As the heat of the summer approaches, learning how to read your electronics becomes an important part of figuring out how to consistently find bass. Whether it be an LCD or a flasher, your electronic eyes become your guide to unlocking the potential of deep water. Although some bass will remain shallow year round, a majority of the population of bass will seek the comforts of deep water in the warm summer months. But don't let the word "deep" fool you. In our Jersey waters, deep is often the difference between a two-foot flat and a three foot silted in creek channel.
Once you understand that the word "deep" is a relative term, you can begin the search for the three key elements of any good deep water spot. Structure breaks, cover and bottom composition, and bait are the three key elements that you electronic eyes can help you find. Just as you look for irregularities in the visible water world, so must you look for irregularities in the deeper underwater world.
Structure breaks, often in the form of an old creek channel, is the most important element. Again these breaks and creeks do not have to be major. Many of the old silted in creeks only have a foot or two variation in depth. But the key area in any creek is what's called the channel swings or creek bends. To find these, set your boat directly on top of the deeper creek and try to visualize the direction that the creek takes. While keeping an eye on your electronics, motor forward and use a zig-zag pattern across the creek. The channel swings will look like c or s shape bends in the normally straight course of the creek. Once you find these bends, drop a marker buoy and explore the area further using search baits such as a crankbait or carolina rig.
Cover and bottom composition are the second key elements. Cover in the form of weeds, wood, or rock can be found on your electronics with ease. Any change in the bottom contour can be suspect to be cover. Wood rocks, and stumps look like irregular bumps or squares on the bottom. Weeds often take on a more stringy look coming off the bottom in a very jagged looking masses. Bottom composition can be determined by turning up the gain or sensitivity on your unit. Hard bottoms will present a very thin or light color bottom echo. A soft bottom will show as a very thick or dark bottom echo.
Finding bait is the third important element your electronics can help you find. Schools of bait will congregate in the same creek channel bends we talked about earlier. The presence of bait is critical in attracting numbers of bass. To find bait with your electronics, look for interruptions between the top and bottom echo reading. On an LCD, this will look like big black balls or cloud shapes. On a flasher, you will see a third band between your top and bottom echo. When you find a combination of all three elements we have talked about (creek channel bends, cover, and bait) the result is a load of bass.
In closing, I have to discuss the biggest mistake that people make with electronics today. That is, leaving the unit in automatic mode. In auto mode, most units show any interruption between the top and bottom echo as a fish. This is a big misconception. Air bubbles, weeds, and even thermocline can be mistaken as a fish. In manual mode you have more more control.
Use your electronic eyes wisely and don't get wrapped up in chasing after every blip and bleep you hear or see. I almost never use my electronics to look for actual fish. Rather, I look for the key elements we talked about earlier that will undoubtedly have fish around them!