Exploring new water, whether for fishing in a tournament on or taking a fun outing can be one of the most challenging scenarios in our sport. A little bit of prep work can help sort through the guess work and lessen the intimidation factor. Optimize time exploring new water by following a game plan. Here’s an example.
Exploring New Water – Map study
This is the first thing I’ll do when planning for an outing on new water. The internet is a great starting point for basic orientation. However, at some point, a paper map is recommended for taking notes and marking places to explore. Most of the major tackle wholesalers and retailers offer maps for popular destinations. Search local shops for maps produced in the area. These maps tend to have a bit more detail like nicknames of creeks, coves, and key structure.
Exploring New Water – The Internet
Most of the national bass fishing sites have search engines allowing an angler to sort queries by a body of water and time of year. Go back five to ten years to get a solid sample size. Look for trends in baits, presentations, structure, and cover. Spend some time looking for and surfing local fishing sites. These local sites are likely to have the most detail for these places. Take note of nicknames and local references to specific locations. Mark these on a map for quick reference when on the water. Google Earth searches can provide a jump start on landmark and structure identification. Google Earth will show detail which might not appear on a map like docks, moorings, and marinas. It can also provide a feel for water conditions and clarity. I’ll use Google Earth to help decide where to put in. The bird’s eye view of the ramp and parking eliminates guesswork and surprises. Don’t forget to visit the Corps of Engineers or TVA sites for the bodies of water managed by these agencies. Understanding flow rates and power generation cycles can be key to unlocking the secrets of a new body of water.
Exploring New Water – Electronics
Armed with some map study and a bit of local knowledge gleaned from internet work; it’s time to get to know the new body of water at an intimate level. Use sonar to fine tune the understanding of key structure and identify brush or rock pile enhancements. Be sure to take note of what the baitfish and predator fish are doing with respect to structure and cover. Use waypoints to mark “high potential” spots. Use the snapshot function, if available, to gather images of specific targets. These can be invaluable when deciding which baits to use and how to present them.
Exploring New Water – Write It Down
It’s the evening before the event, and preparation is complete. The boat is loaded, rods are rigged, and the map is marked up with all of the essential data needed. Take a few minutes to jot down the plan for the day. Notes might include the location and the baits believed will be most effective based on what was learned during scouting and prefishing. Refer to notes before leaving a spot to make sure not to forget anything and to prepare mentally for the next stop. Having a short, concise reminder handy eliminates a variable in tournament day execution, helping to keep focus on navigation and presentation. Take some time to review the game plan after the event. Make note of things done well to prepare, things missed or could’ve done better, and what worked or did not work. A few notes on navigating around the new body of water might be helpful on a returning event. Notes like these might be invaluable references one day.
Once it’s done a couple of times, it becomes old hat. The muscle memory kicks in quickly. Preparing for new bodies of water and having a form of structured preparation can add a ton of enjoyment to the experience. As the old saying goes, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Replace chance with knowledge (and confidence!) by following a simple game plan.