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stk44

Find the baitfish----->find the bass (deeper water)

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Finding the bait fish is a very basic concept that I tend over-complicate in deeper water. I usually look shallow, and if I see a good bit of bait fish, I will fish the closest structure or cover nearby. I have a hard time when the bait fish are in deeper water, which for me is >12 feet. So basically, I either have a problem: reading sonar (I've researched all the screenshots and articles I could find), effectively fishing deeper water, or both.

I'm using a Garmin echo 150, which is a portable, gray-scale sonar that I use on my kayak. It's not the best, but it's better than nothing. I don't ever recall spotting something worthwhile on my sonar, dropping a marker buoy, and catching a bass. This is something I would like to improve next year.

Here are a few questions that I have:

  1. If I find bait fish, how do I know they aren't just passing by?
  2. How do I know if I should stop and fish an area that I've marked on my graph?
  3. What are some techniques to figure out if you are on an active school of bass before wasting too much time?
  4. How much time should you spend before you move on?

I would appreciate any input on how I can improve this for next year.

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1. I don't know what bait you have but I'll give an example of shad. They are always in a school but when they are still it looks like a round ball on the graph.

2. I'm assuming you mean an area you marked from a past trip. If you can't see fish or bait on that spot you have to ask yourself if there is a reason for them to be in this area(I.e water temp, seasonal pattern, time of day) if you think it lines up with these then fish it. 

3. If the bass are schooled up your job is to make them active even if they weren't before. Only way to know for sure they are active is to see them busting shad or to start catching. Suspended fish are normally inactive and harder to catch

4. Hard to answer as there will be different opinions and situations. 20 to 30 mins depending on the size of the area ( not 30 mins of repeating the same cast)

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I cant explain how the sonar picture looks very well  but  I fish a lot of deep water fish that I spot on my depth finder . I   just see activity . Baitfish in the area  , larger fish  and straight lines that indicate moving [ feeding]  fish . I usually toss a marker buoy and quickly  fire a crankbait that will hit the desired  depth . The red eye Shad bounced on the bottom has quickly became one of my favorite baits for this type of fishing . I have caught hundreds of fish this year with the RES targeting deep fish found on the sonar  The T-rigged plastic worm is often the best lure . Its important to know the running depth of your crankbaits .  I keep it simple and generally use these four crank baits and worms   .  8 to 10 foot a Norman deep little N .10 to 13 foot a Rapala CR14 Crankin rap . 13 to 17 foot a Strike King 6xd .The Red Eye Shad and worms    will cover all depths . I get a lot of dry runs but when I connect , it can be a bass on every cast for several hours .

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58 minutes ago, riverbasser said:

1. I don't know what bait you have but I'll give an example of shad. They are always in a school but when they are still it looks like a round ball on the graph.

2. I'm assuming you mean an area you marked from a past trip. If you can't see fish or bait on that spot you have to ask yourself if there is a reason for them to be in this area(I.e water temp, seasonal pattern, time of day) if you think it lines up with these then fish it. 

3. If the bass are schooled up your job is to make them active even if they weren't before. Only way to know for sure they are active is to see them busting shad or to start catching. Suspended fish are normally inactive and harder to catch

4. Hard to answer as there will be different opinions and situations. 20 to 30 mins depending on the size of the area ( not 30 mins of repeating the same cast)

  1. 1.Primarily gizzard shad and alewife.
  2. I meant if I mark tons of baitfish all day, how do I know which spots to hit and which ones to skip. 
  3. thanks
  4. sounds good

Thanks for the help

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1. When you're driving around looking for bait fish on your sonar, you're really sampling water.  If you see a big school of bait fish on your graph, chances are good that there are many more schools around that aren't in your cone.  Maybe you get unlucky and happen to sample a big school that's just passing through an area, but that's seldom what happens in my experience.  

2. If I see a big blob of bait fish, I drop a waypoint and immediately start fishing.  Note that when you're moving faster, the blobs will appear to be thinner, so you have to make mental adjustments for the speed at which you're traveling.

3. I throw my highest confidence baits, typically in order of fastest retrieve to slowest.  If the bass are keyed in on minnows, my favorite thing to do is cast a swimbait out, let it hit bottom, and slow roll it back.  With this approach, you're covering the entire water column.  If you see bait around, any bass in the area are there to eat, so you know that they're active.  

4. I fish big, not-so-fertile lakes, so finding bait fish isn't always easy.  Whenever I do, I will cruise around the area and cast until I stop marking anything.

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44 minutes ago, scaleface said:

I cant explain how the sonar picture looks very well  but  I fish a lot of deep water fish that I spot on my depth finder . I   just see activity . Baitfish in the area  , larger fish  and straight lines that indicate moving [ feeding]  fish . I usually toss a marker buoy and quickly  fire a crankbait that will hit the desired  depth . The red eye Shad bounced on the bottom has quickly became one of my favorite baits for this type of fishing . I have caught hundreds of fish this year with the RES targeting deep fish found on the sonar  The T-rigged plastic worm is often the best lure . Its important to know the running depth of your crankbaits .  I keep it simple and generally use these four crank baits and worms   .  8 to 10 foot a Norman deep little N .10 to 13 foot a Rapala CR14 Crankin rap . 13 to 17 foot a Strike King 6xd .The Red Eye Shad and worms    will cover all depths . I get a lot of dry runs but when I connect , it can be a bass on every cast for several hours .

Thanks for the info. Do you slowly crawl the RES on the bottom or do you yo-yo it? I don't have much confidence in yo-yo-ing lipless cranks, but if that's what you mean, I'll definitely give it a try. 

In general, would you target these schools with a crank bait, and if there are no active feeders move on? Or do you do another passing run with a slower moving bait like a T-rig?

8 minutes ago, portiabrat said:

1. When you're driving around looking for bait fish on your sonar, you're really sampling water.  If you see a big school of bait fish on your graph, chances are good that there are many more schools around that aren't in your cone.  Maybe you get unlucky and happen to sample a big school that's just passing through an area, but that's seldom what happens in my experience.  

2. If I see a big blob of bait fish, I drop a waypoint and immediately start fishing.  Note that when you're moving faster, the blobs will appear to be thinner, so you have to make mental adjustments for the speed at which you're traveling.

3. I throw my highest confidence baits, typically in order of fastest retrieve to slowest.  If the bass are keyed in on minnows, my favorite thing to do is cast a swimbait out, let it hit bottom, and slow roll it back.  With this approach, you're covering the entire water column.  If you see bait around, any bass in the area are there to eat, so you know that they're active.  

4. I fish big, not-so-fertile lakes, so finding bait fish isn't always easy.  Whenever I do, I will cruise around the area and cast until I stop marking anything.

  1. Great- that is a confidence booster for me right there. I have a hard time visualizing what I can't see, but that definitely helps.
  2. This will be a little easier for me. I currently fish out of a kayak only.
  3. sounds simple enough- thanks
  4. The lake I fish is about 3,000 acres and it is fertile. only in shallow water after turnover can I usually see baitfish unless they are in the top 6 inches of the water column or busting the surface.

Thanks for the help!

 

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20 minutes ago, stk44 said:

Thanks for the info. Do you slowly crawl the RES on the bottom or do you yo-yo it? I don't have much confidence in yo-yo-ing lipless cranks, but if that's what you mean, I'll definitely give it a try. 

In general, would you target these schools with a crank bait, and if there are no active feeders move on? Or do you do another passing run with a slower moving bait like a T-rig?

I will hop the Red eyed shad like a worm or swim it a little bit then let it drop . The RES is fantastic . When it is falling , it shimmys and makes a clicking noise . If the fish stop hitting it I then switch to a silent model . My biggest bass of the year came on a silent RES chrome and blue hopped like a worm 20 foot deep .

 If the fish are on known good structure I spend a lot of time there before giving up . Maybe thirty minutes . If the fish are just on a featureless bottom I will usually make just a few cast with a crankbait   then move on . One day this summer I got on a large school on such a bottom . After the action was over I scanned  the area and found a creek channel nearby that I didnt know was there . You can bet I will hit every inch of that channel next summer . I will mark it with multiple buoys , fish it ,  then  move them . I cant wait .

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Just now, scaleface said:

I will hop the Red eyed shad like a worm or swim it a little bit then let it drop .

 If the fish are on known good structure I spend a lot of time there before giving up . Maybe thirty minutes . If the fish are just on a featureless bottom I will usually make just a few cast and then move on . One day this summer I got on a large school on such a bottom . After the action was over I scanned  the area and found a creek channel nearby that I didnt know was there . You can bet I will hit every inch of that channel next summer . I will mark it with multiple buoys , fish it ,  then  move them . I cant wait .

That sounds more like my style. I have some 5/8 6th sense 75's that can handle that well.

That sounds good, It's always a little more complicated out of a kayak because I have to drop a buoy, re-position my boat and throw out the anchor, which doesn't sound like much but... it's always more complicated in a kayak. I would at least like to get some experience out of the kayak though. I have a plans to get a bass boat in the Spring of 2018, can't wait.

I'm going to give this a shot this weekend. The fish are more than likely in their winter pattern's so I won't be too disheartened if I don't connect with any. I was still catching them last weekend in 47 degree water so hopefully I can get lucky.

I really appreciate the help, and I always enjoy the feedback!

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22 minutes ago, stk44 said:

That sounds more like my style. I have some 5/8 6th sense 75's that can handle that well.

That sounds good, It's always a little more complicated out of a kayak because I have to drop a buoy, re-position my boat and throw out the anchor, which doesn't sound like much but... it's always more complicated in a kayak. I would at least like to get some experience out of the kayak though. I have a plans to get a bass boat in the Spring of 2018, can't wait.

I'm going to give this a shot this weekend. The fish are more than likely in their winter pattern's so I won't be too disheartened if I don't connect with any. I was still catching them last weekend in 47 degree water so hopefully I can get lucky.

I really appreciate the help, and I always enjoy the feedback!

Water temp in the 40's is a game changer .  The tactics above were used in much warmer water . A-Jay needs to weigh in .. He slays them in cold water .

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thank you for your service!

-Crusty

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All of the info offered is good advice,,.... with colder waters just change the lures some and slow down. A bladebait like a sonar or silver buddy used like the red eyed shad. The res might still work but i go to the blades. a hairjig with a pork trailer jigged slowly on the bottom is good in cold water too, as well as a deep diving suspending jerkbait.,..when you drop the marker bouy, forget the anchor, the less to get caught on, and you dont want to spook the fish either. 

Furthermore, coldwater? in a kayak? be careful out there, hypothermia sets in quick with water temps in mid 40's

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I fish lakes with what I consider too much bait. If I see a cloud of bait, I know there's no reason to fish it. Bait with predatory fish underneath them (striper or largemouth)? Sometimes I can catch those but often they are just staying near their food source so that when they get hungry they can get after it. 

 

I don't get excited unless I see a cloud of bait that is being broken up by fish with lines going every which way and small clouds of bait mixed in with them! Then it's game on.

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46 minutes ago, "hamma" said:

All of the info offered is good advice,,.... with colder waters just change the lures some and slow down. A bladebait like a sonar or silver buddy used like the red eyed shad. The res might still work but i go to the blades. a hairjig with a pork trailer jigged slowly on the bottom is good in cold water too, as well as a deep diving suspending jerkbait.,..when you drop the marker bouy, forget the anchor, the less to get caught on, and you dont want to spook the fish either. 

Furthermore, coldwater? in a kayak? be careful out there, hypothermia sets in quick with water temps in mid 40's

I have some 1/2 oz spoons I might try out. I'm not sure if that is considered a blade bait or not. 

If I don't anchor the kayak I will drift out of position rather quickly, but I won't anchor if I can get away with it. 

You're right about the water temp. It's a risk I take, but me being miserable and not fishing is a lot riskier. In all seriousness though, I take every precaution to stay as safe as I possibly can. I wear a life jacket, with a whistle attached. I always have a buddy with me below 50 degrees and usually don't kayak alone anyways. I have extra clothes in  a dry bag in case I fall in. 

10 minutes ago, everythingthatswims said:

I fish lakes with what I consider too much bait. If I see a cloud of bait, I know there's no reason to fish it. Bait with predatory fish underneath them (striper or largemouth)? Sometimes I can catch those but often they are just staying near their food source so that when they get hungry they can get after it. 

 

I don't get excited unless I see a cloud of bait that is being broken up by fish with lines going every which way and small clouds of bait mixed in with them! Then it's game on.

One thing I've noticed most everyone post is to look for the fish lines Moving towards baitfish. Why do some people tell you to look for the fish arches then? 

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12' of water isn't deep generally speaking.

Sonar unit you have looks down has a cone shape coverage area, like a spot light, anything outside that cone the sonar doesn't see. If we use the 20-30 degree cone angle the bottom at 12' is about 4' diameter  area, 6' it's 2' diameter area or 1/3rd the depth, small target areas to determine what is actually nearby.

Bait fish like Shad only form into tight balls for defensive reasons, a ball looks big to a predator. The Shad normally travel in a cloud shap school or stretched out in a loose school when not being attacked by predators. Best way is to look for the in the water using your eyes and birds that feed on the bait fish. Sonar is a good search tool, but the the type you have limits the area you get signal returns, you would have to drive directly over the school without scattering them as you approached  6' to 12' of water.

Knowing when to hold them or fold them takes experience. There isn't a canned answer to your question because seasonal periods change what bass are doing, need to have a basic knowledge of bass behavior. 

12' of water a surface lure works, a jerk bait works, spinner bait works and med depth crank baits works. Try all of them until you find active bass.

Tom

 

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To me Side Imaging is the Ultimate search tool giving u the ability to see far to your left & right & a lot more!

 

 

 

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48 minutes ago, chadmack282 said:

To me Side Imaging is the Ultimate search tool giving u the ability to see far to your left & right & a lot more!

And if you add the 360 imaging - you're looking forward as well.

A-Jay

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The OP has a Garmin 150 portable unit.

Tom

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2 hours ago, WRB said:

12' of water isn't deep generally speaking.

Sonar unit you have looks down has a cone shape coverage area, like a spot light, anything outside that cone the sonar doesn't see. If we use the 20-30 degree cone angle the bottom at 12' is about 4' diameter  area, 6' it's 2' diameter area or 1/3rd the depth, small target areas to determine what is actually nearby.

Bait fish like Shad only form into tight balls for defensive reasons, a ball looks big to a predator. The Shad normally travel in a cloud shap school or stretched out in a loose school when not being attacked by predators. Best way is to look for the in the water using your eyes and birds that feed on the bait fish. Sonar is a good search tool, but the the type you have limits the area you get signal returns, you would have to drive directly over the school without scattering them as you approached  6' to 12' of water.

Knowing when to hold them or fold them takes experience. There isn't a canned answer to your question because seasonal periods change what bass are doing, need to have a basic knowledge of bass behavior. 

12' of water a surface lure works, a jerk bait works, spinner bait works and med depth crank baits works. Try all of them until you find active bass.

Tom

 

The only use my sonar for me is solely as a depth finder. If I'm fishing a weed line or a point, I will tie on the appropriate lure based on my reading.

My go to spot this weekend is going to be a long tapering point that goes into 20-22 feet of water. Will that be a good depth for my sonar to be used effectively?

In short, would you say unless I see a ball of baitfish, don't even bother to stop and fish unless it is a likely spot to hold bass? Also, what about individual fish arches , should I ever stop to fish those? 

As always, thank you for the help.

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32 minutes ago, Wayne P. said:

Look for ACTIVITY, unorganized schools, not organized schools. These will cover most technologies:

S00491_zpsrq7fine4.png

S00489_zpsufms19kx.png

wpt_44745208775274_1211155033_zps5ukxauv

S00289_zpsabaf1bde.png

S00287_zpsacbf2660.png

S00313_zps59af05a0.jpg

S00431_zpsfe676d8e.png

This might be a stupid question but if I don't ask I'll never know for sure: Screen shot 1 would be an unorganized school and screen shot number 2 would be organized? And the reasoning behind this would be an unorganized school is currently being ambushed by predatory fish while an organized school may be regrouping with predatory fish hanging out until they get hungry again?

The side imaging screen shots are awesome, I just don't have that type of technology yet. I'm not even sure what I'm looking at in the last screen shot I would guess anywhere between a black hole or some fish. 

2 hours ago, chadmack282 said:

To me Side Imaging is the Ultimate search tool giving u the ability to see far to your left & right & a lot more!

 

 

 

Spring 2018... until then, no bass boat, no fancy sonar...

1 hour ago, A-Jay said:

And if you add the 360 imaging - you're looking forward as well.

A-Jay

AJ, I don't think this thing does that :(IMG_0921.PNG

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5 minutes ago, stk44 said:

This might be a stupid question but if I don't ask I'll never know for sure: Screen shot 1 would be an unorganized school and screen shot number 2 would be organized? And the reasoning behind this would be an unorganized school is currently being ambushed by predatory fish while an organized school may be regrouping with predatory fish hanging out until they get hungry again?

The side imaging screen shots are awesome, I just don't have that type of technology yet. I'm not even sure what I'm looking at in the last screen shot I would guess anywhere between a black hole or some fish. 

Spring 2018... until then, no bass boat, no fancy sonar...

AJ, I don't think this thing does that :(IMG_0921.PNG

No Sir I don't believe it does - no worries though.

You'll get it when you get it.

A-Jay

 

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There an old saying the fall = flats and fall down, spring up. Why flats in the fall, that is usually where the bait is located. Fall down is usually the direction the bass are moving, shallow towards the deeper water. Now may be a fall to winter transition period where you fish and points are good areas during transitions.

My routine that works for me is checking the marina area to determine the depth bait and bass are in. If I can determine what depth to start fishing it's a big advantage in lure selection and where to go. The way I search a point is starting near shore at the base and fishing out along one side towards deeper water using 3 different types of lures, surface, mid range and bottom and let the bass decide what they prefer.

After fishing a point, then slowly meter it following the same path you fished to see if anything is there, like bait or bass. Make a wide circle loop at the deep end of the point before metering the opposite side, most of the time you will find something that helps to determine what depth to fish.

Suspended marks are usually inactive fish, marks near the structure within a foot are almost always active bass, take note of that depth and return later knowing exactly where to cast your lures. That is how you start to develop patterns.

Tom

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20 minutes ago, stk44 said:

This might be a stupid question but if I don't ask I'll never know for sure: Screen shot 1 would be an unorganized school and screen shot number 2 would be organized? And the reasoning behind this would be an unorganized school is currently being ambushed by predatory fish while an organized school may be regrouping with predatory fish hanging out until they get hungry again?

The side imaging screen shots are awesome, I just don't have that type of technology yet. I'm not even sure what I'm looking at in the last screen shot I would guess anywhere between a black hole or some fish. 

Spring 2018... until then, no bass boat, no fancy sonar...

AJ, I don't think this thing does that :(IMG_0921.PNG

No, every screen shot has active feeding going on. Image two shows some of the ones that were on the bottom like the others are trying to avoid being lunch. 

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12 minutes ago, WRB said:

There an old saying the fall = flats and fall down, spring up. Why flats in the fall, that is usually where the bait is located. Fall down is usually the direction the bass are moving, shallow towards the deeper water. Now may be a fall to winter transition period where you fish and points are good areas during transitions.

My routine that works for me is checking the marina area to determine the depth bait and bass are in. If I can determine what depth to start fishing it's a big advantage in lure selection and where to go. The way I search a point is starting near shore at the base and fishing out along one side towards deeper water using 3 different types of lures, surface, mid range and bottom and let the bass decide what they prefer.

After fishing a point, then slowly meter it following the same path you fished to see if anything is there, like bait or bass. Make a wide circle loop at the deep end of the point before metering the opposite side, most of the time you will find something that helps to determine what depth to fish.

Suspended marks are usually inactive fish, marks near the structure within a foot are almost always active bass, take note of that depth and return later knowing exactly where to cast your lures. That is how you start to develop patterns.

Tom

Thanks for the tips.

In the fall I've chased the shad into the backs of the creek arms and I've caught some nice 3-4 lb fish. Over the last few weeks, the water temperature has dropped from 55 degrees to around 45 degrees (surface temp.) Do the shad eventually go back out into the main lake or do they stay in the backs of creeks for winter? I know most years there will be a shad die off, but I don't know at what point that occurs. 

12 minutes ago, Wayne P. said:

No, every screen shot has active feeding going on. Image two shows some of the ones that were on the bottom like the others are trying to avoid being lunch. 

Ok, great. Thanks for the help. Do you usually keep the fish icons turned on? I wonder if that would help me out. 

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Alewife are not affected by cold water, Threadfin can't survive water colder than 45 degrees and not sure about Gizzard Shad, the adults are too big for bass, only the juvenile Gizzard Shad under 10"-12"  are good bass forage.

The screen shots are from highend sonar units, your Garmin can't separate signals near or on the bottom and fish ID icons will show up on any suspended target strong enough to return a signal; air/gas bobbles, perch, crappie, carp, bass and anything with air bladder for example.

Tom

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