The last article in this series, Bass Fishing a New Lake Series Wrap Up, discusses all the things which did not fit into the previous articles (See below for series list). I’ll cover some very important items from equipment to local laws. When it comes to fishing a new lake, equipment preparation is just as important as map study, seasonal patterns, and baitfish understanding. If equipment is not prepared or fails, fishing time is lost. Whether prefishing for a big tournament or just learning a new lake for the adventure of it, lost fishing time is frustrating. Everything from rods and reels to trailer wheel bearings needs to be ready before setting out on a bass fishing expedition.
Bass Fishing New Lakes – Rod and Reels
In the research thus far, an angler should have a good idea of the bass catching baits and presentations needed to be effective. If fishing a deep clear water reservoir, having a rod box full of extra heavy flipping rods spooled with 50 yards of 100-pound braid is probably going to be as useful as an anchor with three feet of rope. Rods and reels should be paired with appropriate lines for the expected conditions. I always make sure to have what I expect and the ability to handle situations I don’t expect. Fishing deep clear water lakes, planning to catch bass on deep diving crankbaits, Carolina rigs, and dropshots, doesn’t mean I won’t find a viable pattern swimming a jig around boat docks. Be rigged for the expected but prepared for off the wall patterns.
Bass Fishing a New Lake – Equipment Preparation
Traveling to a new lake can, in its self, be part of a great adventure. However, through in a blown out tire or overheated wheel bearing, and the adventure comes to a screeching halt. Now complications take away from fishing time. Making sure all the basics are checked before leaving will save a lot of heart ache and lost fishing time. Make sure all tires have enough tread to make the trip and the correct air pressure. Make sure the tow vehicle and boat trailer spare tires are in good condition, inflated properly and not corroded in place. I highly recommend the spare tires be removed from storage locations for a complete inspection to verify there are not unforeseen issues. On a personal note, I had a flat tire on my boat’s trailer in the driveway at home. In changing the tire, I discovered the tools in my truck did not allow me to remove the lug nuts from my trailer tire. Thankfully I was not on the side of the highway somewhere. My trailer’s rims have insets for the lug nuts and my standard four-way tool would not fit inside the inset. Now I carry a socket and breaker bar to remove my trailer tires. Verify trailer’s wheel bearing oil level is correct and there are no leaks. If bearings are the older greased type, make sure they were recently serviced. Finish off the inspection with light operation and looking for loose components (fenders, license plate, anything bolted on).
Check the boat’s battery fluid levels, if there have been any issues in charging be sure to correct them before leaving. Inspect the trolling motor at wear points, a broken steering cable can be disastrous on the water and getting it repaired, if possible at the location, will be expensive. Remove trolling motor and outboard props, inspect for damage, and fishing line.
Rods and Reel should be in top shape. Clean and service reels to prevent failure. There is nothing better than a fresh oiled reel, a new lake, and the hope of a giant bass. However, a poorly casting reel or a sticky drag can get very frustrating. Since spares are not readily available, if worn gears fail, or casting drag systems disintegrate, the reel becomes useless and versatility suffers. Same for rods, lose or cracked guides will damage line, reduce casting, and cause lost opportunities. Ensure rods and reels are operating at top performance for maximum efficiency and enjoyment.
Bass Fishing a New Lake Series Wrap Up – The Extras
In traveling to various tournaments across the country, I was always surprised at how much oil my outboard would use. The motor is very efficient; however, there is a lot more outboard motor time when investigating a new lake than in everyday travels on local waters. When fishing at home, we may pull up to an area and fish it thoroughly, when I’m investigating a new body of water I may only make 10 or 12 casts before moving again. Purchase and carry spare oil in the boat.
I am a huge tackle junkie, and visiting a new body of water is a great reason to load up on a ton of new gear. Over the years, I have acquired tremendous amounts of tackle specific to regions or lakes. When visiting a new body of water, I try to carry as much tackle as possible with me. I hate buying tackle I already have hanging on a pegboard at the house, I’d much rather spend my money on new equipment. I converted two plastic rolling tool boxes into tackle storage systems. Currently there are excellent tackle management systems available for purchase, so converting something isn’t required. After conducting research into general patterns, lake composition, and any prospective patterns, I fill these two boxes with anything possibly useful and carry it in the truck.
The flip side to being a tackle junky is the extra weight in the boat. Extra tackle will decrease fuel and oil economy. Once at the lake and my experience on the lake improves, I’ll remove equipment and tackle from the boat. Not only does this help with fuel and oil efficiency, it reduces clutter on tournament days. Digging through excess tackle reduces the number of casts made during tournament hours.
Carrying spare rods and reels is not always an option. First it’s expensive and second there simply may not be room in the boat or truck; rods and reels are not space saving shapes. In addition to the rods I have set up for the specific techniques I plan to use, I recommend at least two spare rods in a general purpose action and length. With reels removed, blank rods take up very little room in the bottom of a rod locker. Reels can be stored in separate compartments.
Bass Fishing New Lakes – Know the Rules
Something I haven’t mentioned yet is laws and regulations. Ignorance is not an excuse; visiting anglers must know the rules and regulations for the body of water they are fishing. Make sure to buy a fishing license; the internet has made it possible to do this while still sitting at home. Online purchasing is convenient; however, it sets an angler up for getting in trouble. When purchasing a fishing license at a local retailer, most states give a copy of rules and regulations to the purchaser for review. I’m not saying to purchase a license at the lake, just a reminder to follow up and use the internet to find the rules and regulations for the body of water being fished.
Its vital anglers know the states laws. Not only will this knowledge keep an angler out of trouble, but it can also help determine which bass catching patterns are best. For example, if fishing a lake with a protected slot limit like Lake Fork in Texas, 16-24-inch bass must be release and only one bass over 24 inches is legal to keep. It makes sense to set out to find a limit of bass under sixteen inches. Or maybe only spend the first hour looking for a large bass and commit to the smaller limit after a set time. When fishing a bass tournament, I like to swing for the fences. In this example, one bass over 24 inches could weigh more than a limit of bass around 14 inches. This is a personal decision and knowing the regulations will help in determining a game plan.
Another example of knowing the states regulations is boat navigation laws. In the state of Texas all bridges are no wake zones, many times these are not posted because it’s the state law. In Louisiana, anglers can go under a bridge at whatever speed the pucker factor will allow; unless otherwise posted. It’s common for visiting anglers to simply get a warning for blasting under a bridge in Texas. However, anglers lose fishing time while pleading a case to the law enforcement agencies.
Life jackets are another great example of needing to know local laws. In Louisiana any child under the age for 14 must have a life jacket on when the boat is underway. In Louisiana, a boat using its trolling motor is considered “underway”. Unless anchored, a 14 year must wear a life jacket. Some states do not recognize inflatable life jackets unless worn. Again in Louisiana, there must be a life jacket on board for each person in the boat. If over the age of 14, it does not have to be worn, unless it’s an inflatable. Know the law and always wear life jackets when the big motor is on.
Bass Fishing a New Lake – Personal Equipment
Build a check list of personal and specific items needed on every trip. Store this list on a computer and print it before each trip. Several years ago, I put a tablet on the kitchen counter with a pen. Every time I thought about something I would need during my travels, I’d write it down. Now before every trip I print a copy of the check list. It’s been quite some time since I’ve forgotten something important like a phone power cord, medicine, or the coffee pot. An appropriately detailed list will be at least a page long. Do not leave anything out, if it’s typically packed, put it on the list. Even the simplest things, it’s better to make sure everything is packed versus having to buy it at the destination. I own countless phone charging cords, because I had to buy them at my destination. Here is a quick sample list to help get started, a personal list should be much larger than this:
Lock-R-Bar (or a form of locking device for compartments)
Boat Cover (for the obvious reasons, but a covered boat is less likely to be broken into)
Coffee / Filters / Coffee Pot
Medicine (stock boat medicine, I also keep a day’s supply in the boat)
Clothes (don’t forget spares)
Razor / Tooth Brush
Phone Charging Cord / Blue Tooth / Blue Tooth Charging Cord
Lap Top and Charger
Extra Tackle for region
Extra Rod and Reels
Exploring a new lake or river is one of the most exciting things in our sport. Being able to travel to places we’ve never been and quickly start catching bass is a sense of conquering nature! Well, it is for me anyway. Whether out with the family to have a great time, or trying to win a national championship, use this series of articles to cut down on the time it takes to learn a new body of water and the adventure will be even more exciting and memorable for everyone.
Here are links to the previous articles in the series Bass Fishing A New Lake: