The tip of the tightly-arched Shimano mooching rod
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Fishing Smallmouth Bass in New WatersBy Arne Pedersen,
As I pull on the starter cord the motor flashes-up. The throttle is on and the motor has not fully warmed-up, but I can feel the burning anticipation of a hot day´s bass fishing. I head toward the middle of the lake leaving the rat race behind me. I don not want to think, I just want to fish. Usually I have a well thought out and very logical gameplan organized the night before. So far, this very logical plan consists of the last 30 seconds of thought, as my boat blasts across the water. I won´t know where I will stop and fish until I get there.
So, where will this so-called plan come from? Good question! I´m on a new lake, which I have not fished before. What do I do, just simply stop anywhere and start fishing without further thought? No, of course not! Here is what I will do.
First things first. What time of year is it? It´s summer. What´s the water temperature? It´s 74 degrees surface temperature. Ok, now we have a couple of details, but we need more. What are the weather conditions? The previous week and a half has had slight wind and partially cloudy periods, but mainly sunny. Relatively stable conditions overall.
Am I getting carried away with details? If you believe I am, let me ask you this — do you want to consistently catch more fish? Of course you do. Don´t we all? If we do our homework we will catch more fish. It only makes sense.
Now, let´s continue examining the conditions and details of this new lake. What is the water clarity? It´s 12 feet (which was determined by lowering a white lure into the water and letting it sink till it was out of sight). Are there many weeds in the lake? There is milfoil, cabbage, coontail, and lily pads. The outside weed edge seems to break up and disappear at about 14 feet of water (so my depth finder indicates). What kind of bottom composition does the lake have? With further experimentation with my depth finder and bouncing my anchor on the bottom in various locations, I have concluded that the lake has gravel, bedrock, small rocks, blue clay and lots of muck.
Have we heard enough yet? Perhaps for some readers, but lets dwell into the conditions a little further. What other forage fish does the lake support? From previous research, I had learned that the lake contains sculpin minnows, trout, smallmouth bass, carp and pumpkinseed. It also contains chironomids and a good population of crayfish. Ok, now we have a substantial amount of helpful information.
Now that I have done some beneficial research, I´m now ready to catch some bass. With the great deal of information I have gathered, my chances of catching fish have increased, as I plan out my options. I will plan to fish a variety of areas and depths primarily over hard bottom. I am going to concentrate on areas where the same depth contours extend offshore more than the surrounding shoreline, as well as any other obvious structure I can find. I will be fishing crankbaits up shallow, then progressing to the outside weed edge. I will also try suspending jerk baits and a light carolina rig in the same areas. If nothing happens, then I will move deeper-out off the same structure and go with open head jigs (such as tubes and grubs) and bump or swim them along the bottom.
If there is too much wind to sit, I´ll double anchor. If I contact fish, then I will search out similar structures elsewhere, and try to establish a pattern. If I don´t contact fish, I will search out different types of structure and begin all over again. The point is to experiment. Fish each possible area thoroughly before moving to a new location. Fish as many different types of structures as you can find to determine what type of areas and patterns the fish are on. You don´t have to get carried away with too many lures, just make sure they are designed for the type of areas and depths you will be fishing. For example, don´t use shallow-diving crankbaits to try and cover the bottom in over 20 feet of water. Use a lure that can properly work for a given situation.
Now suppose you had gone to this same lake and fished casually for whatever would bite. You may have very well caught some good fish. However, if you do as much research on and off the water as possible, you will not only increase your chances of success, but you will also learn a great deal.
I always keep detailed records of each time on the water (which has become a bible of sorts for me). Keep as thorough records as possible, as there can never be a shortage of this type of valuable information. Once you have collected a few years of records, you can compare one season to another. By doing this, you can start to fill in the gaps and get a good indication of where the fish can be found on a more consistent basis. Each year the gaps between calendar periods (cycles within a fishing season based on water temperature) begin to unfold and make more sense, slowly increasing your chances for year-round success.
Now you can go out on the water, have fun catching more fish, and learn some interesting things along the way!