Originally published in GoFish Cam blog.
Fishing is an art and a science!
As a bass angler, I find that locating the perfect spots is both an art and a science. The definition of art is a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice. Science is just as much a part by its defined as the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experimentation.
One of the most difficult questions to get a straight answer to and most asked question of any professional angler is how do you find fish on a body of water? Most answers are usually vague at best, if you get an answer at all. Fishing is an extremely competitive sport that is full of secrets and social clicks. Although competition is fierce, fishing pressure is even more fierce. No one wants to find those good spots that produce quality fish on a regular basis to find someone on top of it day in and day out. What I want to quickly sum up is ten ways to scope that perfect spot so you yourself can find fish like a pro.
1. Quality Maps & Electronics
If you want to make quick work in finding productive fish, you almost always have to start with topographic maps and sonar. Most modern electronics, such as a high end Lowrance Carbon or their more affordable but very effective Elite Ti unit will give you eyes on the bottom. You must be able to see bottom structure as well as possible baitfish and contours. Some anglers with CHIRP technology use them to locate and catch fish like they are playing a video game. Drop-shotting is a great choice for this technique.
2. Time on the water
There is no substitute for time on the water. You need time to perfect your use and knowledge of using your electronics. You also need time on the water to practice locating fish. All the reading and studying cannot substitute for hard work and persistence. With the use of a GoFish Cam hooked to your Lowrance graph, you can actually see what your sonar is picking up. Gaining confidence that what you see on your graph is actually down there will increase your chances of success and enjoyment of the sport.
3. Seasonal Patterns
Take time to study seasonal patterns. Knowing where the majority of the fish should be is key. You can nearly count 100% on the fish following their food source. For instance, in the supper the shad will be on the main lake points, but later in the fall, they move into the back of the creeks. Where do you think the bass will be? You guessed it, where the dinner bell rings often.
4. Fishing Pressure
This is probably one of the most unthought of reasons why you may be unsuccessful on that Saturday or Sunday when you got a chance to head out to your favorite lake. With the popularity of fishing going strong, there are more and more people on the lake. If you are on a heavy pressured lake, bass that would usually haunt the shallows will move out at the sound of a motor, trolling motor or even your sonar. Turning around and fishing out away from the bank may prove to be more productive. I have seen this first hand.
Structure consists of many forms and is defined as the arrangement of and relations between the parts or elements of something complex. Lakes, ponds and rivers are all very complex in nature and have many forms of structure fish relate to. Bass will always relate to structure as structure is like a highway system. This is changes in contour, creek channels, ledges and drop-offs, humps or dips. Any change in the lay of the bottom is structure and forms the first piece of the puzzle to finding more fish.
Cover is the complementary component to structure. Cover is defined as undergrowth, trees, or other vegetation used as a shelter by animals and definitely fish. For bass, cover is protection from larger fish, an ambush point for smaller prey as well as a comfort zone. A valued secret that I will share is if you find two types of structure where there are two types of cover, you can guarantee there are fish.
7. Creek bends
One very productive type of structure is creek bends and junctions. Look to the outside edge of a creek bend or where two or more creeks come together where there is greater current. These are bass superhighways that allow them to move from dept to dept to get a meal and back to rest. Many times, bass will suspend over deeper creek junctions when they are not in a feeding pattern. This is where a crankbait fished over the same area over and over can be the enticer needed to get a bite.
8. Main and secondary lake points
Lake points, especially ones that flow farther out at specific depths are key areas to concentrate. In the winter and summer months, main lake points are the most productive where secondary points are more productive in the fall and spring. Main lake points are where the bass hang out. The secondary points are used for travelling to the backs of creeks and pockets for feeding or breeding. Once these are no longer productive, they will move back to the main lake points.
There are areas in the lake that will concentrate fish. As they feed, they will move along a specific depth they find comfortable. With this in mind, you can map and graph areas in that range around structure such as bridges, jetties and other areas that force the fish into a smaller path at the specific depth they want to be in.
10. 8-15 rule
If you are fun fishing and just after that school of 1 pounders, that is great. Hit the banks and cover some water. There are always shallow water fish, which are generally smaller than desired for the tournament angler. If you are looking for bass over 5lbs, you should concentrate on water that is between eight to fifteen feet in depth. There are three levels of water you can fish. This mid-range level will produce the highest percentage of large fish and is patternable. If you are looking for a creek that is thirty-five or forty feet deep, you can almost guarantee the fish suspended between eight and fifteen feet are quality-sized bass. Generally resting and harder to catch, but when size matters, this is where you want to be.
I hope this information will be helpful. There are volumes that could be said about each one of the topics. If you want to scope that perfect spot, following these ten ways of dissecting a body of water would improve your chances of finding catchable bass.