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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Let's collect tips on finding bass. I'll start with a basic one. Use sonar to locate baitfish. That simple. No animal just wanders off into the blue yonder not feeding along the way. Even migratory birds make pit stops. Bass won't risk burning calories on a whim they will find forage. They follow forage. When baitfish begin to move off, the bass stay close behind, often tracking them from below a school. So rather than look for bass, find their food, which isn't found everywhere in a lake. Each species of forage animal tends to run together in schools or they remain as colonies (crayfish).

As a bass becomes more familiar with it's living range it knows a few "milk runs" where those colonies live, where baitfish congregate. Begin your search by thinking about the season. Right now most of the country is in post-spawn or early summer pattern. If post-spawn they are migrating back out away from spawning flats using creek "highways" to deeper water. If in summer pattern they have already returned nearly as deep as they over-winter, but in places very close to feeding flats, main lake points, ridges next to deep creeks, humps.

About 20% of bass chose to mostly remain shallow in flats under vegetation and other cover like docks. Use a paper map to study likely migration routes, circle some places with depth contour lines packed tightly together (indicating a steep slope), close to some structure (defined as something permanently part of the lake bottom), then run zigzag sonar courses across your target area until you find the baitfish. Using a floating marker or a quick GPS waypoint mark the first time you find them (a dark cloud of specks on screen) then when you zig past them. That could cover 1/4 mile along a ridge. Set a third marker at a best choice anchoring place (drop anchor, use drift socks, or using trolling motor), maybe out over deeper water, then begin casting into the target area trying different angles, plus trying from shallow to deep and moving boat to shallow and fishing deep to shallow. If the baitfish move keep up with them.

Jim
 
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I agree with you, Jim. Finding forage is important. One thing that I like to look for when fishing for bass is where two or more types of cover collide with one another. If I can find a log laying off a rip-rap dam, then I feel certain that I can get a fish. And if you add deep water close to where those cover types collide, then you have a setup that can produce a good # of fish during the day.

I also like to find little sublities that other anglers do not notice. I have a BASS Master magazine where Mark Davis describes how he won an Elite 50 tourney. He focused on small indintations in the bank, that other anglers has missed. He dubbed those places "duck holes", and he won the tournament fishing those spots.

Finding the difference in what areas that you are fishing will lead to catching bass, but as I said, if bait is not present, you will not find many predator fish. Jim nailed that on the head.
 

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Good tips guys :)

Here's one to go with those.

When fishing a grass bed... be it hydrilla or lilypads (or most any other kind)... take a good over view look of the whole bed in front of you. If you can identify points, islands and channels composed of the "grass", more often than not, you can gain a lot of knowledge about the bottom structure around the grass bed. Locating points, holes and humps beneath the grass bed can lead you to not only good numbers of fish, but quite often, the largest fish in the grass.
 
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Good point, Jared. Another thing that is imperative when fishing any type of grass is having great electronics. It will do wonders to tell you whats down there.

I have to say that Lowrance is my electronic of choice, as I am so used to how they show different things, etc., but I also have to say that Hummingbird and Eagle both make great electronics. :)
 

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Quite often using electronics in heavy grass beds isn't possible without running right up over the grass you intend to fish. Hence the reason to my previous tip. With some experience, just by knowing the type of grass and observing the layout of the bed and bordering depths you can paint a pretty good picture of the bottom beneath and around the bed.
 
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LakeCityYankee said:
Quite often using electronics in heavy grass beds isn't possible without running right up over the grass you intend to fish. Hence the reason to my previous tip. With some experience, just by knowing the type of grass and observing the layout of the bed and bordering depths you can paint a pretty good picture of the bottom beneath and around the bed.

Good point.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Boating up to weedbeds does help you learn what's there so you'll be able to sit out in deeper water studying the outline. Good point. You don't want to spook the fish in shallow water. However, that won't help much when the weedbed is submerged. There can be much more structure to explore deeper, maybe only 5-10 feet deeper where there are irregularities in the weedline following changes in bottom that attract bass.

I turn my bow mounted transducer with bottom aimed to the side and take a peek at what's under a mat of hydrilla, or under a block of styrofoam, or a dock though sometimes the transducer doesn't sit deep enough to see under those. I can take a look at what might be around a laydown too without spooking the fish in it. I'm mostly looking for lines on screen made by moving fish, meaning they are actively feeding. I get some wild depths doing that, but if a fish is under it I often get an arch. A transducer doesn't have to aim straight down except to get an accurate bottom depth. The sound cone will hit bottom sideways. Depth will read 15 feet one moment then 550 the next, but just ignore that. You can look up and see how far away the fish might be. I guess I'll post this over in Sonar Basics too. It just fits here too.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
When I pull up to a flat where all the vegetation is still submerged and don't want to spoil it I just looking the shallows over. If I see some above water erosion like a shallow ditch with rocks cutting through, I figure since that was there before the lake was it's probably the beginning of a little creek now below water surface. The farther that drainage went downhill the deeper it cut, so I take a best guess on where the creek went, now covered by water, but maybe silted in. too. If a large volume of water runs into it that often lkeeps the silt washed on down. Where that creek was it still is and runs through the flat, and that is where bass will rest stacked up by the school sometimes even if the drainage is only a few inches deeper than the flat around it. Hydrilla grows on the edges of the drainage down there forming a tunnel through the slop, arching over the old creek. That provides good shade, cooler water, and conceals the bass. That's where I want to drop a heavy jig and scoot it around a while slowly back to the boat. If I can get the jig to follow the creek channel the line usually comes through the plants. If it keeps dragging with heavy resistance and lifting the jig then I know it's coming through thick plants on either side. Once the plants top out the lower leaves shade out and it gets really clean and open under the mat, but by then the plants grow together over the ditch and all I can do is pop a jig through it and yo-yo it in place.

Another item to look for is a rock outcrop ridge coming down to the lake. The rest of it is under water. I line up on the ridge to predict where the underwater ridge should be. Bass will stack up on the shady side or down current side, and near the tip where it might dive off into deep water.

The general diversity of geoplogy above water is a good indicator of the potential of finding interesting structure under water. If the terrain above is smooth and featureless it's likely the lake bottom below that is also structureless, so usually won't hold many bass unless there's some vegetation cover for them.

So my main point is use what you can see to predict what can't be seen. It's the same principle as weeing a log in the water with a root ball on shore. You can figure there's a bass-holding tree top under water. The same goes for geological features you can see.

Jim
 
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Great posts, Jim. You never cease to amaze. The only thing that I have to say is that while the structure of a lake above the surface is a great indication of what is laying at the bottom, without electronics to verify that it is the same, anglers could be going over potential fish holding cover, and not realizing it.

A lot of the lakes that I fish here in Georgia, and to the west in Alabama, have a lot sunken trees and fish attractors that are scattered and put in very inconspicuous areas, and without electronics to find them, a lot of bass wouldn't have been caught, and more than a few crappies wouldn't have been caught.

:) Keep the great posts coming.
 

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Ouachita said:
I turn my bow mounted transducer with bottom aimed to the side and take a peek at what's under a mat of hydrilla, or under a block of styrofoam, or a dock though sometimes the transducer doesn't sit deep enough to see under those. I can take a look at what might be around a laydown too without spooking the fish in it. I'm mostly looking for lines on screen made by moving fish, meaning they are actively feeding. I get some wild depths doing that, but if a fish is under it I often get an arch. A transducer doesn't have to aim straight down except to get an accurate bottom depth. The sound cone will hit bottom sideways. Depth will read 15 feet one moment then 550 the next, but just ignore that. You can look up and see how far away the fish might be. I guess I'll post this over in Sonar Basics too. It just fits here too.

Jim
I love that idea Jim! I never knew you could do that! :)
 

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Ouachita said:
So my main point is use what you can see to predict what can't be seen. It's the same principle as weeing a log in the water with a root ball on shore. You can figure there's a bass-holding tree top under water. The same goes for geological features you can see.

Jim
Very good point Jim. I learned to do that when shore fishing. I once read a book written by George Perry and that was probably the greatest thing he had taught me out of the book.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Perry added much to my deep water bassing knowledge and I still go by his teachings about bass behavior, though gave up on his trolling methods when I lost the last Perry spoon. I just don't like trolling even though that produces lots of fish.

Campers are always wanting to bass fish without electronics, and many that have sonar can't interpret it. A very common question on my home lake is how will they find gravel. We gets many folks coming here only familiar with brownies, so they want to finds gravel with light vegetation, the golden grail of smallmouth habitat. Well, here's another for instance of geology signs. I rarely find gravel except on long points and almost always at water's edge will be a clay bank chocked full of gravel. Simple as that. The gravel washes out of the clay, the clay drifts away, gravel builds up. I don't see gravel beds in deep covers between points because any gravel there gets silted in.

See boulders on the shoreline? There's probably plenty under water.

Etc., etc.

Jim
 

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well...what i do is simply just wonder, if i were a bass would i be in here? is it kool and nice? lol i actually look for canals that have cover and grass, then i look on the banks...im looking for the birds that are following the baitfish that the bass are following
 

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Thanks! Some really good info in this thread. Gonna put some of this to work tomorrow on Bardwell. Maybe I will have some pictures to prove if it worked for me. :wack:
 

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Don't forget the obvious if you will be fishing a lake you are unfamiliar with get a good map of the lake bottom it gives you a starting point
 

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Didn't notice this thread until today, good information. A lot of this has been covered in seasonal period post, pre fishing tournaments etc.
Somewhere we discussed where to get started looking for bass and my favorite is the marina when fishing high land , hill-land class reservoirs. Marinas are almost always built where a fish camp originated near good fishing locations and always in deep water access. The boat docks, buoys, breakwater walls, logbooms, etc. provide structure and cover. Today the marinas are being constantly restocked by bass fisherman. What more could anyone want to get started.
Launch your boat, check out your electronics, trolling motor and get your tackle set up based on learn just observing the water temperature, water clarity, depth the baitfish and bass are holding, activity level of the bass, birds and baitfish.
I can't tell how often the best fishing I have had during the day was right in the marina area. In fact the last trip on the 28th of Sept is a perfect example; see the Tips & Tactics "spooning" post trip. On that outing I didn't meter around the marina as is my customary practice and went right down the lake without knowing what was actually going on. However when I did discover the bass feeding on shad schools, I knew to check out the marina on the way back.
Tom
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Marinas do attract and hold huge numbers of baitfish. Folks using docks often feed them. I've stood on a dock slip deck watching so many baitfish swimming or suspended all I could see was black water. Bass are bound to know they are there, and they do suspend under those critters in large numbers, always assured of an easy meal above them. The problem with that is those bass are usually well fed and satisfied. They tend to ignore artificial baits more than free roaming bass, partly because of becoming conditioned to them, too many anglers fishing the slips and docks. Live bait fishing does produce stringers of large bass and many other species, like slab crappie in the 2-3# range. Putting a minnow well below the crowd gets a quick bite from something. Some bass approaching our state record have come from deep water off the end of a slip, mostly in winter when the baitfish go deeper.

Jim
 
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