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"Learning a New Body of Water"
Darin Roddick-Small

Have you ever noticed that there is always at least one guy in a tournament that seems to spend the whole day running from one end of the lake to the other? I am sure just about everyone has seen these guys in the tournaments that they have fished. I have always found this to be very interesting because it makes me wonder what kind of a pattern this type of person may have. More times than not though, it is more a case of not having a pattern to focus on. Here are a few tips that may help you to lock down a couple of patterns during your next outing, so you are not the “runner”.

Before Heading to the Lake
One mistake that many beginning anglers make, as well as some experienced ones, is to not research the body of water that you are going to be fishing. Weather you are going for the first time, or going back to one of your favorite lakes, there is always something that you can learn before heading back on the water.

Here I will be explaining what I do when I am heading to a body of water that I have not fished before, or one that I have not fished for some time. The first thing I will do is to purchase a good map of the lake if I do not already have one. I am a firm believer that map reading is both an art form, and a skill that can increase your odds of success on any body of water. When looking at a map there are certain things that need to be considered. These would include, but are not limited too, time of year, type of fishery, water level, types of cover in the body of water, water color, forage base and fishing pressure. I know that this may seem overwhelming, but many of these things are interrelated when considering prime fishing locations.

Types of Water
After identifying the main factors that I think will influence the fishes behavior on that body of water, I will start to identify areas on the map that I feel will meet the needs of the fish. Many lakes can be divided into areas based on the type of fishery it is. If you are on a flowage/river system, you can divide it into three regions an upper, middle and the lower region. Each of these areas will have different features, which will lend themselves to different styles of fishing. The lower end will generally be wider with much less current flow, tend to be deeper and will warm slower in the spring (depending on wind direction). The middle will have a better current flow and moderate width and a wide variety of situations that can be fished (current breaks, weeds, gravel and rocks). The upper third of the flowage will be similar to fishing a river. In any of these areas, I would look for tributaries, because current tends to concentrate bass into smaller areas that make them easier to fish.

In natural lakes, I also like to divide it into three areas, shallow, mid depths and deep. Depending on the water clarity, this will determine how to proceed. If the water is muddy to heavily stained, I would start by eliminating the deepest sections of the lake and focus on the mid to shallow depths. If the water is clear, this opens up the option of fishing deep structure and weed lines. One mistake many bass fisherman make when fishing clear natural lakes is to just pound the shorelines. Some of your biggest fish will be hanging out on the deep weed edges, or mid lake structure. To fish these deep water haunts, you will need to have good electronics to find them, but it can be worth it.

The last type would be a river system. One of the factors you need to know in fishing these is the stage of life the

river is in. Is it a fast flowing young river with lots of rapids, or an older well-developed river that has oxbows and lots of backwater sloughs? If it is a younger river, you will be fishing in faster current and will want to try to find current breaks in the form of river bends, fallen trees or rock piles. In older rivers the types of cover will be more diversified to include weed flats, stump fields and wing dams. One of the places I always will look into, weather it is a young, or old river, will be the tailrace of a dam. Many people will avoid these for some reason, but they can be a very productive area to locate bass.

Where should I Look
Depending on your fishing strengths, you should pick an area on the body of water that will benefit you. If you are a strong grass fisherman, you should pick a section on the body of water that will have good weed growth. The mid to upper section of a flowage, the lower end of a river, or the shallower coves and shores of natural lakes will be areas to look at. If like to Pitch plastics, or jigs, you may want to locate areas that have good water depth next to docks and lay down trees. Whatever your strengths are, do not try to fish all of the areas on the lake that look like they may be good. It is important to concentrate on smaller areas of the lake and truly learn that space. Once you understand what the bass want in a small area of the lake, then you have the option of looking in other areas of the lake for similar conditions. By starting with a smaller area, it makes your time on the water more effective due to the fact that you will tune into what the fish want, rather than trying to locate fish that will respond to what you are doing. This is important because we as fisherman need to be willing to adjust to the mood of the fish to maximize our success.

Other Sources of Information
There are many places that you can look to increase your knowledge about specific places to fish and how to fish there. Here are a few that you should check out before going out to a lake, or river for the first time. The local tackle store/bait shop can be an excellent place to start out. More times than not, you can sift through the information that is given to you and get one or two good pieces of advice to try on the lake. A couple things to remember when you are there, would be that if you buy something, the owner might be more willing to give you information. Remember, first and foremost, they are trying to make a living, so they need your business. Also, make sure that you show appreciation for their information. Who knows, they may just be able to give you something extra on your next visit.

Another place to look would be on web sites like this. I get a number of requests from people for information on my home lakes each year. Sometimes I can give them a specific bite that is occurring, or I will even take them for a trip around the lake if I can. What I do for the person will depend on the way the person talks to me. I am more willing to give information if I can sense a level of mutual respect from the other fisherman. Many times that may come in the form of an offer of help with a body of water they may be familiar with. Always be willing to share information to get some back. Remember, locations and techniques don’t catch the fish, it is the fisherman and his/her level of expertise that does.

Another important piece of information that you can get from web sites would be past tournament results. This will help to give you an idea of what it will take to win a tournament, or at least place in the money. Web sites like FLW Outdoors and many of the state bass federation sites will post results of their tournaments for the past few years. Sometimes, they will also post summaries with the results that can give you an idea of the winning pattern, or maybe even the general location that the fish were caught. If you are having trouble locating information on a specific body of water, you can contact a local bait shop to see what organizations hold tournaments on the lake on a regular basis. This will then give you a starting point for your search.

The last place I will sometimes gain information is at the dock. This information needs to be taken with a grain of salt. As we all know, fishermen can sometimes exaggerate what they actually catch, and how well the fish are actually biting. Many times you can gain information on the types of techniques that “work best” on the lake. If it is known for its spinner bait bite, you may want to try a shallow diving crank bait, or a swim jig after you work a spinner bait to see what works best. Even though one bait, or technique works well, be sure to try a variety of other horizontal and vertical presentations to see what works best. Horizontal presentations would include crank baits, jerk baits, spinner baits and swim jigs: while jigs, and worms would be vertical presentations.

After You Get Home
After each fishing trip, I will write in at least two places the results of my fishing experience. I keep a file cabinet full of single sheet fishing logs that are sorted by location and time of year. These sheets of paper will include pictures of important features that I found to hold fish, numbers and size of the fish, what I caught each fish on and the general conditions that I encountered on that day. This will help me to reduce the amount of time that I have to spend researching that lake on the next trip. I also keep a calendar log. In here I write down very general notes about the day and things that I maybe need to focus on in the future. It is sort of my self-help book. None of us are “perfect fishermen”, so it is nice to know what we need to work on.

It is important to remember that all the research in the world will not put the fish in the boat; you still have to be willing to adjust to what the fish are trying to tell you. These are just some things that you can do to help increase your chances for success on the water. The real key is to experiment with a variety of different things once you locate the fish to fine-tune your presentation. One day, a spinner bait may work the best, the next day; it may be a swim jig that puts the quality numbers in the boat. You must let the fish dictate what you through, not the other way around.

God bless and good fishing
Darin Roddick-Small
Brovarney Baits