesitate to ask questions if you meet up with
another angler. Ask them how they are doing and
tell them that you are new to the lake. Perhaps
the angler can offer a few suggestions for you.
Experience is invaluable and since you have none
on this lake, every little bit should help.
Naturally, most anglers like to brag and show
off their fishing ability so they may be more
than willing to share a few basic tips. Don't be
too prying if the angler gives up any
information and respect if he mentions any
specific area. Lastly, always remember to say
thank you and wish the angler good luck.
Trial and Error...Adjust if you have to!
Map study, talking
to other anglers, seeing visible cover. It all
is meaningless without execution. It is often
execution that is the difference between an
average angler and an angler who consistantly
produces good catches. Keep an open mind to the
conditions of the water and if there are any
changes. When you do catch a fish, take note of
where and how you caught it. Was the fish
aggressive or was the bite subtle? What type of
cover was the fish on? Each of these are clues
to help you to develop a pattern. Being able to
use logic and deteremine what that pattern may
be is crucial to your success. When you locate
fish in an area, don't hesitate to try other
baits and presentations. Often, a minor change
like that can help to refine your pattern or
even help locate bigger fish.
Your ability to keep an open mind is
eased by not just fishing "hot spots". However,
you unfamiliarity with the lake will make it
difficult to find area where you can duplicate
your pattern. This is where your map comes in
handy once again. Utilize any resource that you
have at your disposal. By following few of the
tips that I have provided, you will increase
your chances of having a successful first outing
on that unfamiliar body of water. Good Luck.