Hopefully we all get to experience bass fishing on a new lake occasionally. If you are ‘home bound’ and never venture from your local water you are missing so much, and limiting your abilities. I find that learning a variety of new bass catching baits, or a new bass fishing technique, is easier on the water away from home because you have no preconceived ideas or concepts. There is not an overwhelming sensation to go to spot X and toss bait Y because you know it will work most of the time.
New water teaches you to use your mind, discover what the lay of the land is telling you, and try different baits. You’ve researched the lake and found out that a drop shot is the way to catch numbers, and a swimbait is how they catch the big fish. Now you get to research not only the lake but drop shots and swimbaits! Every corner, bend, hump, point, bluff wall, present an “I wonder” in your brain. It’s fun, exciting, as well as extremely challenging. The challenge of catching bass is what keeps bass anglers coming back for more. What better way to accelerate that challenge than trying to find bass on a new lake.
For me, fishing new water is exciting from the moment I decide that I’m going. Every part of my research pulls me deeper into a zone of anticipation that gets so strong that, by the time I get to the water, I’m ready to explode. Sleeping the night before is virtually impossible. Being fortunate to have retired from the military in an area that there are several small lakes very close, I get to bass fish as often as my body will let me. Expenses associated with a 10 – 20 mile drive and a lake that isn’t but 5 or 6 miles long are not that bad. However, I know these lakes inside and out, I know everything about them. I try to find ways to challenge myself, but it’s extremely difficult. After an hour or two of a failed experiment, I’m off to my favorite dock, or favorite drop off to catch a few bass. So learning just doesn’t happen unless my choice of experimenting starts catching them quickly. New bass lakes change all of that.
I once coordinated a seminar for Clark Reehm. After he ate with everyone and conducted his seminar, he opened the floor to questions. An angler asked Clark, “If I’m fishing an area for an hour and don’t get a bite, when/how do you know it’s time to leave?” Clark replied, “Why did you stay so long?”
I bring this up because it fits when fishing new water. You’ve probably done hours of map study before you got to the lake. You have marked who knows how many possible bass holding locations. Today’s electronics allow you to eliminate water quickly, but once you find bass holding on a piece of structure, give them a shot. Either they are feeding or not. If they are feeding then enjoy catching them. If not, move to your next location. According to Clark, 10-15 minutes are enough to tell you if they are feeding. I’ve talked with other professionals of the sport that say 10-12 casts is enough to know if it’s a spot you want to keep working. The point here is, explore, don’t get hung up on the “perfect location”. It could produce bass, but if it doesn’t move on. You have a whole new world in front of you!
The most exciting part of fishing a new lake is, once I’ve found a pattern, exploring and duplicating that pattern. For me, the adrenalin rush to find as many bass as I can before the sun goes down is awesome! Hopping location to location, trying to find the smallest details that can ensure you’re going to catch a bass. There is nothing better. I love finding a pattern on a new body of water that is so strong I can call my shots. Knowing that when I run a spinnerbait past that brush pile under that dock, I’m going to get a bite! That’s pure satisfaction for me. I guess it would be like a big game hunter that did all his prep work, set up his blind or stand, got in the woods early, and right at first light his trophy walks out in front of him.
Once I’ve found that bass are using a specific type of cover or structure, I’ll start scanning the lake with electronics or visually, which ever the case, and find as many locations as I can. I’ll spot check a few just to make sure I’m not missing something. Mostly, I am setting up a game plan for the next day, hopefully there is a next day. If not, I’ll slow down some and enjoy catching as many bass as possible.
A new bass fishing lake can teach you and expand your abilities. The scenery can be breathtaking, and the wildlife can leave you in awe. We get very accustomed to the waters we normally fish, and we as anglers can sometimes dial out what is around us. On a new body of water, your senses are alive again, and your brain is soaking in everything around you. If you don’t regularly check out some new angling lakes or rivers occasionally, you’re limiting what bass fishing is all about!
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