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How to find bass...electronics or not? What do you do?

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So when you come to a lake for the first time (or first time in a long time), how do you find bass?  I know there's the traditional ways (time of year, points, structure...) but just curious how you go about finding your initial spots to focus in on.  I just bought my first boat and have a humminbird and not sure how to utilize it.  I've seen great fishermen on youtube doing various things...going around looking for signs of life (baitfish, birds..) and others scanning shoreline with sidescan or structure scan.  I went out today on a new lake and just felt torn as to what to do.  Do I fish places where I think there would be fish, or do I cruise along at the depth I think they are at and use my electronics to find structure or fish and then go after those?  Just trying to learn how to utilize my electronics the most.  Thanks all! 

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I start studying maps at home to get an understanding of the lake's topography.

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1 hour ago, Catt said:

I start studying maps at home to get an understanding of the lake's topography.

Ok and then what? When you get to the lake, you head to certain areas that you picked out on the map...do you put the trolling motor down immediately and start fishing?  Or, once you get there, do you go over the area with electronics to get a more specific area in that area? 

Thanks again! 

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Next you need to understand what the predominate prey species is in your lake and how that species relates to structure with each passing season...morning, noon, and night.

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 I understand a lot of that. I’m just asking for what you specifically do when you get to the lake. How do you use your electronics? Not much at all or a lot. How do use it? 

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1 minute ago, clemsondds said:

 I understand a lot of that. I’m just asking for what you specifically do when you get to the lake. How do you use your electronics? Not much at all or a lot. How do use it? 

 

Understand a lot of it?

 

You better understand all of it!

 

How do I use my electronics

 

When backing my boat down the ramp as soon as my prop hits the water I start the outboard & turn my electronics on & do not turn them off until I load the boat back on the trailer.

 

I start at the ramp by looking at water temperature & water clarity. This gives me a general idea of what to expect out on the lake. 

 

Last week on Toledo Bend I was showing baitfish suspended at 6-8' & i hadn't idled 50 yds from the ramp. Those three things; water temperature, water clarity, & baitfish location eliminated a lot of water.

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Thats a big question and there is not a short answer . I'm not an expert by any means but heres a quick run down on how I often find bass using  my  electronics . 

 

First thing I look for is the thermocline . This time of year there wont be one where I fish , there might be where you are . If you dont know what a thermocline is , do a search . If there is a thermocline that is the maximum depth i will fish . Now there are a lot of different species of fish in the lake and I dont know what a bass looks like on a sonar . I look for a depth zone that appears to have a lot of baitfish . If I find a depth that seems to have a lot of baitfish then I go to the points or other structure and see if the baitfish are the same depth there .   If they are I fish it . It just simplifies things for me and makes it faster .

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First as has been said, you put all of the puzzle pieces together to give you a "clue" as to where the fish are.  

Weather Conditions

Type of food source and where that food source lives (baitfish, craws, etc.)

Water condition

Time of year

....and a anything else that tip you off to where the fish are.  

 

On a new lake with the above factors in mind, I look at the map on my electronics to see where I "think" the fish would be.  I go to those places and then use the 2d, sidescan. downscan, to locate either bait/structure or the fish themselves.  If that doesn't work, try to figure out what you didn't take into account in your first analysis.  To be honest, I have only caught a few fish that I actually saw on my electronics and that is usually with a dropshot. Normally it's a process of elimination and being correct on your initial assessment.   

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Heres an antedote on how difficult it is , for me anyways , to identify species of fish with a depth finder . I saw a lot of bassy looking arches on this point . I fished it with cranks and plastic worms with  no luck . I tied on a jigging spoon and started ripping it off the bottom . After a little while I hooked into one and reeled in a huge gizzard shad that was snagged in the belly . This  thing was around 15 inches long . So I'm guessing all those text-book arches were big shad .

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@clemsondds it can be a struggle when you're a new boat owner,  new to bass fishing, and new to a body of water.  Look at the results of any major pro tournament and you'll find guys at the bottom of the standings that have struggled and these are the best fishermen in the world.  It's not easy.  For most of us normal fishermen,  it's made easier because we know the waters we are fishing.  We can return to spots that have worked for us in the past under similar conditions.  We're moving into the time of year when fishing get's easier.  Depending on your location,  fish are either spawning or getting ready to spawn.  That means they are moving to shallow water.  It's hard to make recommendations without know what part of the country you're in.  If you were fishing middle Tennessee,  I would tell you to tie on a weightless Zoom Trickworm and fish it around any cover you find along the bank in major creeks.  It's a fun way to fish this time of year and will allow you to catch some fish and get used to your new boat.  When you find an area that holds a lot of fish,  looks at a map and ask yourself where those fish will go as they move deeper after the spawn.  Target those places as we move into summer.  

 

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11 hours ago, clemsondds said:

So when you come to a lake for the first time (or first time in a long time), how do you find bass?  I know there's the traditional ways (time of year, points, structure...) but just curious how you go about finding your initial spots to focus in on.  I just bought my first boat and have a humminbird and not sure how to utilize it.  I've seen great fishermen on youtube doing various things...going around looking for signs of life (baitfish, birds..) and others scanning shoreline with sidescan or structure scan.  I went out today on a new lake and just felt torn as to what to do.  Do I fish places where I think there would be fish, or do I cruise along at the depth I think they are at and use my electronics to find structure or fish and then go after those?  Just trying to learn how to utilize my electronics the most.  Thanks all! 

 

3 hours ago, clemsondds said:

Ok and then what? When you get to the lake, you head to certain areas that you picked out on the map...do you put the trolling motor down immediately and start fishing?  Or, once you get there, do you go over the area with electronics to get a more specific area in that area? 

Thanks again! 

 

3 hours ago, clemsondds said:

 I understand a lot of that. I’m just asking for what you specifically do when you get to the lake. How do you use your electronics? Not much at all or a lot. How do use it? 

"How to find bass . . electronics or not  What do you do ?"

Whether you realize it or not, I'll be the first to tell you that as a new boater & bass fisherman or as an experienced angler, "how to find bass" IS the hardest part of this sport.   And how & when to use one's electronics is probably running a very close second.   Accordingly, there is no simple explanation or a flow chart to help answer either.

   Finding active bass and then figuring out how to catch them is the very essence of bass fishing.  So while the hookset is a ton of fun, learning and understanding it all takes a life time and even then,  we'll never know as much as we think or like to.   It's 'this process' of locating fish that new anglers want to try and speed up, especially with the boom in derby fishing and now even more the newest MLF format where it's all about catching the most bass the fastest - it is certainly entertaining but unfortunately IMO may be offering newer bassheads an ineffective learning too.  The anglers who participate in these event (and still often struggle) have YEARS ON THE WATER.  A new angler may be setting unrealistic expectations for them selves expecting to duplicate the same results.  

  So what does that all mean - you have much to learn and there are no short cuts.  It takes time on the water.  Time on the water to learn how to 'read water', to read correctly, understand and be able to apply what you see on your electronics effectively - meaning to catch bass.  Time on the water to understand what structure looks like on a map & on your electronics and which ones bass use & prefer with the changing seasons, changing weather etc. 

  So congratulations on your new boat purchase.  It gives you every opportunity possible to effectively approach the challenges of bass fishing listed above.  This is where you find out how much you actually love bass fishing, because bass fishing really only consists of about 10-20% of actual bass catching. The other 80-90 % of the time is spent looking & learning.   For me personally, that's the part I have really come to love.  Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of net, scale & camera use too, but it's ALL the other stuff, that requires so much time, effort, commitment & determination, in all kinds of weather conditions, that makes those fish catches so special.  

  Everyone's first few times out on the water are intimidating.  But you do have the benefit of 'the information highway' to help you; and that may speed the process up a bit.  But many of the bassheads here had NO such help.  There was no internet - no answers on our phones (my phone was on the wall in the kitchen).  And yet the humans who have many of the answers you seek, have them without the benefit of any of that.  It's the time on the water that teaches us the way. 

  Like so many of the BR forum membership, I've been at this a long time, and I feel fairly confident that if I were to break it all down, adding up all the hours, days, weeks, months & years on the water, really crunch the numbers, for every single fish pic I post here, there are easily 50 hours of on the water looking & learning.  Let that sink in a bit. 

 So keep at it - it will come, it always does.  Just try not to be impatient, fishless trips & even weeks are part of the learning process - though lessons for sure, but still part of it.  

And I for one will totally understand, appreciate & be super happy & proud of you when you have that first success trip, when you put it all together - that smile feels like no other.

Best of Luck

:smiley:

A-Jay

  

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A little off-topic.

 

Not sure how advanced your depthfinder is, but if you can mentally translate/ interpret the 2D picture (or a topo map for that matter) to/ as 3D, that will help a lot.

 

Also, I have basic 2D sonar; and buoys are a very useful tool for me, usually deployed in pairs to mark a breakline I intend to back off and fish. Sometimes I'll throw in an extra one to mark a feature/ spot on the breakline.

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Much has already been said, but the system I use on new bodies of water.

1). While at home study old reports on the lake.

2). Look for maps of the lake, there is a lot of stuff on the internet.  In Florida the U of Florida has topo maps of all the lakes.

3). Prepare the boat and tackle for what you think would be good.

 

While at the lake.

 

4). Ride around slow looking for structure, depth changes, boulders, flats, points, in the area.

5). Look at the bank, you can tell a lot about whats below by looking at what is above.  Look for blow downs, steep slopes, cliffs, rock slides.

6). looks for bird activity, happy water (shimmering water on the surface), fish chasing bait.

 

Now time to fish.

 

7). Remember you not only have surface area to fish but explore the whole water column all the way to the bottom.  I will begin by fishing a bait like a fluke or senko fast at the top of the column, and then slow up and let it slowly fall to different levels and then fish it back.  Sometimes they will be mid levels suspended or even at the bottom.

8). Once you find them then go to baits targeting that depth.

 

Being in Florida deep water for us is usually around 20 feet deep, I would never fish deeper the 30 feet here because of reduced O2 levels from all the decaying vegetation that ends up deep.

 

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1 minute ago, geo g said:

2). Look for maps of the lake, there is a lot of stuff on the internet.  In Florida the U of Florida has topo maps of all the lakes.

I-Boating's web app has topo maps of just about every body of water in the country. Zoom in to your area and find your lake.

http://fishing-app.gpsnauticalcharts.com/i-boating-fishing-web-app/fishing-marine-charts-navigation.html#3.82/39.82/-95.96

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Here's all you need for free topo maps in your area: https://www.bassresource.com/maps/fishing-spots-maps.html

 

 

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You've already received a lot of great suggestions here for sure. But think about this. Look at the overall topography of the lake. Select a small section of the lake and focus on that and learning all you can about where the bait is and where the major structures are. Target just that area for starters and try various techniques until it seems like you might have a pattern forming.

 

But remember this, many more fishermen go out and few if any fish on any particular day. Less than stellar results, just goes to reinforce the lesson of the day. Think about what you did and focus on any successes you've had. And if nothing else, don't get frustrated! Time on the water and experience will pay off in the long run. And, after all, "fishing" (not "catching") is suppose to be FUN! Relax and enjoy every minute out on the water. :)

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Just now, Glenn said:

Here's all you need for free topo maps in your area: https://www.bassresource.com/maps/fishing-spots-maps.html

 

 

Glenn, it's nice that you supply these maps for free. I only have one exception to them - no launch point locations. Great that the topo is there - but having to go to a different app to find where to launch makes it a bit of a pain. I-Boating's app shows launch points within...no need to look someplace else for them.

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1 hour ago, A-Jay said:

 

 

"How to find bass . . electronics or not  What do you do ?"

Whether you realize it or not, I'll be the first to tell you that as a new boater & bass fisherman or as an experienced angler, "how to find bass" IS the hardest part of this sport.   And how & when to use one's electronics is probably running a very close second.   Accordingly, there is no simple explanation or a flow chart to help answer either.

   Finding active bass and then figuring out how to catch them is the very essence of bass fishing.  So while the hookset is a ton of fun, learning and understanding it all takes a life time and even then,  we'll never know as much as we think or like to.   It's 'this process' of locating fish that new anglers want to try and speed up, especially with the boom in derby fishing and now even more the newest MLF format where it's all about catching the most bass the fastest - it is certainly entertaining but unfortunately IMO may be offering newer bassheads an ineffective learning too.  The anglers who participate in these event (and still often struggle) have YEARS ON THE WATER.  A new angler may be setting unrealistic expectations for them selves expecting to duplicate the same results.  

  So what does that all mean - you have much to learn and there are no short cuts.  It takes time on the water.  Time on the water to learn how to 'read water', to read correctly, understand and be able to apply what you see on your electronics effectively - meaning to catch bass.  Time on the water to understand what structure looks like on a map & on your electronics and which ones bass use & prefer with the changing seasons, changing weather etc. 

  So congratulations on your new boat purchase.  It gives you every opportunity possible to effectively approach the challenges of bass fishing listed above.  This is where you find out how much you actually love bass fishing, because bass fishing really only consists of about 10-20% of actual bass catching. The other 80-90 % of the time is spent looking & learning.   For me personally, that's the part I have really come to love.  Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of net, scale & camera use too, but it's ALL the other stuff, that requires so much time, effort, commitment & determination, in all kinds of weather conditions, that makes those fish catches so special.  

  Everyone's first few times out on the water are intimidating.  But you do have the benefit of 'the information highway' to help you; and that may speed the process up a bit.  But many of the bassheads here had NO such help.  There was no internet - no answers on our phones (my phone was on the wall in the kitchen).  And yet the humans who have many of the answers you seek, have them without the benefit of any of that.  It's the time on the water that teaches us the way. 

  Like so many of the BR forum membership, I've been at this a long time, and I feel fairly confident that if I were to break it all down, adding up all the hours, days, weeks, months & years on the water, really crunch the numbers, for every single fish pic I post here, there are easily 50 hours of on the water looking & learning.  Let that sink in a bit. 

 So keep at it - it will come, it always does.  Just try not to be impatient, fishless trips & even weeks are part of the learning process - though lessons for sure, but still part of it.  

And I for one will totally understand, appreciate & be super happy & proud of you when you have that first success trip, when you put it all together - that smile feels like no other.

Best of Luck

:smiley:

A-Jay

  

Thanks A-Jay.  Can you share your system for picking a particular area to fish when you get to a new lake?  Do you use electronics at all?  Obviously you take a lot into consideration...just trying to figure out what's the best way to utilize the electronics.  

Thanks to everyone else for their advice so far.  That's kind of what I figured would be the best route, but just wanted to get other's thoughts.  Going from zero electronics to a really nice one with lots of various views, it can get a little overwhelming.   I love fishing and feel like I can find fish even without it electronics (caught a nice bass within a few minutes of being on the water yesterday), I still want to be able to utilize this staple of the fishing industry as best I can.  Right now also trying to figure out which views (sidescan, down imaging...) to look at. I assume a split screen is the best route.  Again, not trying to figure everything out at once.   I understand the best way to learn is to get out there and do it.  All I'm really trying to do right now is see how everyone else is doing it. Thanks!

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Dang guys I have used up all my like on one page!

 

@clemsondds You're at the right website to learn structure, baitfish, & electronics.

 

I'm still learning everyday from all these guys 😉

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20 hours ago, clemsondds said:

Thanks A-Jay.  Can you share your system for picking a particular area to fish when you get to a new lake?  Do you use electronics at all?  Obviously you take a lot into consideration...just trying to figure out what's the best way to utilize the electronics.  

Thanks to everyone else for their advice so far.  That's kind of what I figured would be the best route, but just wanted to get other's thoughts.  Going from zero electronics to a really nice one with lots of various views, it can get a little overwhelming.   I love fishing and feel like I can find fish even without it electronics (caught a nice bass within a few minutes of being on the water yesterday), I still want to be able to utilize this staple of the fishing industry as best I can.  Right now also trying to figure out which views (sidescan, down imaging...) to look at. I assume a split screen is the best route.  Again, not trying to figure everything out at once.   I understand the best way to learn is to get out there and do it.  All I'm really trying to do right now is see how everyone else is doing it. Thanks!

You're welcome.

  What I was hoping to pass on, was a 'mindset'.  One that indicates that even though there are several awesome, advanced & effective tools for us as bass fisherman, there are also a bunch of lessons that will assist us in advance of & in order to use these tools effectively.

  My 'system' for picking apart an area to fish when I get to a new lake is based on the entire post I made to you here previously.  And while so many of the experienced & generous BR membership can & will tell you what they do - I am hesitant to do so.  The subject matter is gigantic and getting into specifics may not be beneficial to you as a beginner.

 So keeping it very basic - My process to fish new water starts well before I get there.

 I'll take the following into account in advance, my map study of the water, the seasonal pattern, & the recent weather (past, present & extended forecast).  Once I get there, I'm looking wind direction & speed, at the water clarity, temperature, and type of cover on near & around the 'spots' I marked on the map in advance to getting there.  I'm looking at the bottom composition, how populated the shoreline is, the number of boats on the lake (actual bass fisherman, permanent residents & visitors); and remember I said 'basic'.  IME these factors all play a role on how, where, & when I look for active bass.  When I started out, I didn't understand how these factors affected what bass did or where they would be - still don't more than half the time; and I have not met or know of any successful/honest angler who says he or she does know 100% of the time.

  I'm a firm believer in 'finding my own fish'; meaning I like to do it my way.  What works for me may not work for you.

 IMO, when the info noted above is applied in a way that you can understand, you'll have success. 

Finally, I posted a some info in the smallmouth forum that covers a lot of what I mentioned here but in more detail. 

While admittedly offered as a tool to help target Northern Michigan brown bass - there may be some info you could find useful.

It's here . . 

A-Jay

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As a non-boater, if I was in this situation the first thing I would do is based on everything I have ever read and the videos I have watched I would go to where the bass should be for that weather and season and start looking at my electronics and taking notes. I would screen shot whatever looked interesting and then post on this forum and do some more internet reading to better understand what I was seeing. I might even take some pictures with my phone as a reference for others to help me out.

 

Yes, I'd throw a line in the water after taking my notes, writing down questions, and taking screen shots. I can't NOT fish. But it seems to me that there's a whole lot of experienced people here on BR and throughout the fishing community that could help me better interpret what I was seeing until I got enough of my own experience.

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8 hours ago, Catt said:

I start studying maps at home to get an understanding of the lake's topography.

What if it's a small lake that doesn't have any maps?

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20 minutes ago, EGbassing said:

What if it's a small lake that doesn't have any maps?

 

Google Earth 😉

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32 minutes ago, EGbassing said:

What if it's a small lake that doesn't have any maps?

Then it would not take long to chart the lake with the depth finder.

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8 minutes ago, scaleface said:

Then it would not take long to chart the lake with the depth finder.

It would be so small that you wouldn't even call it a lake if navionics doesnt have it. If it's that small you can just cast the entire body of water. At least here in northern new york, navionics has really good maps of everything.

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