Picking Apart a New Lake When Fishing for Bass
Every time an angler heads to a new lake fishing for bass, he or she needs to pick apart the lake and determine the pattern the fish are holding in. Because bass usually relate to some sort of cover or structure there are five places that anglers will find in most lakes that will hold fish at one time or another. Finding fish in one of these areas means the angler has established a pattern that can be repeated in other areas throughout the lake.
Bass fishing, man-made structures can be a good place to start. Docks, boat lifts, and swim platforms, especially on sunny days, can hold a great deal of fish. If you can find these shallow objects with deep water nearby, they create great ambush points for bass and will often hold some big fish. The biggest mistake anglers make, though, it pitching once or twice to this type of structure and then moving on to the next. Be sure to fish the cover thoroughly, and even skip a weightless lure all the way to the back of the dock, if you can. This will often bring strikes that other anglers will miss. Make sure to hit every side of the swim platform, too. Eventually, you will figure out where fish are hiding and you will be able to repeat that pattern throughout the lake – if you start finding fish in these places.
Lilly pads and larger emergent vegetation like them are another great place to try in the bass fishing. Fish will stay under large lily pads during the heat of the day. This is another great ambush point for them and also a place where they can conserve energy and just lay in wait for bait fish or crawfish to come by. Pitching a jig or soft plastic craw imitation to the open spots between the pads is a great way to trigger strikes. Again, work the area thoroughly rather than just using a few pitches. Soft bodies topwater frogs are perfect for lily pads. Pop them across the pads, making as much noise as you think you need to. Then, when you reach a hole between pads, pause the frog and wait. Twitch it a time or two, wait, and then continue on. At times, you will hold the frog in one place for 10 – 15 seconds before getting a strike. Hook up ratios with frogs can be bad, but if you make sure to wait until you feel the weight of the fish before you set the hook, you will find your hook up ratio improving.
Overhangs on deeper shorelines will also hold fish sometimes. When fishing for bass, you want to look for areas where they can hide, stay out of the sun, and wait to ambush their prey. Deeper shorelines with overhanging trees or shrubs are a great place for them to hide, and therefor a great place for anglers to check out when they first get to a new lake. You may want to try a weightless stick bait wacky rigged and skip it up under the overhang as far as you can. Skipping the bait not only gives a different appearance then simply pitching it, but it also allows you to get up under the overhang and target fish that many other anglers will not. Often, these fish are more apt to bite because they are less pressured due to that fact.
Don’t count out the grass beds. Especially when your bass fishing in the summer months, grass beds can be great producers. Keep in mind, though, that the fish will not always be located in the same place in relation to the grass bed. At times, you will find them on the outside edge. At other times, they may be on the inside edge or even deep inside the weed beds. When targeting fish deep in the weed beds, use a weedless jig or a Texas-rigged soft plastic and pitch in to the openings between the weeds. Hop the bait a time or two, then pull it up and target the next opening. Often the fish will hit the bait on the fall, so watch your line carefully a your bait falls. If you notice it go slack, or start to move off to the side, set the hook. You won’t be able to drag your bait through the weeds without fouling it, so short pitches are best. Then bring your bait in and target the next opening.
One of the most targeted pieces of structure when anglers of bass fishing are wood and brush piles in the water. For that reason, in some lakes, they are harder to catch off the wood. When fish are targeted more often, they can become finicky and less apt to bite just any offering. With that being said, again make sure that you are very thorough with your casts when targeting these areas, and don’t be afraid to throw a lure that is different than you would normally use. Often a weightless bait that falls very slowly may trigger fish. Or even a short drop shot pitched to the edges of the wood may bring strikes where other presentations fail. Keep in mind that even the most snag-resistant lures will get hung up in the wood from time to time. When that happens, and you bring the boat in to free your lure, let that piece of wood or brush pile rest for a while after you back out. And when you return, try a different lure. The fish in that area will probably be a bit spooky, but you may still catch them with a more finesse type tactic after they settle down a bit.
So, next time you find yourself fishing for bass on an unfamiliar lake, try these main areas first. And keep in mind that the pattern can change not only from day to day, but may be drastically different from morning to afternoon. Carefully fishing each of these types of cover should help you put together a pattern and put more fish in the boat over the course of the day.