Just for the record, this is NOT a parental guide to
getting the kids to do their homework, as I gave up on that
idea a long time ago! The "homework" in question
concerns the work required prior to a tournament or a day
on the water, if you plan to catch fish!
We as fishermen and women do not have the gift of either
foresight or hindsight. Any of us who did, would be sitting
pretty at the top of the heap right now, so that begs the
$64,000.00 question, "What Could I Have Done Differently?"
I cannot remember how many tournaments I have fished during
my early years where I said to myself, "why did
I do that" or "what made me switch tactics,
on a perfect Texas rigged worm bite day"? To be
honest with you, back in the late 80's, I was not prepared
and so I have either followed my gut instinct or I have
allowed someone else's opinion to outweigh my own. Sometimes
I would hit it lucky, but the majority of times it cost
me a top ten finish in a tournament.
So what are the "ground rules"? Where
do you draw the line and say, "I have a plan and
I am sticking with it, unless something catastrophic happens
that I need a backup scenario".
Before I begin to embark on any (new or familiar) body
of water, I get out the maps and do my "homework".
I am looking for something different in the structure, contour
and shape of that lake or river, that is going to attract
and (with some degree of certainty) be a home, for the fish
I am targeting.
For the majority of my fishing expeditions, and for the
purposes of this article, I am seeking large and smallmouth
bass, so my key indicators are: -
Note: I should also add that if I can find a combination
of three types of structure (i.e. grass, wood, rock, weed,
gravel etc) in the same area, this is another indicator
to me of "prime bass real estate".
2/ Shallow flats.
3/ Deep water drop offs, (if possible they should
be adjacent to the flats).
Your next step is to translate the topographical map information
into a fishing location, for which you may need some guidance.
Here is a typical map notation from which you can begin
"Lake X is very shallow and has very little main
lake cover and structure. Riprap near the dam provides excellent
habitat for catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass while
more open areas provide habitat required by hybrid striped
bass. Deeper creek arms are dominated by overhanging brush,
numerous lay-downs, and submerged brush, which provide excellent
habitat for crappie, sunfish, catfish, and largemouth bass.
Shallow flats encompass most of the north end of the reservoir
and provide an excellent breeding ground for forage species.
Flooded terrestrial vegetation, during periods of high water,
provides excellent habitat for all game fish species".
The author of Lake X's notes clearly mentions the dam,
the creek arms with overhanging brush and shallow flats.
These are therefore my key indicators as to the type of
lake I am dealing with, which will help me pre-determine
my lure selection. Let us now look at these three indicators
and how to tackle them.
No I am not cursin!
Dams are an excellent "meeting place"
for baitfish and predators alike. Usually deeper than the
rest of the lake, fish will congregate, looking for a variety
of offerings that may be stunned by the pushing or pulling
power of the dam. I too am looking for ambush and vantage
points above and below the water. Above, for me to make
my approach and below, for the bass to hide.
Bait selections should include: Deep Diving Crankbaits,
Carolina Rigs. Heavy Jig and Pork Rigs. Deep Drop Shot Rigs
and Weighted Jerkbaits.
No my elbows do not need oiling!
Feeder or creek arms offer shelter and forage opportunities
for all species of fish. Bass in particular will hold large
schools of baitfish in a creek and periodically drive them
to the end, where they will gorge themselves as they "cut
and slash" their way through the shoal. For those
of you who have witnessed this amazing spectacle, we can
only gaze in wonder as the baitfish jump again and again
to escape the jaws of the bass.
Bait selection should include: Top Water Poppers, Shallow
Running Crankbaits, Buzzbaits, Soft Plastic Jerkbaits, Whacky
and/or Finesse Worm techniques.
No quip from me on this one, other than I check my trailers
tires before each trip!
These areas offer a multitude of fishing techniques and
variations. Because of their very name, flats are always
adjacent to some kind of deeper water. We know that certain
species of sunfish (including bass) breed on these flats.
We also know that after laying her eggs, the female bass
will retreat to the edge of the flats and watch the males
guard the nests. Probably the most important fact is that
largemouth bass in particular do not roam more than a half
mile from the place of their birth, unless moved by man
(tournament situations etc) or a powerful force of nature
which either physically moves them, or takes away the bait
fish on which they thrive, in which case the bass will become
"nomadic" following the schools of baitfish
Bait selection should include: Carolina and or Texas rigged
4 inch Plastics (worm, tube), Hair Jigs, Spinnerbaits, Buzzbaits,
Shallow Drop Shot rigs fished at a 45 degree angle, and
a favorite of mine, A Frontrunner!
Bottom line is you have to put in the map work if you intend
to catch fish. I don't think anyone really enjoys "Blank
or Skunk Days" just because the sun was shining,
the birds were singing, or the view was breathtaking! By
nature we as humans are hunter-gatherers and whether for
sport or food, fishing helps quench part of that desire
in us all. Our ancestors looked for tracks, walked with
long sticks to test the ground or water depth before proceeding,
and followed climactic or seasonal changes, to decide when
were the best places and times to hunt and fish. We have
come a long way since then, but the principles are still
This is not an all-encompassing answer to the question
we began with, but it is a solid starting point for you
to maybe say to yourself "Geeze, I'm Glad I Did
Charles - Contact me with your questions or comments at
or visit me in the chat
room for live one on one interviews or question
and answer sessions.