As a tournament fisherman, in search of that winning stringer of huge bass, whether it is largemouth or smallmouth, there is the daunting challenge of figuring out a game plan. A game plan can be a precise pattern that is completely dialed to the location, timing, technique, and lure or a general idea of what not to fish and a few key ideas of how to fish an area considering the given conditions.
For me, and the purpose of this article, we will not focus on dialing in patterns or weather conditions and their impact on fish, but instead how to approach pre-fishing and evaluating the results. For the most part, when approaching a new body of water, or any waterway for that matter, the first thing I recommend, before ever starting the outboard, is to get a topography map, or a computer with Google earth or access to programs such as angling technologies mapping tools to get a sense of the contour of the lake. By looking at a map and analyzing obvious locations in regards to current weather trends an angler can generate a working idea of the best location to begin.
After you have taken a look on a contour map and considered the times of the year, you should look for reports of the water which can also be accessed via the internet, from sites like TheBassCollege.com, to get an idea of what is actually going on with similar bodies of water within that region. These tactics are all applied prior to the trip to the lake to give you a basis for a pattern pyramid.
Once you are on the water, the prefishing begins. What I have learned to be the most beneficial idea through the 2012 tournament season is prefishing is not about finding a winning bag of fish, but finding areas of potential and nonproductive water. If you picture a lake as a giant piece of pie and cut each creek, bay, backwater ect, into portions of the pie dividing the lake into many pieces, you can take your focus from the big water and place your focus into much smaller portions.
When you begin fishing, the most important information you can provide yourself with is where you are not catching fish or getting bites. When you approach a body of water, a common misconception is to find fish, where in fact the goal should be to find productive areas. When your first begin to catch fish on a new body of water that you will return to in the future to fish, the worst possible action you can take is to catch fish and continue to fish the same way to catch more fish in practice.
The route I take is this, if I catch one, that’s great, two, even better, if it’s three and they are all in similar areas, structure, presentation, and lure, it’s a pattern. One pattern found, time to duplicate and expand. The goal should be to find an initial pattern and see if you can duplicate it with similar structure on the lake this allows to you eliminate unproductive water and find productive areas.
Once you have accomplished this, move on to a completely different pattern. Successful anglers find productive water and different ways to fish the productive water. Most of the time winning anglers develop a pattern and have eliminated much of the water they fished and found sweet spots holding fish and several of them, and then they find multiple ways to catch those fish.
In most situations best anglers have areas, rather than specific spots, that hold fish, not a fish, which allows them to spend more time fishing then casting. That is what practice is for me, to eliminate water. Hope this helps tight lines!