How To Find Fish On A New Lake

How To Find Fish
MLF Pro James Niggemeyer takes you to a new lake he's never seen before, and walks you through his process of finding and catching fish.

MLF Pro James Niggemeyer takes you to a new lake he's never seen before, and walks you through his process of finding and catching fish.


This is a better one. Hey, BassResource, James Niggemeyer here. It's been a while since we've done a video together. Here I am. It is August 1st. We just finished a FLW Pro Circuit tournament, actually now called the FLW Super Tournament because of the different challenges that we've had as tournament organizations to keep the tournament series going. We brought together MLF and FLW, and we just finished a tournament out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, on the upper Mississippi waterway there, pool 789, a place we've been several times. I've been three different times with the Elite Series, and this is my first time with FLW.

I am on my way to scout another lake. But I've heard so many great things about the fishing in Wisconsin and I've experienced some of it myself. And so here I am on a little known lake, right in Madison, Wisconsin. I believe that Mendota Lake is actually part of the Madison water chain or the Madison chain here in Madison, Wisconsin.

Here is a look at some of the water here. The water is a bit of a green. I'm noticing quite a bit of vegetation scattered all about. The water temperature is 82.4 degrees. And I'm actually running with a good friend that I hang out with on tour, Billy Hines. And he is somewhere on the lake right now and we just got here literally 30 minutes ago. And it's 3:17.

What I wanted to do is just kind of take you guys along on this fish-finding process on a lake I've literally never seen before. So, I'm going to share kind of what's going on in my mind and we'll just kind of see what happens.

What I'm noticing is I love the fact that the water is nice and green. It's got some nice color, a lot of nutrients in the water, so it's probably quite fertile. So, that's a big plus, maybe some plankton, different things like that. I don't know what kind of vegetation we have. I'm noticing as I'm idling, it's 8.2 feet of water, and I'm a pretty good distance from the bank. So, it seems like it would be some sort of a natural lake. Yeah, I'm sure it has man-made things that happened with it, but it looks like what you have in some of the lakes up in the northern part of the country, which are natural lakes, just kind of low spots where the waters kind of come in and filled in.

I really honestly don't know a whole lot about the lake, but it looks like there's some 60 feet of water out there, what I'm seeing. At any rate, you've heard me jabber on enough about it. Let's get looking and see what we can find on Lake Mendota on this Madison, Wisconsin, chain of lakes.

Really busy day out here, lots of boats running around. Okay. Bait selection. You know, like I said, it's 3-something. It's actually 3:39 now. I don't have a whole lot of time. I'm not sure how much the weather is going to even allow us to be out here: rain, thunderstorms, in the summertime, quite a common occurrence. So, I wanted to pick up a couple of baits that I can move around with, fish efficiently.

If I come into contact with anything like heavy grass, or reeds, or different things like that, I've got a Strike King Rodent with an ounce of Strike King Tour Grade Tungsten Weight, and a Lews...this is actually the Super Duty 3 for punching. And then for frogging, I've got a Lews custom light, Strike King Sexy Dawg, and then a Strike King swim jig, and then a brand new lure. It's kind of a shallow-running crankbait called a Hybrid Hunter. So, these two are going to help me cover water in shallow water. And then these two, if I need to go over top of some vegetation or into vegetation or cover, these two will get that job.

Let's see what happens. Let's start to put some of these baits through the paces and see about this fish-finding process. Now, again, all this is just hypothesis and theory until you actually make contact with the fish. So, let's see if we can make contact here pretty quick.

Just had one blow up all my stuff. Bummer is he didn't come back for it. He's going to follow the punching rig. Got it. All right. Well, he's dark. Look at that, hiding underneath that grass. That worked out. So, he's not a very big one, but he's number one. He's tucked way back under the grass, beyond the grass where the duckweed is. It's a nice fish to start.

So, I came in here and really started to kind of question whether or not I was in the right area and I still don't know that I am, but there's not a lot of baitfish. I'm not seeing a lot of bluegill. I'm not seeing a lot of activity, not a lot of life. So, I'm still kind of weighing my options. I'm getting kind of close to pulling the trolling motor up and then that fish blew on my frog. And I threw it back in there, still didn't eat it. So, I said, "I'll go in with the punching rig with that Strike King Rodent," and he ate it as you saw. So, that was cool.

We'll see if we can get a couple more bites or maybe we're getting into a productive section of these mats. I hope so.

He was way back in there. And you know what's always good is any time you have first contact with fish, that's giving you the clue. It's giving you some information, some intel, some input on what you possibly need to do or how you need to do it. And, you know, it gives you a little bit more confidence in your thought process. It still may not be the deal, but we got something to go on for now.

Yes. I swapped over sides and caught that guy. He's a little skinny. He's got a little wound back here, but he's healed up fine. Nice and dark, out of the grass, on the frog. That's pretty cool.

Okay. I feel like I'm beginning to get on a pattern. That's three bites on a frog. One was extracted through the flipping rig, but two of them were on the frog proper. I lost that last one. I don't know if he totally had a hold of it, but I know I stung him, and it just came off. It’s part of the beast of fishing matted grass or heavy cover with the frog. So, let's see if we can make this dock.

So, it's been kind of interesting. Got those three bites and I started to think I was on to something, but I haven't got any more bites. The fishing might just be slow. There's amazing amount of boat traffic through this channel here. Lots of nice grass. What's funny is they seem to be around these docks. And docks are always great because, obviously, they create a great amount of shade, especially in the warm water part of the year like we have here in the summer.

The thing that I've noticed about those two fish that I've caught is they're really dark and they look like residential fish, like fish that are going to stay there all year long. They may not be part of the exact pattern that's going on on the lake, or there may be some other fish that are the majority of them might be doing something different. So, we're still kind of unfolding this deal, but we're on to something, but nothing really to hang the hat on just yet. We're almost there. That last fish I caught looked good. The second to the... The fish after that seemed like it might have been a keeper, but it was smaller than the fish prior to that, so not quite sure. Piecing this thing together, trying to figure it out.

So, here comes the time in every fishing trip, however long or short, where you have to make a decision. Well, are you going to continue on the pattern that you've had the success that you've had, or are you going to make a change? It's that decision-making time. And it may be a decision of making an adjustment in what area you're in, or it might just be a full-scale presentation and area, or just complete pattern.

So, you have to really kind of think about it. And you either need to make some sort of adjustment in increments or sometimes it's just, "Hey, we're not really seeing what we want to see here. So maybe the best thing to do is just try something totally different." And it might just be some of the same areas, but a different lure presentation.

I am going to give this just a little bit longer. And if it doesn't work, then I'm going to make a switch, just not very far. I'm going to make just a move out more towards main lake, get out of this creek, and we'll see if that makes a difference in the number of fish we start to pick up.

Yes. Look at that. Okay. So, this is not only the biggest but the best-looking fish I've had all day, so definitely sticking with the frog, little copper brown frog. I actually saw that guy come for it which is always exciting see him come for that and slow it down. It's pretty cool. We're on a pattern and it definitely seems like on this side of this creek. That seems to be the deal on this side of the creek. That side of the creek, you can't get a bite. Well, I had that one where I punched back in, but, you know, it's not fast and furious but it is get a bite here, get a bite there, stay with it. Not doing too bad because got on the water at 3:17, started making my first cast at 3:39. It's 5:15. I've caught three. So, could have had four, I lost that other one. It starting to shape up. It's starting to come together.

Yes. How cool was that? I saw that fish bulge underneath the mat on my frog, and then the pitch back bait made it happen. Another nice chunky fish, look at that. Pretty fish. Starting to definitely have the makings of a pattern here, just basically this side of this little river. I don't know why the other side is not as good, but just this side of the river seems like there's some action. I don't know if the current just hits it different. But some fish on frog, and if they miss the frog or they roll on the frog, pitch back in with our Strike King rodent, it's all torn up, and you can get them that way. Pretty cool to see how this is developing. More persistence than anything else.

See if we can get a bigger one. Definitely, a key is being able to have that follow-up bait when you fish in matted grass like this matted vegetation. You definitely want to have something that if the fish doesn't bust the surface or penetrate the ceiling to get the frog, you want something to pitch back in there. It's worked twice today and they're getting a little bit bigger every time. But it's just something... Any time you're fishing topwater, if you get a bite and he misses it, pitch back in like a Strike King Ocho, or a Senko-style bait, or, like, a Caffeine Shad or a Fluke-style bait, something like that, or even a tube will work good too sometimes.

This is a better one. I think he's a snakehead. No, he's a bass. That was big. He just came crushing for it. Dude, that is the capital right there. I saw that fish blow up on...looked like maybe a bluegill or a bream there a little bit ago, and I threw it in there. First cast was a miss. Second cast, I hit it, but the presentation was wrong or she was out of position, one or the other. But that's just a good old... Look at how dark they are because of all... Like, these are slop bass. These fish live under the slop, you know. These might not be the biggest bass in the lake and they may not be the tournament winners on the lake, but these are fish that the heat of the summer, they live under that slop. That's why they get so dark. Look at that. It's like almost black.

So, I got to tell you, it's not that I just randomly picked this area. It's just that it looked like it was a little weedy creek or a little tributary to this lake and I thought that's where some matted grass and vegetation would be if I was to try to exploit this type of pattern. It's something that I learned through reading about seasonal patterns years and years ago, gosh, in my late teens, through high school, and stuff like that, through In-Fisherman, and I got some of those hardbound books they used to make. They talked about up north bass in the slop.

And so that's what I thought. I said, "You know, we're up north. We're in Wisconsin. They've got to have some bass in the slop, so let's try to exploit that pattern." And I didn't know if that was going to happen or play, but I stuck with it, a little persistent. Turned out to be what I found here. So, super cool.

Let's see how many more we can get before it's time to call it a day. It's now 5:38. I've been out here for almost three hours. No, a little more than three hours. I want a bigger one.

So, it's really fun to kind of exploit something that you read about in a magazine or, in my case, in a book years ago in my late teens, early 20s. And I've done this before up here in my numerous tournaments in the north. But just in a real quick, trying to figure out what's going on in the water, going around and looking for something that I'm most comfortable with, it's just shallow water, and then looking for a pattern that fits into my comfort zone. And that is that shallow slop. And finding those fish in the shallow slop, whether with a frog or punching in after them after the frog has bird-dogged them for me. What I mean by that is found this fish for me where the fish would react to the frog. And then I could come back in with the punch bait so I could transfer those swirls into bites.

Well, this has been fun. I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to stay out. I'm going to try a couple of different things. And if it turns out that it works, like fish in some boat docks, I'll include this in the video. But in case it doesn't and I end up taking off here, it's 6:00. It's a short trip. I appreciate you guys tuning into my YouTube channel and into BassResource to ride along with me in this afternoon of finding fish on a lake I've never seen before.

Obviously, the key is having an understanding of seasonal patterns of what fish do that kind of points you in the right direction. Now, it always doesn't end up happening or working out in the way that it did today where the first thing that you tried is, bam, exactly how you catch them. Obviously, more times than not, it doesn't work out like that. But thankful that it did today. It was a lot of fun just catching the handful of bass that I did. The frog was the key, that Strike King Sexy Frog in the brownish copper color.

And then I was also using a Bama bug, Strike King Rodent on a one-ounce Tungsten Weight with a 5/0...or I believe it was a 4/0 Owner Jungle Flipping Hook. I had to be persistent. It wasn't like I was just bam, bam, bam. It was one here and then one there. And then it snowballed. Then it was boom, boom, and then there was a brief period of nothing, and then boom, boom, boom. So, that was exciting. I had a lot of fun.

Make sure that you tune into BassResource, as always, a tremendous and valuable tool for all things bass fishing. Thank you again for tuning into my YouTube channel and BassResource. And until next time, good fishing.