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flywall99

Fishing big lakes

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So I am finally going to be getting my first boat and fishing actual lakes. As a pond/small lake bank angler my whole life, what will be different about fishing big lakes? Obviously it will be harder to find the fish while i learn how to read electronics. What else should I know or what do you wish you knew when you first got a boat or starting fishing big lakes that you learned after experience? 

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Map work/graph work.  You can break a lake down into section, like "slicing" a map.  Explore the likely depths and structural elements one slice at a time.  You may blank at first, but the work will pay off.  You can also just beat the banks, or skip docks.  There's always a a few there.  It's funny though.  Until you figure out what the bottom structure is like, you won't unlock why some docks, small coves, lay downs hold fish, and some don't.  Map work first, then line that up with what the graph tells you - is it rocky, a barren flat, weedy (what kind of weeds?), is there deep water or a channel near a dock or lay down... just keep observing and asking yourself these questions.

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I hear ya.  Got my first boat and have dabbled a little offshore, but I haven't been able to resist heading to the bank and casting at visible structure.

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When a visible target produces, immediately switch to "figure out why" mode.  Meaning move back and try to determine why that one target worked.  Start graphing a grid, moving a little deeper with each pass.  You'll probably find a ledge, break, or channel nearby.  Now, when you see something similar somewhere else on the map or the graph, pinpoint on the visible targets nearby.

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Something that I've done is to just find one spot on a bigger lake. Once I have a spot that will normally hold a fish or two, I am more likely to head to that lake. My "home lake" is about 7500-8000 acres. My whole life I've heard how great the fishing was there. When I first got a boat, it was one of the first places i went. I got skunked 3 or 4 times there, so i quit going. I went to smaller lakes that I knew better and caught more fish. 

      Eventually I met a guy who told me about a community hole on the bigger lake. I tried it out and caught some fish. So, I went back the next weekend, caught a couple on the community hole and then tried a couple spots nearby. Next thing you know, I have several good spots. A couple years in and I know that lake very well. I've taken this same approach on several lakes now, even lake ontario. Obviously, I'll never know lake Ontario like the back of my hand, but I can catch some fish every time I go there.

  Basically, catch a few fish and then do some exploring every time you go. Dedicate some time to learning the lake. If your just fishing for fun like me, there is no reason not to. Just break the lake up in smaller pieces, and explore a new area every time you go.

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It's fairly simple 😉

 

Understand what structure is, how to truly identify it, interpret it, and then fish it effectively.

 

Understand what the predominate prey species in your lake and how those species relates to structure with each passing season...morning, noon, and night.

 

Understand that next after location is timing; just because you don't get bite does not mean the bass aren't there or you tied on the wrong lure.

 

Understand that to consistently catch bass is a process of elimination and duplication. Eliminate patterns and waters that are non-productive and duplicate patterns and waters that are productive.

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19 minutes ago, Catt said:

It's fairly simple 😉

 

Understand what structure is, how to truly identify it, interpret it, and then fish it effectively.

 

Understand what the predominate prey species in your lake and how those species relates to structure with each passing season...morning, noon, and night.

 

Understand that next after location is timing; just because you don't get bite does not mean the bass aren't there or you tied on the wrong lure.

 

Understand that to consistently catch bass is a process of elimination and duplication. Eliminate patterns and waters that are non-productive and duplicate patterns and waters that are productive.

Well put @Catt

All except that 'simple' part.

At least for me . . .

:smiley:

A-Jay

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1 minute ago, A-Jay said:

Well put @Catt

All except that 'simple' part.

At least for me . . .

:smiley:

A-Jay

I agree!  I subscribe to the techniques that Catt describes, but I think you *can* work in reverse by locating some shallow fish lurking near visible targets, and moving off from there.  Without a ton of knowledge on a lake, I'm not too great at just starting off shore, unless it's something blatantly obvious on a chart.  One thing is for sure, I try to figure out why I'm catching here, and not there.

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Being able to read a map and knowing where fish should be at any time of the year is the most important thing. I suggest watching all the videos here, even if you don't target smallies

 

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=lowrance+feider

 

The In-Fisherman bass books spend a lot of time talking about good structure, so they're worth buying.

 

Also, if you have side imaging, it really pays to map out a spot thoroughly before you start fishing. That way, instead of spending a lot of time fishing dead areas on a huge point or weed bed, you can focus on the best spots like boulders, composition changes, wrecks, etc. Mark every good spot you see, so you only have to scan an area once.

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On 9/5/2019 at 11:37 AM, J Francho said:

I agree!  I subscribe to the techniques that Catt describes, but I think you *can* work in reverse by locating some shallow fish lurking near visible targets, and moving off from there.  Without a ton of knowledge on a lake, I'm not too great at just starting off shore, unless it's something blatantly obvious on a chart.  One thing is for sure, I try to figure out why I'm catching here, and not there.

J that is exactly what I have been doing (and trying to perfect) since I started fishing from the Old Town Canoe a decade ago.  It's a slow 'process' for me, especially on big & new water, (but one I've learned to savor).

It's also something that experience has proven to me - can not be sped up or hurried through.

 And the more time & effort I put into the early stages of it (meaning time on the water) the more it can often pay off later on.

:smiley:

A-Jay

 

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For perspective, this could mean catching on a certain fallen tree - a log really - and backing off about 15 yards to find the sloping break at the first drop gets dramatically steep, though maybe only a 1/3 as deep as the the 1/4 mile of this ledge.  To the other extreme, it could also mean Seeing the outlet from the bay to Lake Ontario, knowing bass use this (I've caught them a ton in the outlet) as highway, and locating some interesting breaks in 15-30' of water in the lake adjacent to the outlet.  If you think I'm close to the outlet, you'd be dead wrong.  I fish almost a mile and a half from it, but it's the closest visual target where I've caught fish. 

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27 minutes ago, J Francho said:

I agree!  I subscribe to the techniques that Catt describes, but I think you *can* work in reverse by locating some shallow fish lurking near visible targets, and moving off from there.  Without a ton of knowledge on a lake, I'm not too great at just starting off shore, unless it's something blatantly obvious on a chart.  One thing is for sure, I try to figure out why I'm catching here, and not there.

 

I fail to see where I mentioned starting offshore 😉

 

Even when fishing shallow you're fishing structure...that is if you're catching!

 

Structure is the cake... cover is the icing on the cake!

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First things first, learn boating safety and boat control. Big lakes mean big waves so venturing away from the shoreline requires you to develop boating skills.

It's easy to overlook when we have grown up fishing from a boat.

What do you consider a big lake?

My technique is to break a lake down into sections that are fishable during a outing.

I do this using seasonal periods to reduce the area into the lower 1/3rd, middle and upper 1/3rd. Big lakes I look at large creek arms as seperate bodies of water and break those down into 1/3rds. Some lake are too big to breakdown.

Generally speaking the colder the water period the deeper areas like the dam or lower 1/3rd, middle zones as the water warms and upper 1/3rd or more wind protected during spawn cycle. Reversing the zones during summer as bass tend to scatter and can be located everywhere depending on cover and structure.

You can spend lot of time fishing unproductive water if you don't understand basic bass behavior.

Good luck,

Tom

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I'd pick one or two lakes in your area and fish it/ them regular for one full year. It will allow you to develop knowledge of the seasonal patterns. Check the plug. Check the plug. Careful with the weather. Don't be afraid to ask other fishermen in person about the use of your electronics. 

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19 hours ago, Catt said:

I fail to see where I mentioned starting offshore 😉

I fail to see where you mentioned starting anywhere! :P

 

It's all good. 

19 hours ago, Catt said:

Structure is the cake... cover is the icing on the cake!

Still my favorite quote.

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On 9/5/2019 at 8:45 AM, J Francho said:

When a visible target produces, immediately switch to "figure out why" mode.  Meaning move back and try to determine why that one target worked.  Start graphing a grid, moving a little deeper with each pass.  You'll probably find a ledge, break, or channel nearby.  Now, when you see something similar somewhere else on the map or the graph, pinpoint on the visible targets nearby.

J thanks to this I’ve had an ah ha moment. I’m in the same boat (pun intended) as the OP, I upgraded boats and I’ve moved offshore this year and have been on the struggle bus all year. 

 

I just started pitching jigs about about two or so months ago and love it. That’s what I do to salvage the day is pitch to lay downs, docks, and especially boat lifts. I never thought to work backwards. Hopefully now the struggle bus will start to break down. 

 

Thank you

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Prior to the electric trolling motor and modern bass boat there was 2 types of bass anglers; pluggers ( anglers who cast lures ) and trollers ( anglers who trolled lures).

Now that we have trolling motors we no longer troll.

Trollers worked the off shore structure, pluggers casted to shoreline cover.

I started bass fishing during the trolling plugging era prior to trolling motors, so I did both and caught bass both with methods. Trolling taught me about off shore structure fishing and when the electric trolling motors and flasher sonar became available I jump on both as tools to help me bass fish.

With the flasher I could locate structure and learned about by trolling. With the trolling motor I could control and position my boat effectively to catch bass off shore, that was in the mid 60's! I had lakes off shore structure areas all to my self for over 2 decades.

All the bass boats with trolling motors and flasher/sonar units were fishing the shoreline, only and small handful of bass anglers fished off shore structure. The 2 that stand out in the late 70's were Dick Trask and Don Iovino on the lakes I fished.

Today things haven't changed much, Maybe 10 bass anglers out of 100 fish off shore.

Tom 

 

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Thanks so much everyone! i was def not expecting this many replies. We have such an awesome community here at B.R.

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On September 5, 2019 at 7:52 AM, flywall99 said:

What else should I know or what do you wish you knew when you first got a boat or starting fishing big lakes that you learned after experience? 

Others may have said this already, but knowing the seasonal patterns really helps in deciphering where the Bass are or should be and also the mood they should be in. Just a little bit of knowledge goes a long way in determining how to approach any body of water. Also, in the beginning I spent a lot of time trying to find the magic lure and then fishing it anywhere with the thought that because it looked so good it would get clobbered no matter what.....but investing that time in locating active fish and fishing a less than perfect lure right off the shelf, usually produces better results. 

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On 9/5/2019 at 10:49 AM, A-Jay said:

J that is exactly what I have been doing (and trying to perfect) since I started fishing from the Old Town Canoe a decade ago.  It's a slow 'process' for me, especially on big & new water, (but one I've learned to savor).

It's also something that experience has proven to me - can not be sped up or hurried through.

 And the more time & effort I put into the early stages of it (meaning time on the water) the more it can often pay off later on.

:smiley:

A-Jay

 

I have found this to be the case for me as well.  I can look at a map of a huge lake and find a number of places that look enticing as structure for different seasons.  Getting out on the water and going through these places and others that I discover on the water takes time, and lots of it on really huge reservoirs.  I catch fish during this learning process but it isn't typically the "slaying the fish" kind of thing that everyone wants to happen.  That usually comes after I have learned enough of a large lake to put some puzzle pieces together, but the delayed gratification is well worth it.

 

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37 minutes ago, senile1 said:

I have found this to be the case for me as well.  I can look at a map of a huge lake and find a number of places that look enticing as structure for different seasons.  Getting out on the water and going through these places and others that I discover on the water takes time, and lots of it on really huge reservoirs.  I catch fish during this learning process but it isn't typically the "slaying the fish" kind of thing that everyone wants to happen.  That usually comes after I have learned enough of a large lake to put some puzzle pieces together, but the delayed gratification is well worth it.

 

Yes Sir ~ 

The 'satisfaction' of putting some of the pieces of the puzzle together is often heard in my voice and stapled plainly on my face ~ 

1629627249_28Apr20196-1Tanktiny.png.28cb173ce1402e227a7c58a6bebb01ed.png

:smiley:

A-Jay

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Really good advice on this thread that you can spend a lifetime mastering.  To me that's the fun part.  

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2 hours ago, A-Jay said:

Yes Sir ~ 

The 'satisfaction' of putting some of the pieces of the puzzle together is often heard in my voice and stapled plainly on my face ~ 

1629627249_28Apr20196-1Tanktiny.png.28cb173ce1402e227a7c58a6bebb01ed.png

:smiley:

A-Jay

 

Yes, indeed.  While you may have experienced slow times during the process of learning a lake you have reaped what you have sown in a number of huge smallmouth.  

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Going from small lakes and ponds to giant lakes can be intimidating. There's just soooooooo much water!

The way I learned, (and still attack a new, big, lake) was to downsize the lake. By that I mean learn a small section of the lake, say a decent size creek arm, or main lake point and treat it as a small lake. Concentrate on only that small section of the lake until you are comfortable with finding and catching fish, where and when they use certain structure and cover, what the main forage is, etc.  Then and only then, search for similar spots on the lake and use the information you learned in that small 'downsized lake.'

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I seldom have much luck fishing obvious structure like long extended points when I visit new large reservoirs   . They are  easy too identify and receive too much pressure . My home lake I fish points with success though .  

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