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reerok

How to Improve? Locating Fish

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Glenn's Fishing Goals thread got me thinking... (And sorry for the loooooong post).

As my 2016 bass season has ended here in Ohio, it's time to put in the work and study during the offseason to be a better angler next year. I like to review what I learned this past year, what I was successful at, and most importantly what weaknesses I can improve.  

The answer to that last question is clearly: I need to learn how to locate fish on a lake.  While I'm constantly improving the technical side of fishing (casting, boat control, lure choice for specific conditions, etc) I am total garbage at showing up at the lake and knowing where to go to find the fish.  And I say that with a decent amount of knowledge of the lake given that I have a boat on it and fish 95% of the time on that lake.  

So I need your help: what can I do to improve my skills at locating fish?  I had way too many days on the water this past summer putting in 8+ hour sessions and catching 1, 2, or sometimes no fish.  It was frustrating.  I know I can improve technique but I'm much better than I used to be.  It felt more like I was fishing where the fish weren't, beating banks that held nothing.  And so I want to learn how to be a whole lot better at reading conditions and eliminating areas instead of wasting time fishing unproductive waters.

A little background:

  • I fish an 1800 acre man made impoundment. It's 9.9 hp limited and I have a 17.5' Tracker decently outfitted with GPS/DI/Sonar electronics.
  • The lake is long and narrow (40+ miles of shoreline), relatively shallow (20-25 ft main lake typical depths), typically stained water (less than 1 ft vis), has almost no grass in it, filled with great shore cover (mostly lay downs, some boulder sections), and has only a few very sparse and thin lilly pad areas.  Here's a link to the lake: http://webapp.navionics.com/#boating@10&key=azvtFh_vnN
  • LM bass are the target.  DNR claims there are smallies although I've never seen one in fishing for over 10 years.

So this thread isn't specific to that lake (although I'd take any advice you have regarding it).  It really is about this:  How do I improve my skills at locating fish on any given day?  

I have all winter to study, read, and learn and I'd love your collective knowledge to get me started.

Thanks and fish on.

-reerok

 

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That's one good looking lake!

Boat docks, roadbeds, bridges, riprap, creek channels, & more!

Let me study a little more & I'll be back ;)

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It really is one of the fishier looking places I've ever been. The shoreline is covered with great looking laydowns. And then there's everything you've mentioned. I do believe that a lot of the bottom cover has silted over tho as I have yet to find any of the bridges that navionics has marked. Granted I just got a DI fish finder mid summer so I haven't had much chance to hunt the bridges and road beds down with the better electronics. 

Thanks for your input, Catt. Looking forward to your thoughts. 

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Will also take a look, the major point by the dam with the road bed is where would start, that is where the biggest bass usually live. The area where the 2 submerged bridges with Y road mid lake looks good, lots of steep walls, points, a few coves and tapered points with deep water access I would spend some time surveying and fishing there because it has everything needed to figure out a pattern. Multiple structure elements close together are easier to fish.

This small lake has lots of structure elements to study. 

Tom

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Got my popcorn and watching this one ?

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There are many truly outstanding books & articles on this subject. Some good ones right here in the BR article section. Over the years I’ve read quite a few.  There’s a lot to know & learn about locating bass.  I’ll also say that reading about it and then applying it is not that easy, at least for me anyway.  There’s quite a bit of trial & error as it seems much of the bass in my local waters have not read the same publications . . .

Seriously, although I try to keep it all as simple as I can, sometimes it doesn’t feel so simple.  And as the wide variety of variables are added in, this simple act of bass location starts looking and feeling more & more complicated.

Beyond what are semi-predictable seasonal patterns, the day to day (or even hour to hour) location has always been one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle for me.  Often I feel that IF I can find them, I can usually get at least a bite or two.   

 In today’s Information filled world, and depending on the body of water, there are often any number of “reports” available to the motivated searcher.  Past tournament results, release points, stocking program schedules & actual fishing reports can help.  I use none of these, mostly because that’s just not my style, plus up until this past season, it’s been largely unavailable for much of the water I frequent.   

And before I go further, one caveat is as a recreational angler and not a tournament angler, I don’t have competitive time constraints or a monetary motive.  So although I do prefer catching over searching, I know it’s part of the process and don't feel the “Need” to rush it.  “Eliminating Water” isn’t always the best of times but the reality is – It’s fishing. 

 So besides the actual spawn – which usually makes big bass location as easy (relatively speaking) as it will be perhaps all year, my bass locating routinely revolves around 4 basic concepts.  Places that offer safety, comfort and / or an escape route for the bass.  Places that offer feeding opportunities for the bass. Places bass use as travel routes and / or places that they stop and hang out at along the way.   And finally places where the bass’s prey / food source either live, pass through or spawn at.  A spot that satisfies one of the above can be good and places that combine two or more can be better.   One of the more challenging decisions I make each trip on the water may be which one to focus on.  There are many different ways to break all this down, that’s my somewhat abridged version.   

 Now I mentioned that I like to try to keep it simple.  But again when considering all the variables that can & do effect even this short list – it’s easy to see why bass location can be a daunting task, especially for a novice or on really big water.  Some base line knowledge of bass behavior, preferred water temps, how & where feeding habits, understanding the weather & winds and how they can & do affect the bass, their environment and their available food sources.  And that’s just for starters. 

The advent of electronics is Very helpful but not a guarantee.  This season I had a serious upgrade in my fishing platform which included DI & SI and most recently 360 imaging.  Definitely helped me locate structure, cover, bait and a few bass.  However without the knowledge & experience I’ve gained over the years before having this, it may not have been as helpful.  In other words I’d rather have the knowledge and minimal electronics than the reverse.

 I see myself as a student of this stuff, even today.  And if I’m lucky I get to learn something new every trip.  Doesn’t always happen but I’m looking for it eagerly.   

 Anytime & Every time I locate bass, as nice as it is to hook, fight & land a big Fatty, the most beneficial part of it will Always be if I can come to some realistic & useful conclusion as to WHY.

A-Jay

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Take me there, I'll show you where the fish are.

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Having been and pretty much still in your situation here's my advice. I too got advice from Catt, it probably won't be an extremely detailed answer telling you exactly where to fish but read it and think about it, then apply it with everything else you know, it will be more beneficial than it seems at first. Ajay hit a lot of really good points and I can't add much to it. Wrb is a trophy fisher as you can see by his pic and has spent decades finding the big girls. I also recommend you read all of the threads in the "best of" sticky from the top of the page. There is so much to learn here and even more that can't be taught. Too me finding the fish is the hardest part of bass fishing. I too like ajay get great enjoyment from catching a fish and knowing WHY it was there. Good luck

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Boat docks around the marina/camp ground area

Coleman Run

Just saying ;)

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You have been fishing 8 hour days with very little to show for it . I'm speculating you have been beating the banks and want to venture out into deeper water .

  The very first thing upon arrival is get a general impression  of water clarity , level , wind , weather , cloud cover.... In your case less than a foot of visibility , that  is what I'm use to and I wouldn't expect the fish to be more than twenty foot deep . After launching the boat I will check surface temp and look for a thermocline . If a thermocline is present I eliminate water deeper than it . I also watch to see if gulls are present . Even if they are flocked on the banks they will be positioned near an area where there has been recent feeding activity . Look for the depth that most of the fish activity is at .Then try to tie all this together on a good piece of structure . Points are the easiest structure to find and often receive lots of fishing pressure but I will check them out with sonar . If you dont have marker buoys I strongly suggest getting some . They will keep you oriented  , on the spot  .I find  off shore  fish often  and without buoys I would catch a  fraction of those fish   . You already know about structure like points , humps , channels... you must put in the time to seek them out and explore them . Unless fish are schooling on top I will use bottom bouncing lures or diving crankbaits . Bottom bouncers include anything that sinks . Soft plastics , jigs , lipless cranks , compact spinnerbaits ...   Crankbaits should be selected that dive deeper than the bottom being targeted . For instance a ten foot bottom choose a bait that dives 12 to 14 foot . You're already spending a lot of time on the lake and this looks like a " good '  little structure lake. Utilize a lot of that time using that sonar , you will eventually catch  fish and gain confidence  , then no more 8 hour days with 0 to 4 fish .

There are  submerged bridges on your map  .  Those look super interesting .

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9 hours ago, A-Jay said:

There are many truly outstanding books & articles on this subject. ...   

And before I go further, one caveat is as a recreational angler and not a tournament angler, I don’t have competitive time constraints or a monetary motive.  So although I do prefer catching over searching, I know it’s part of the process and don't feel the “Need” to rush it.  “Eliminating Water” isn’t always the best of times but the reality is – It’s fishing. ....

 I see myself as a student of this stuff, even today.  And if I’m lucky I get to learn something new every trip.  Doesn’t always happen but I’m looking for it eagerly.   

 Anytime & Every time I locate bass, as nice as it is to hook, fight & land a big Fatty, the most beneficial part of it will Always be if I can come to some realistic & useful conclusion as to WHY.

A-Jay

This is great stuff.  Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough reply.

A-Jay, I'm with you.  I'm a recreational fisherman.  This desire to learn and find fish is purely to enjoy fishing more with my friends and significant other.  I know it's a lot easier getting her to put a long shift in on the water if the bass are biting!  And importantly with all that I've invested into this addiction (boat, equipment, lures, time) I want to get good at it and enjoy it even more.

I'm the type that will geek out on this.  So if you have book or resource suggestions, fire away.  I assure you I'll put the time in reading and studying them.

And like you, catching a bass "accidentally" is far less fun than the pleasure I get from catching one and knowing why it was there and why it reacted to the presentation I put in front of it.

Thanks A-Jay.

-reerok

9 hours ago, Raul said:

Take me there, I'll show you where the fish are.

Well I do own a 4 season cabin on this lake so if you guys find the lake THAT attractive I know a guy and a place and a boat and... 

This is part of what I love about our habit.

8 hours ago, Jigking said:

Best thing to do is flip this lay downs with jigs and Texas rigs or target points on the lake 

Thanks Jigking.  That's pretty much exactly what I've been doing.  The lay-downs are addictive.  I can't get away from them no matter how unproductive they are.  The look so much like they HAVE to produce.  But they haven't.  And that's why I'm here, trying to understand what I need to do differently in order to improve as an angler and have more fun on the water.

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Just now, reerok said:

This is great stuff.  Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough reply.

A-Jay, I'm with you.  I'm a recreational fisherman.  This desire to learn and find fish is purely to enjoy fishing more with my friends and significant other.  I know it's a lot easier getting her to put a long shift in on the water if the bass are biting!  And importantly with all that I've invested into this addiction (boat, equipment, lures, time) I want to get good at it and enjoy it even more.

I'm the type that will geek out on this.  So if you have book or resource suggestions, fire away.  I assure you I'll put the time in reading and studying them.

And like you, catching a bass "accidentally" is far less fun than the pleasure I get from catching one and knowing why it was there and why it reacted to the presentation I put in front of it.

Thanks A-Jay.

-reerok

Thanks & You're Welcome

Hard water season is when I do most of my Light Reading as well -

I'll post a short book list in a bit - there are many threads on the good bass book subject here if you'd care to search

Also as for "Getting Good" with your gear - I can relate to that for sure but in front of that for me is being safe & having fun.  

I had to learn how not to become a victim of my own enthusiasm - seems to get easier with age, but only a little.

:smiley:

A-Jay

 

 

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21 minutes ago, Catt said:

Boat docks around the marina/camp ground area

Coleman Run

Just saying ;)

Thanks Catt.  In an attempt to learn, what's your thought process behind saying Coleman Run?  I fish it fairly regularly but if I understand why you suggest it, I then can figure out how to approach it differently and better.

I'm not sure why but I've never fished the docks.  The boats are tight and it's nearly impossible to get a line between them.  But in that I should see an opportunity - to learn to flip even more accurately.  Every year I swear I'm going to target the docks.  It's time to grow into it and learn to fish them.

22 minutes ago, scaleface said:

You have been fishing 8 hour days with very little to show for it . I'm speculating you have been beating the banks and want to venture out into deeper water .

Exactly this.  I want to know how to target deep points and not be afraid to cast into open water vs. the bank targets I'm so comfortable with.  This is where the fish in this lake have to be.  FYI - this lake is widely considered one of the top bass fisheries in the state.  But it's a nearly hidden gem.  The 9.9 hp limit keeps many away.  And the fact that it's so far in the middle of nowhere keeps most of the rest away too.

26 minutes ago, scaleface said:

The very first thing upon arrival is get a general impression  of water clarity , level , wind , weather , cloud cover.... In your case less than a foot of visibility , that  is what I'm use to and I wouldn't expect the fish to be more than twenty foot deep . After launching the boat I will check surface temp and look for a thermocline . If a thermocline is present I eliminate water deeper than it . I also watch to see if gulls are present . Even if they are flocked on the banks they will be positioned near an area where there has been recent feeding activity . Look for the depth that most of the fish activity is at .Then try to tie all this together on a good piece of structure . Points are the easiest structure to find and often receive lots of fishing pressure but I will check them out with sonar . If you dont have marker buoys I strongly suggest getting some . They will keep you oriented  , on the spot  .I find  off shore  fish often  and without buoys I would catch a  fraction of those fish   . You already know about structure like points , humps , channels... you must put in the time to seek them out and explore them . Unless fish are schooling on top I will use bottom bouncing lures or diving crankbaits . Bottom bouncers include anything that sinks .  Crankbaits should be selected that dive deeper than the bottom being targeted . For instance a ten foot bottom chose a bait that divess 12 to 14 foot .

There are  submerged bridges on your map  .  Those look super interesting .

Some really valuable stuff here.  I don't have marker buoys - and that's a cheap and simple way to improve.  I mark spots on my GPS fish finder but it's a whole lot easier orienting myself towards a target in the water (the marker buoy) than it is one on the screen in front of me.

And I agree.  Putting in the time to find, mark, and fish the structure - especially those road beds and submerged bridges will prove valuable.  It's funny to say but I really need to spend a day just scouting my own lake.  Ignore the banks, find the structure, mark and observe.  

Thanks Scaleface.  Excellent input.

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13 hours ago, WRB said:

Will also take a look, the major point by the dam with the road bed is where would start, that is where the biggest bass usually live. The area where the 2 submerged bridges with Y road mid lake looks good, lots of steep walls, points, a few coves and tapered points with deep water access I would spend some time surveying and fishing there because it has everything needed to figure out a pattern. Multiple structure elements close together are easier to fish.

This small lake has lots of structure elements to study. 

Tom

Hi Tom,

Thanks for this input.  Unfortunately I put in my boat at the southern end of the lake (marina) and that long run up to the dam is something I almost never do.  In a full decked, 17.5' heavy 9.9 boat, it takes nearly an hour to get there.  That's my excuse.  A poor one at that.  But for my goals for 2017, learning that area near the dam is close to the top.

The midlake area with the Y road and submerged bridges is the one area I've accidentally (and consistently) found productive.  Again this was just beating the banks as it also has some great shore cover.  I'll be sure to survey it more closely trying to find the bridges, road bed, and watching the sonar for where the fish hold.

Thanks!

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46 minutes ago, reerok said:

 

Some really valuable stuff here.  I don't have marker buoys - and that's a cheap and simple way to improve.  I mark spots on my GPS fish finder but it's a whole lot easier orienting myself towards a target in the water (the marker buoy) than it is one on the screen in front of me.

 

Buoy's are invaluable . Use them in conjunction with GPS .  Good luck and let us know when and how you start hooking up with those bass . When I finally started having success fishing structure , it was exciting . A whole new world opened up . Like you I had a lot of  those 8 hour   days with few bites , then once I gained confidence with the bank to my back , my best days were to come .

Most of my fishing is done in a 14 foot jon boat with no outboard , just an elec motor and a sonar I mounted on a converted worn out trolling motor  , so you are well equipped . I have a bigger boat for large waters but those small gems are just to good to pass by .

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The area of the bridge by Mcfadden run, which crosses the lake is to me a very compelling area. The bridge itself creates a "compression area" up stream you have a junction of Mcfadden run and Brushy (sp?) runs, Also up Mcfaddens run theres plenty of "shallower" water and sunken bridges,... Downstream of the bridge you have a sunken bridge and roadbed that seems to be directly inline of current flowing thru the bridge, and  deep, and shallow waters nearby.,..I would check both up and downstream areas via fishfinder and see if you locate any concentration of bait. If so, I would suggest fishing that "thoroughly", 

 If you've been fishing laydowns and having no luck the bass may be relating to a different cover, beit: weeds, boulders, brushpiles on the bends of the channels, etc. Your fishfinder will need to be your friend on this lake, print out a good copy of the map, and take it with you out on the lake. Check out  the channel junctions, holes, and bends in the channels. Searching for cover on any of them and fish relating to them. Especially near that bridge I mentioned above. 

Also, find out (if available) any dam actions relating to releasing water at designated times. Current through that bridge will force fish location, mostly  downstream from the bridge, and also may instigate feeding. If you have current flowing thru the bridge Id start downstream at the "sunken bridge" and fish my way up to the bridge itself. You should find bass somewhere around that area. Fish may also hold upstream from the bridge as well, the junction of the 2 channels looks promising

 Consider what the available forage is as well, utilize that in your lure choice, and fish tossing upstream, working the lure downstream to you. Id prefer a bottom bouncing lure in current as "most" fish will be tight to the bottom hiding in eddy's created.  But a spinnerbait, or crankbait couldnt hurt either.

 Even if there is no current at all, that area around the compression area (bridge) should still hold fish anyways. Its a prime area in my opinion.

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2 hours ago, reerok said:

This is great stuff.  Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough reply.

I'm the type that will geek out on this.  So if you have book or resource suggestions, fire away.  I assure you I'll put the time in reading and studying them.

Thanks A-Jay.

 "Spoonplugging" ~  first published in 1965 and written by E.L. "Buck" Perry who is widely  Known as the Daddy of Structure Fishing -

In this book the author covers a ton of truly solid information (without a lot of wasted motion).  And although a good bit of it revolves around the Spoonplugging presentation, the vast majority of it is IMO pure Gold.   At the time of it's writing, bass fishing was by today's standards in it's infancy.  Anglers had little in the way of electronic assistance.  Which makes this one even more impressive.  It's a fairly famous writing and if you've read it previously, I'd encourage you to read it again - Slower.

In Pursuit of Giant Bass ~ written by Bill Murphy in 1992.  Again another fairly famous book.  This one too centers it's info around a particular presentation - "Stitching" which  a very slow & light weight way to present a plastic worm.  But well beyond that, the book offers a ton of info that I have found extremely useful as far as helping locate bass.  Perhaps more importantly, Mr. Murphy's approach helped me look at my own mental focus & modus operandi to bass fishing.  This one's worth the time. 

Sowbelly ~ written by Monte Burke in 2005 - this one for all practical purposes is purely recreational reading.  It allows the reader to relive the Obsessive quest for the world record bass during the early 2000's time frame.  It focuses on the Giant California trout eating bass and some of the more famously dedicated anglers who chased them.

 So start a fire, pull up your favorite chair and have fun.

A-Jay

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When I'm faced with body of water that is structure rich I start looking for un-onvious.

That little point at the mouth to the right side is interesting, nice tight contour lines, roadbed, & a cove above it.

With the boat docks, ya really don't have to flip between the boats, if I'm reading you right?

Look at an overhead view of the "boat dock" itself!

When I'm approaching a boat dock, I start fishing it at casting distance away targeting the outside corners. Then I work my way into pitching distance, & the flipping distance.

I don't about those docks you'll have to tell us.

Most docks down here are floating docks the move up & down on pilings so ya ain't skipping under em!

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6 minutes ago, Catt said:

That little point at the mouth to the right side is interesting, nice tight contour lines, roadbed, & a cove above it.

Yep, for years I used to beat the bank right over that point and miss that underwater structure.  So I literally missed the point.  Then the last time out I watched practically 1 of only 4 other boats on the entire lake anchor out off that underwater point you're referencing and land a 4 pounder.  The light went off when I saw that and I looked a lot closer at the map the next time noticing exactly what he was fishing and you have highlighted.

10 minutes ago, Catt said:

With the boat docks, ya really don't have to flip between the boats, if I'm reading you right?

Look at an overhead view of the "boat dock" itself!

When I'm approaching a boat dock, I start fishing it at casting distance away targeting the outside corners. Then I work my way into pitching distance, & the flipping distance.

I don't about those docks you'll have to tell us.

Most docks down here are floating docks the move up & down on pilings so ya ain't skipping under em!

Yeah, our docks are just floating marina docks too.  There actually aren't any other docks on the entire lake except these DNR slips (because it's a "natural shoreline" lake and they don't allow private docks).  But yeah, your approach makes sense.  Cast the corners and pitch and flip the slips.  

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Know what type of water your lake is (lowland rez, highland rez, etc), then learn and apply seasonal patterns, and get the best electronics you can afford and really learn how to use them. You will find the fish. From there it's all execution. You can do it!

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Lots of perfectly viable options and answers on this topic, but I'm "old school."

As A-Jay mentioned, buy and read (actually, study) Spoonplugging, as well as In Pursuit of Giant Bass (written by a Spoonplugger). Learn what structure truly is, and isn't, as well as what a "structure situation" is. Buck said there are only about 17 total when looking  at every body of water in the country. Know that the best shallow water "hotspots" are often such because they are related in some manner to the best deep water structure in the area. Once you can identify these areas, then learn proper presentation of lures on or around them, both shallow and deep. Just doing this simple exercise will create a solid foundation to build upon, and increase your catches tremendously in the process. From there, you can then branch out into all the new fangled technology/lures/patterns/etc. you want.

-T9

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43 minutes ago, A-Jay said:

 "Spoonplugging"

In Pursuit of Giant Bass ~ written by Bill Murphy in 1992.  

 So start a fire, pull up your favorite chair and have fun.

A-Jay

Amazon Prime will be put to use today.  Thanks for these.  I plan on spending a weekend soon at the lake cabin/cottage with no internet, no TV, and a lovely fireplace.  These books will make the weekend fly.

4 minutes ago, Team9nine said:

Lots of perfectly viable options and answers on this topic, but I'm "old school."

-T9

This is how my mind works too.  So thanks for the input and motivation.

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1 hour ago, "hamma" said:

The area of the bridge by Mcfadden run, which crosses the lake is to me a very compelling area. The bridge itself creates a "compression area" up stream you have a junction of Mcfadden run and Brushy (sp?) runs, Also up Mcfaddens run theres plenty of "shallower" water and sunken bridges,... Downstream of the bridge you have a sunken bridge and roadbed that seems to be directly inline of current flowing thru the bridge, and  deep, and shallow waters nearby.,..I would check both up and downstream areas via fishfinder and see if you locate any concentration of bait. If so, I would suggest fishing that "thoroughly", 

 If you've been fishing laydowns and having no luck the bass may be relating to a different cover, beit: weeds, boulders, brushpiles on the bends of the channels, etc. Your fishfinder will need to be your friend on this lake, print out a good copy of the map, and take it with you out on the lake. Check out  the channel junctions, holes, and bends in the channels. Searching for cover on any of them and fish relating to them. Especially near that bridge I mentioned above. 

Also, find out (if available) any dam actions relating to releasing water at designated times. Current through that bridge will force fish location, mostly  downstream from the bridge, and also may instigate feeding. If you have current flowing thru the bridge Id start downstream at the "sunken bridge" and fish my way up to the bridge itself. You should find bass somewhere around that area. Fish may also hold upstream from the bridge as well, the junction of the 2 channels looks promising

 Consider what the available forage is as well, utilize that in your lure choice, and fish tossing upstream, working the lure downstream to you. Id prefer a bottom bouncing lure in current as "most" fish will be tight to the bottom hiding in eddy's created.  But a spinnerbait, or crankbait couldnt hurt either.

 Even if there is no current at all, that area around the compression area (bridge) should still hold fish anyways. Its a prime area in my opinion.

This is great detailed info.  

It's funny, I've fished nearby this compression area quite a bit.  Just not exactly where you've mentioned.  I've fished on the right side (upstream?) of the compression bridge/rip-rap and on that southern bank.  Again, my addiction to lay downs has kept me coming back.  I've seen shad stack up on this shore a bit and it has some lily pad sections (albeit they are thin and sparse and without weeds).  But I've not had much luck here.  A few bass a day maybe.

Now where you're pointing me to up McFaddens run and the adjacent rip-rap and submerged bridge areas have gone untouched by me.  They make a lot of sense based on what you're saying so I'll be sure to focus on them.

There is no current on this lake.  While the dam is a flood control dam, I'm guessing the Watershed District that controls them has this lake down the priority list because while other local lakes often outflow prior to or just after storms, as far as I can tell this doesn't happen very often here.

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