How do you find bass on lakes that you have never been? That is probably the most frequently asked question that I have heard since I started fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series Tournament Trail. Since I only have three days of practice before each tournament, I have formulated a simple system to help me find bass quickly on a new body of water. I like to fish shallow. That is one of my strengths, where I am the most confident and comfortable fishing. So that is where I will at least start practicing.
Preparation before getting to the lake is critical. I do a lot of research on the internet to find out what kind of lake or river I will be fishing. Is the lake clear, stained, or muddy? What type of structure does the lake contain - grass, wood or rock? Also, obtaining a quality map will help locate river channel bends and creek channel bends near main lake points, secondary points, and main lake humps and ridges. These bends near points are where I like to start looking for bass. Bass use creeks and rivers running through a lake as highways and the flats on the points serve as prime places to eat.
It is one thing to locate potential fishing spots on a map, but it is entirely different and more difficult to locate a prime spot while on the lake. This is why a quality GPS/Sonar unit along with a good navigational card is so important. I use a Lowrance LMS-332C GPS/Sonar unit. This color unit is 480X480 pixels. Think of a pixel as a paintbrush. The more pixels the finer the paintbrush thus more detail is shown. The fewer pixels the wider the paintbrush, like a paint roller, thus less detail is shown. I use Navonics Navigational charts in my Lowrance unit. The charts are of the highest quality and show every creek, underwater hump, ridge and contours on a lake. Ridges and humps that took me years to learn on Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend without Navonics can be found by anyone by just following the GPS map. If the water is clear, I will try to find fish on the upper end of the lake in order to find a little more stained water. It also, allows me to get away from most of the people.
Once I have picked out some promising area on the map where deep water is real close to shallow water, I am ready to go catch them. Through my research, I will know if grass is present. If grass is not present, I will look for flooded trees, laydowns, and boat docks. I have always been able to find at least two or more of these types of cover on any lake. My lure selection for finding fish is very simple. For flooded trees and laydowns, I will use a green pumpkin 5 inch Senko type bait. either with a 1/8 ounce bullet weight or weightless. Green pumpkin is my fish locating color because it works in extremely clear water to muddy water. It may not be the best color or bait for any particular day, but it will catch bass everyday on every lake in the country that I have been. For grass fishing I will throw a wider selection of baits to find fish while still keeping it simple. For topwater fishing, I will throw a Frog. I also love to rip gold, chrome, and red Rat-L-Traps through the grass all year long. These baits are awesome for locating schools of bass in the grass. Once I have located a school, I will slow down and either flip the grass or throw a Carolina rig along the edge of the grass. As a back up pattern, I will typically run a japanese jerk bait or a black and blue jig around boat docks and bridge pilings. Remember to cover a lot of water and keep moving until you get bit. Every bite from a bass will give you information in solving the puzzle to locating fish.
In summary, I try to find fish in the type of cover and areas that I have confidence. I always keep my lure selection for locating fish very simple and let the fish tell me where they are located and what type of presentation they want. Cover a lot of water until you get bit and then slow down. Don't listen to all the dock talk. Do your homework and find your own fish. Trust your instincts, the more you fish the more knowledge you have stored in that grey matter. Two of the best finishes that I had a couple years ago (7th on Grand Lake and 16th at Kentucky Lake) were both on lakes notorious for deep water fishing. I was told that you can't catch them shallow during the summer, but I did!. Remember you can't win a horse race hollering whoa. God Bless and I hope to see you on the water.