The question I am asked most often is how to find bass on a strange lake. Of course, I'm faced with this problem whenever I travel out of state to compete in a tournament.
There are about 10 basic bass fishing rules that I feel you must use if you wish to succeed on unfamiliar waters. Really, if you use these rules on any lake, you'll improve your weight at the scales.
- Keep it simple and work hard. Keeping it simple speaks for itself. Don't try all the latest lures or techniques that happen to be the rage. You can get caught up in things that cause you to forget you're there to catch bass. You're not there to use some $15 lure or skip the bait 10 times exactly. Lures come and go and techniques change. Use the lures and techniques you have used successfully in the past. Both lures and techniques that have been around for years have done so for a reason. They work. As to working hard, do it. The bass are not going to jump into your boat. You're not going to find fish with your boat on the trailer. There is no substitute for time spent on the water.
- Be confident. You'll never be successful if you don't believe that. You can't fake it. You must truly believe you're going to win. No one wins them all, but the one who does had self confidence and firmly believed he or she could.
- Fish shallow water first. Everybody always thinks I win events fishing deep structure. It isn't true. I do catch a lot of bass deep, but I always try to find and fish for shallow water fish. They are easier to catch.
- Bass are object oriented. If you'll just remember that bass very seldom can be caught out in the middle of nowhere, you'll do a lot better. A rock, stump, drop-off, or even in the shadow of a tree will hold fish. Cast to something, anything, and you'll weigh more bass.
- Remember seasonal patterns are important. Bass are creatures that live in nature. The weather will determine what they will be doing, not just what you want them to be doing. Just because you like to catch bass on topwaters, doesn't mean that's what they'll hit. You only need to remember two things about seasonal patterns; warm water or cold water.
- Be versatile. Don't get in a rut with your fishing. When you arrive at the lake, let the water determine what lures you will fish. Don't just chunk your favorite lures. No favorite lures unless the conditions are right for them!
- Pay attention to the water. If the water is clear, down size lure and line. If the water is muddy, go with bright colors and larger baits. Is the lake level falling or rising? Either condition can make a difference in what the bass are doing.
- Use good equipment. This has always been one of my pet peeves. I don't want to hear at weigh-in about the one you broke off. Use good line. I've always been surprised at how many anglers try to save money by not changing their line before every tournament. It's the least expensive thing you can do between you and the fish. Make sure all of your equipment is in good working order before each tournament. You don't have to buy $200 reels, but if you buy a $20 reel you are asking for trouble.
- Fish with an expert. There is no faster learning curve for any lake than to fish with a local fisherman or guide. Very seldom will you do as well on their holes as they do, but they can put you on the most productive pattern for their lake. Every lake has its own little tricks. Learning these will help you find your own fish faster.
- Read magazines and watch television shows. The lake reports in Honey Hole are a very valuable way to learn about a lake without actually being there. You can refer back to the issue that was printed in the season you'll be fishing a certain lake to see what the pattern was. Not to mention, that everyone doing these reports gives tips about fishing in general that can help you on any lake. The television show has a map segment at the end. These can give you a pretty good idea of the lake. You can send for the complete listings of shows any time. These can help you know what the lake looks like before you get there.
So, there you have it. Work hard, have confidence, fish shallow first, remember bass are object oriented, take heed of the weather, be versatile, on to the water conditions, pay attention use good equipment and take care of it, get advice on new water from local experts, read and watch everything you can on bass fishing. That's all there is to it.
If you'll go by these 10 rules you'll have more bass at the scales. And though I'll wish you good luck, if you use the rules, you won't need luck. Good fishing.
Bill Wilcox is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Yamaha Outboards, MCMC, BG Products, Pro Rule, Johnson Fiberglass, Brown's Automotive, Continental Batteries, Kistler Rods, Swamp Hog Lures, Strike King Lures, and Fun-n-Sun Sports Center.