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OUTDOORS: Time to do your homework for new angling venues

When targeting bass on unfamiliar waters, follow a few basic rules and do your homework. Sometimes simply narrowing down your search to a particular type of location or structure can pay off, but beware — information about new waters is scarce.

When targeting bass on unfamiliar waters, follow a few basic rules and do your homework. Sometimes simply narrowing down your search to a particular type of location or structure can pay off, but beware — information about new waters is scarce.

At virtually any marina or boat ramp, one often finds himself privy to the conversations of fellow bass anglers. A certain number of these fishermen are unfamiliar with a particular area and are fishing a certain waterway for the first time.

Invariably, many of them literally beg for firsthand information on how to fish the “new” lake or river.

Sometimes, this needed data is easy to come by. Other times, information about new waters is scarce.

What follows are a few tips from professional anglers and well-traveled recreational bass fishermen who offer their views regarding first-time fishing encounters. They add up to good basic advice that is useful to anyone venturing into “uncharted” largemouth haunts.

Many bass anglers tend to stick to waterways with which they are familiar rather than try their luck with a new fishery. In most cases, their reluctance comes from not knowing how to dissect a particular body of water.

Wary fishermen can learn a lot from the experiences of others about fishing new waters and making them productive.

First, understand and follow the seasonal patterns of the fish. This is usually the number-one key to increasing one’s odds of success on any given waterway. Basically, largemouth bass are the same from coast to coast.

Wherever they live, they all follow certain patterns that are instinctively ingrained and repeated over and over again, year in and year out. Spend some time gathering information about these patterns by attending seminars, watching videos, and reading books and articles that teach the basics of bass habits.

Armed with a fundamental understanding of a bass’s seasonal habits, a fisherman can talk with local anglers at virtually any lake or stream and determine exactly what the fish are doing and the pattern they are in at the time he plans to fish.

Next, concentrate on using a small range of lures selected with a specific seasonal pattern and the prevalent water conditions in mind. There is an old rule of thumb that states that 90 percent of the fish inhabit 10 percent of the water.

Determine where this 10 percent is at any given time. Knowledge of seasonal patterns is the primary factor that allows a fisherman to “narrow down” a waterway. In combination with proper lure selection, find out what region of the lake or river is known for a large bass population and concentrate the bulk of the effort in that one area.

Fish any body of water in segments. Target a practical, workable area. If, for example, a lake is 100 miles long, don’t try to fish the entire 100 mile stretch in one day. Focus instead on, say, a 10-mile area. If the lake is one mile long, concentrate on a 100-yard stretch.

Then work on learning as much as possible about that section and the habits of the fish living there. Factors like structure, depth, temperature, and wind effect are just a few factors that should be considered.

When trying out a particular stretch of water, fish at a relatively rapid rate. Do not waste time. Cover the targeted area as quickly as you possibly can. If you are fishing a certain type of pattern (a springtime pattern, for example) that reveals the fish being on the move, fish fast, thereby eliminating a lot of water in a short time period.

Summer and winter patterns, of course, must be fished much slower and are naturally more difficult, requiring a more methodical approach.

If basic lure selection is based on solid data and one has done his “homework” properly, it is important that he stays with his basic lure selection.

However, a fisherman should not fish with one lure for more than a couple of hours without at least changing his technique or presentation.

Baits that traditionally pay off in an area are not apt to change too much over time, but often little “tweaks” in how they are fished determines their productivity from day to day. For instance, bass holding on a river ledge may strike a slowly fished Carolina-rig worm one day and prefer the same lure worked just a little faster the next.

Most experts agree on the importance of “listening” to the fish when they “talk” to you.

Whenever a strike is generated, make mental notes (you can even write them down later) as to the exact make-up of the bottom terrain, the type of cover present, water depth and temperature, how the lure is presented, and more.

Consider every factor that might have contributed to success. Then, continue to search for and locate areas that are nearly identical to the region where those first fish were taken. In other words, always look for patterns within the seasonal pattern.

Though it may sound like a minor thing, always use quality equipment.

Unlike some sports that require a great deal of individual skill and work in order to become proficient and enjoy them, fishing can be thoroughly enjoyed by experts and novices alike if they fish with the right gear for the present situation.

Experienced and inexperienced anglers alike have much higher success rates with top-level equipment.

In bass fishing, gear and angler are one. Only quality equipment allows the fine tuning sometimes required.

Become a sponge of information. No one, not even a professional, goes to a lake and experiences immediate success. Study and investigate.

A lot of a seasoned fisherman’s success comes from a “sixth sense” that tells him an area is right.

That intuition is developed from acquired knowledge, experience, and continual hard work. Never stop learning and don’t become complacent or blind to new ideas.

There can be no success on a new waterway if one doesn’t get onto the water and fish.

Never be afraid to try new waters because of unfamiliarity. Use these basic tips to flatten out the learning curve and widen your angling options.