Fishing Older Reservoirs
These simple reminders and tips for fishing older water can help you enjoy your local lake
By Earl Golding
A sizeable number of reservoirs fall into the category of being old lakes. Over the years, bass fishermen have become more knowledgeable about how to fish them. These old lakes have, for the most part, held up well and are still providing fishing recreation.
History tells us that as lakes get older, better fishing is often found on the upper ends. There are some old lakes in which 70 to 90 percent of the catches are made on the upper end of the lake. I know some good fishermen who seldom bother to check out the lower ends at all.
But this isn't always the case. Because of aquatic vegetation, the best catching on some takes will often be found in the mid-lake area.
Find the structure
Remember that structure in an old lake isn't as plentiful as it was when the lake was young. On older lakes, structure is limited and bass are known to hold very close to it.
When fishing older lakes it's best to approach any structure with care and caution. Don't spook the fish. Remember that scatter-shooting casts won't work on old lakes. Fish all the available structure very carefully and thoroughly. Your results will be much better, especially if you hit the target area, not five feet from it.
When the lake was young, it may have had a lot of timber. But now, there's much less. Find out, or remember, where that old timber was and fish those areas thoroughly. Some of it will remain. It's still down there. It's smaller and deteriorated, but it might just be holding a stack of bass.
Profit from exposure
The more you fish a lake, the more you will learn where bass will be during certain times of the year. You can benefit from spending time on a few close lakes, even if they are old-timers, rather than running all over the state to fish newer waters.
Fish the shad
I know anglers who start observing shad concentrations closely each November. Every time they go to the lake they try to locate schools of shad and fish them. They know, sooner or later, bass will start working these schools.
Bob Davis fished concentrations of shad on Whitney for two months without much action. But he kept working the shad schools and he and his partners won three tournaments in three different clubs. They averaged 20 pounds in one-day tournaments. Davis has always said if he can't find shad in the cold months, he is probably going to have tough fishing.
Look for vegetation
Even during winter, you can find hydrilla, lily pads and other aquatic vegetation including "smart weed" on lakes. If you find moss or any other kind of vegetation in the cold months, fish it.
This factor is more important when you're fishing older lakes than at any other time. In new lakes you will believe you just have to keep chunking and winding and sooner or later you will find fish. In old reservoirs it's easier to think the old lake is "fished out." It isn't. Keep a positive attitude and sometimes you will be surprised how well you can do on an old reservoir, which doesn't deserve the title of "Has Been."
Don't spook the fish
I know I said this earlier, but take me seriously. In an older lake fish are harder to catch because of all the generations before that "learned" what noises and "signs" weren't good or safe. In most predator/prey relationships, the prey species very often develops a resistance to predation. That means that over a period of time, "catchability" decreases although the lake might still have a strong population of fish.
Buddy Bradley has always put special emphasis on not spooking fish. If you saw him on a lake, you weren't going to see him sitting in one of those elevated casting chairs. He didn't have one in his boat. His theory is that bass are sought from above the water from the time they are hatched by wading birds, ospreys and men wearing bright clothes. He is the only fisherman I know who always wears olive drab clothing with a dark green cap while on the lake.
Don't spook the fish with a noisy cast
The most critical part of the cast is the point of contact, when the lure hits the water. When fishing old lakes, many fishermen will use the lightest weight possible and concentrate on accuracy. Practice making quiet entries into the water with your baits. It will pay off particularly well in old lakes.
When fishing clear lakes, you can't work nearly as close to your fish either. A long cast is beneficial especially when using surface plugs.
Any structure or cover attracts fish
If you are a regular at an old lake you don't need to be reminded to concentrate on fishing around boat docks and piers. They attract bass. As a lake gets older, bass move shallower as deep holes silt in and oxygen runs out.
If you no longer visit the local old lake, go back and give it a try every now and then. It might just surprise you. Just remember it may not be young, but the fish are there.
Editors Note: Papa Earl Golding has been writing for Honey Hole magazine since it began back in 1985. We have been proud to publish his words of wisdom and bass fishing lore and intend to continue to do so for as long as he writes them down and sends them to us.
The history of Texas bass fishing would be lacking without his name among the pages. In 50 years he wrote some 10,000 articles for the Waco Tribune-Herald. He was inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame at Athens (a well-deserved honor) in 1998 and retired from his regular outdoors column in the newspaper in 1999, but will continue to write a weekly column.
Earl and Martha Golding are the mother and father of bass fishing in Texas and we love them very much.