When I was young, my dad would tell me about how easy it was to catch bass on our home lake when he was a kid. He would tell me how he would normally have the lake to himself, or at least be the only fisherman in sight, and the bass would readily bite just about any lure he used. Now that I’m an adult myself, I can’t say that I have had the same experiences. Bass fishing, as a sport, has grown exponentially since my father was a child. Tournament coverage is basically mainstream. Kayak fishing has given so many people access to waters that were previously unreachable by nearly everyone. Advancements in sonar technology has even made offshore fishing open to everyone. Prior to that, only the most hardcore and dedicated of bass anglers would venture offshore and had schools of bass entirely to themselves. That is no longer the case.
Now here is the good news. There are still fishing spots with relatively low angling pressure. And the even better news? You can almost certainly find these places on your local waters!
Don’t Overlook the Obvious
With the invention of quality GPS mapping, side-imaging technology, and forward-looking sonar, it is very easy to feel like there is no place for a bass to hide anymore. Even more so, it seems like everyone has every bit of the latest and greatest gadgets on their boat and are becoming increasingly proficient at using them. However, I have noticed that with so many people using their electronics to find bass, more and more anglers are completely disregarding some of the more obvious shallow areas.
I once fished a Bass Federation tournament in western Nebraska in July. I had never been to the lake and, like most of the other competitors, I assumed that the bass would be found in their summer patterns in deep water. However, around noon on the first day of practice, I noticed a rocky shoreline as I was driving down the lake. The majority of the shore on that end of the lake was just miles of sand. Since this rocky bank looked different and was only about a 100 yard stretch, I figured that it wouldn’t take very much time to check it out.
As soon as I started fishing, I noticed balls of bait that were right on the bank. I’m talking like in inches of water! I was tossing around a crankbait when I noticed that and immediately got a bite. That fish jumped and threw the bait but I caught another on the very next cast. After turning the boat around and heading the opposite direction down the shore, I caught another chunky bass! I left that bank and then started looking for similar looking shorelines. Throughout the rest of practice, I developed a strategy that eventually earned the victory that weekend. The best part was that I literally had each of those spots entirely to myself! Everyone else chose to fish for the bass that “were supposed to be” in deep water according to seasonal patterns while completely overlooking the shallow, visual cover.
The Needle in the Haystack
While that first scenario didn’t require any type of sonar or GPS, this next one definitely will. It will also require some dedication on the angler’s part but it can be very rewarding. When this tactic works, it can be one of the best days on the water you may ever have!
Sometimes, using your electronics to search for bass is the only option. To make matters worse, everyone on the lake is doing the same thing. Everyone is studying the map in search of some small detail then idling over all of the best looking areas and marking a waypoint on anything that can hold a bass. However, the vast majority of anglers all end up graphing the same areas over and over again while missing some of the less obvious stuff. These are areas that may not standout on a map. But remember, the bass want to avoid fishing pressure just as much as the anglers do.
To avoid that pressure, the bass relocate to other areas. Typically, those spots aren’t far from the otherwise “prime” targets that everyone else found. For example, the bass that may have been relating to a large rock pile on the end of a point might move to a couple of lone boulders just a little shallower on the same point. Or they might move deeper and suspend off the drop. Bass that were relating to docks tend to move to the harder to reach areas of the same dock. Rarely will you need to move far to find the bass. Instead, a nearby search and a little more effort is normally all it takes.
In a regional Bass Federation tournament in Minnesota, I found a school of quality fish relating to large holes in grass beds located on the main lake. This was in the early portion of the fall transition on a lake that normally has a ton of grass throughout the summer. Because we were on the tail end of the summer, the grass was beginning to thin out yet there was still plenty of it for the bass to hide in. This made finding bass during practice very difficult for mostly everyone.
I spent all three days of practice looking for transitions of grass to rock. While doing so, I marked a number of areas where there would be a rock “vein” that would extend from the shoreline out to the main lake. These veins laid out like tiny points and most would be covered in milfoil. Every so often, I would come across a hole in the grass on one of those veins. That hole would range from 5 feet to 20 feet wide. When I found these holes, I would mark them to return to later.
I also noticed that the other competitors were focusing on the shallow water relating to the shoreline and inside grass lines. However, these holes in the milfoil that I had found were in just deep enough water that the other anglers’ boats would just be passing over them. Basically, I would have these tiny little spots to myself.
Once the 2-day tournament began, I had to make a milk run of those spots to figure out which ones held fish. However, once I found a good spot, I was able to catch a pile of bass there! On the final morning of the tournament, I believe I caught a bass on every cast for 20 minutes by making the exact same cast over and over again. I didn’t even move the boat the whole time. Once that bite died down, I repositioned to the opposite side of the whole and started making the same cast with the same lure. The simple act of presenting the bait from a different direction ignited the school all over again!
No matter how difficult the fishing may seem, it is important to understand that there is a school on bass somewhere that is always willing to eat. All you have to do is find them. More often than not, those bass are hiding in plain sight.
I have linked the videos (on my YouTube channel) from each of these days at bottom of this article, in case you are a visual learner like myself.
Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.