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Where's The Bass?

Where's The Bass? Don't know what look for when it comes to locating bass when you're on a new lake? Discover the best places to start inside!

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Where's the what? Where's the bass! How many of us anglers (tournament and recreational) go to a body of water you've never fished before, drop the boat in the water, then ask this question to yourself? This is probably one of the biggest topics in bass fishing that an angler should learn more about. I generally receive about two hundred (give or take) emails and phone calls each week from anglers, prospective bass fishing school students, and charter clients from all over the nation (even some from foreign countries) asking me many different questions related to bass fishing. Out of all of these questions, I would have to say that about sixty-five percent of them would be on how to locate bass in their area or on a body of water that they have never fished before. I would comfortably say that locating bass and understanding the water would be the number one topic among bass anglers today. The next most asked question would be is which baits they should use to catch "big" bass.
   Now when you think about it, there is really only two main topics that go hand-in-hand when it comes to bass fishing. If you understood more about these two, you would definitely become a much better angler, and they are:

  • Knowing how to locate bass.
  • Knowing how to catch bass using all the different techniques, presentations, and baits.

Learning how to locate bass can be somewhat of a challenge to most anglers because there are so many different factors that need to be determined such as:

  • Knowing how to read a map.
  • Knowing the most practical places to look for "Active Bass" just after cold fronts and during early spring and late fall periods.
  • Understanding water depth.
  • Water clarity.
  • Water temperatures.
  • Seasonal patterns.
  • Locating structure areas.
  • Finding vegetation areas.

Believe me, there are more! Being a consistent bass angler is so much more than just getting in your boat, hitting the water, and casting your baits. That's why bass tournaments are so competitive and exciting, because the more you learn about locating bass the quicker you can start catching them right? And hey, isn't that half the battle?
   Let's start by looking at a lake map. There are two general types of lake maps that most anglers will use - the "Hot Spot" and the "Topographical" maps. The differences between the two is that a "Topo" map shows more detail, and the "Hot Spots" map shows more fishing spots (well, at least they're supposed to).
   The secret, or key, in learning how to use a lake map would be to sector the map. What I mean by this is that I will take the map and study it for a moment, looking for areas where the fish would most likely be. Next, I will divide the map in sections using a highlighter, based on how much time I have to pre-fish for a tournament or how many days I have to just fish the body of water for fun. The size of the sections will vary depending on contours, structure, and how many places I may want to check out during the course of the day based on what the map shows me. I am certainly not one to just cast a bait into the water and work it for five minutes and leave, I will try an assortment of baits if I see signs of fish in any given area to try to establish a working pattern.
   Here are some key elements I usually look for when it comes to locating bass on any given body of water:

  1. Vegetation areas.
  2. Irregular contours.
  3. Shallow water close to deep water areas.
  4. Points and point drops.
  5. Various types of structure.

Let's take the first one: VEGETATION. This is by far my favorite because you will usually find more congregated bass in vegetation than anywhere else on the whole body of water. Remember, a bass needs three things to survive and that is food, oxygen, and cover (or structure). That's it, and vegetation offers it all! Now, you might be thinking, "Well, what if there's no vegetation?" Then simply go to the other elements 2, 3, 4, and 5 that I mentioned above.
   Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but, how many of you anglers fish the weed lines and never go in the midst of the weeds? I can't tell you how many times (while showing my students how to fish weeds) that we will go to weedy areas just to see other anglers fish the outside weed lines for a while, and then, watch them move on. After they pull away from the outside weed area, I will pull the boat up into the midst of the weeds (in the same areas where these other anglers were fishing) and start catching bass -- usually nice quality ones.
   I have known many anglers over the years that have just hated to pull up weeds, or they don't like when they get weeds on their boat carpets or in their boats, or they just get tired of picking the weeds off their hooks. Well guess what? I'll suffer through these bothersome weeds any day of the week because that's where you will usually find the bass in numbers.
   There are several different baits and techniques that can be a bit tricky to use when fishing weedy areas and I won't go into them right now, but keep in mind that weeds (especially when you find several different types of vegetation in one area) are by far my number one choice to fish than all the other areas combined. One of the best places you'll find bass would be in vegetation areas, especially if you have different types of structure in the weeds, and even better yet, if this weedy, structured, area is close to where the shallow water meets the deep water. Boy-O-Boy! Hold on! Try it, you'll like it!
   Now, if you can't seem to find any vegetation areas on your body of water, then, look for the structure. Structure can consist of many different things like:

  • Rip-Rap (chunk rock areas)
  • Overhangs (where tree branches hang over the water)
  • Docks
  • Stumps
  • Irregular contours
  • Rocky areas
  • Road beds
  • Ditches

So really, just about anything other than the flat, smooth, bottoms that offer nothing at all (which are a waste of time to fish anyway) would be considered as structure areas.
   I hope this article has given you better incite on what to look for when it comes to locating bass. I know that what I have shared with you certainly helps me, and I hope that it can help you to!

The Bass Coach
Route-1 Box-65, Pearl Street
Crown Point, NY 12928
(518) 597-4240
Website: The Bass Coach
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