Thoughts on Fishing New Water

The author gazing across the Kankakee

The author gazing across the Kankakee

I sit here in my office tonight, pondering what approach I should take on my upcoming trip to Dale Hollow for the first time…what type of lures should I pack heavy; what type of clothing will keep me comfortable while I’m there; where should I start when I get there?

These are all good questions, but let’s think this one through logically. What’s the first thing I should be doing when fishing unfamiliar waters – not just Dale Hollow, but anywhere I might get the chance to go? Search out maps of the watershed I plan to fish, paying particular attention to contour maps that show the areas in closest proximity to where I plan on fishing. OK, so I’ve got some maps…now what?

That brings me to strategy number two…fishing reports – scour the internet, local papers, fishing magazines, call local bait shops and tackle stores…they can give you a general idea of what type of water is producing best. You may have to wad through a lot of bogus reports and information to eventually glean enough information to base your attack on specific types of structure and specific techniques and lures.

OK, let’s say strategy number two didn’t pan out the way we anticipated, what do we do then? Get a couple copies of the map made, or laminate the copy you have – either way, you’ll want to search out feeder ditches and creeks; prominent points with both shallow structure and deep water nearby; roadbeds; sandbars and/or gravel bars; main lake channels; humps; and, any irregularities that may present a combination of any of the other types of structure.

Is the water clear? Do you need to down-size your baits? Do you need to use a thinner diameter line? Do you need to use more natural looking baits? Match the hatch?

Is the wind a factor? What are the prevailing winds for the specific time of the year you plan to be fishing? Is the water muddy?

How about weeds…are there areas with massive weed clumps? Bays choked with lily pads?  Standing timber? Lay downs?

So many variables, so little time…if I were fishing unfamiliar water for the first time I’d start with any prominent points; then I’d look for creeks coming in and/or main lake channels; next on the list would be bays with weeds and/or timber – in these areas I’d look for isolated features separate from the rest of the structure…and lastly, I’d look for deep drop offs near the shore.

As to the baits I’d try…a spinner bait, plastics, jigs, cranks and a buzz bait. Initially, I’d do my best to keep it simple and cover as much water productively as possible.

OK, now my brain is starting to hurt…we hit the road tomorrow – am I ready? Probably not, but I’m confident that if I allow myself to think clearly and us my PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) that I’ll still be able to have a good trip and with luck learn a few new tricks along the way.


Mark Toth, The Ditch Fishing Chronicles
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