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David Russell

First Catches From Offshore Structure

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So for Father's Day, my wife blessed me with a nice Humminbird 385ci depthfinder for my boat. It's a perfect complement to my setup. It took me a few weeks to find the time to get it completely installed, but I finally finished mounting the transducer last night just in time for an early launch on Lay Lake this morning. Thankfully, everything worked straightaway without need for any tweaking and so I was able to get fishing. More importantly, no major leaks! :)

Now, I've been fishing for about two years and have never used a depthfinder. I just got a boat last summer and only have vague memories of my grandpa using a depthfinder on his pontoon boat when I was a kid. So I had a ton of learning to do. Over the last few weeks, I used several articles from this site and some YouTube videos as a primer on fishing offshore / submerged structure.

This morning, I launched at Beeswax and fished some shallow (visible) weed beds in the early hour and caught one keeper-sized largemouth. By 7:00 I hit the main channel and starting playing around with the depthfinder more. I went across to an area where I knew there was a drop-off (5' to 23') and started trying weighted soft plastics from the bottom up and then cranked along the drop. No bites, but I was spending more time playing with the depthfinder screens and settings anyway. One thing I learned in my research is that marker buoys come in handy. So I bought a couple last week and, man, do they ever come in handy! More on that later, but I dropped the two marker buoys right at the top of the drop-off I was fishing. It was awesome to be able to visualize right where that slope started.

After a few hours piddling around, half-fishing, half-tweaking the depthfinder, I used the map feature to locate a large area off the main channel that I didn't even realize existed. So I motored over and started looking around and watching the bottom for structure. For the most part, the area consisted of a few drops and flats, from 5' to 10' deep. Then I spotted a narrow entry that led into a wider area. I moved through and found about 600 acres of water that I would ultimately have all to myself. Later on, I found out that the vast majority of this area is about 2' to 3' deep. But at the front part of it, there was a flat about 5' deep. Now the cool thing was that just past this part I rolled over a hump and ditch (while using the main motor idling through.) So I went back over it about 10 yards down and saw the same structure. Zig-zagged another 10 yards down, but found it mostly flat. Circled to the other side and also found it flat, but there was some large structure there (submerged tree or bush, I think.)

So I pulled through yet again, and this time dropped marker buoys on each end of the hump so I could visualize where that and the ditch were. I never saw any indication of fish on the depthfinder, but I figured at least I could fish it and "feel out" some of these underwater features. I felt like the ditch was the best option, so I made a large circle, shut down the main motor and switched to trolling and approached from one end. I threw on a firetiger-colored crankbait that dives to 5'. The hump was 4' and the ditch about 7' with 5' flats on either side.

I pulled past the marker buoys so they were lined up from my position and fired my first cast parallel with them on the ditch side. I retrieved almost to the boat (15' past one end) and BAM! Two-pound spot, in the boat. AWESOME. This was the first fish I ever caught on underwater structure. I was so stoked. (Still am.) I snapped a quick photo and released the fish. I reset and used the exact approach. Second cast. BAM! Pound and a half spot! I was blown away at this point. I am literally catching fish in a way I have never done before. I immediately felt this amazing sense that the whole lake is now unlocked for me. Rather than beating banks, I can actually find structure and catch fish that I would have previously floated right over on my way to some laydown in 2' of water. :)

Within 7 casts, I had boated and released 4 spots. The activity seemed to quiet after that, though I missed one or two more and after 20 minutes I did catch a very nice crappie, which got off right at the boat. It hit the same crank I had been targeting the spots with! (As a side note, when I retrieved the marker buoys and marked the GPS coordinates, I actually noticed what looked like a ball of baitfish on the flat right in front of the hump. I think the spots were hanging in the ditch waiting to ambush the smaller prey. Not totally sure about that, but that seemed like a logical thought once I saw the baitfish on the graph. For all I know though, the area on the graph could have been something else besides baitfish.)

What a day.

The main thing I am celebrating today is this next level of fishing for me. It's amazing that technology can help catch fish, but now it's important for me to learn a lot more about what's on the sonar graph, especially how to tell what kind of bottom I'm over and what the various types of structure look like. And I need to learn how to take screenshots on the depthfinder so I can show off my finds. I also need to re-think my arsenal, because so much of my tackle is for shallow water applications. (I've become a nut for soft plastics this past year.) And, of course, I need to learn so much more about how to fish deep. But, wow, I'm really excited about this! Taking my game to a whole new level!

If any of you guys have any feedback for me on fishing underwater structure, I'd love to hear it. I'll definitely be learning a lot more on my own, but I am always up to hear tips / best practices from the community here.

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Congrats on the learning experience! But I'm gonna bet it wasn't your first bass on underwater structure! Just the first one you physically know about!

Jeff

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Congrats on the learning experience! But I'm gonna bet it wasn't your first bass on underwater structure! Just the first one you physically know about!

Jeff

Ha ha, Jeff! You are right, sir. Perhaps I should re-title this to "offshore structure."

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Man I'm a little drunk and just getting back for the night but I see you got a new 385ci and I did too! Just got it installed and put it in the water yesterday! So let's learn together! I look forward to reading this in more detail in the morning with some coffee lol

congrats on ur first offshore structure fish!!

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It's always awesome to learn a new style of fishing! I have been trying to make myself learn how to fish offshore structure but it's so hard to drag myself away from the banks where I know I can catch fish to the deep water where I have no idea what I'm doing! Glad you're having success doing it though!

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