My Approach to a New Lake

Ok, So you have made it to your destination and now you’re ready to fish, but wait have you
done your homework? Fishing a new lake can be one of the most intimidating endeavors in fishing. But it really doesn’t have to be, as long as you do your homework. In this article I will give you some shortcuts, tips and lures to make your search easier.

There is a ton of information that can be found on the internet which in itself can be intimidating. It then becomes a question of how to weed through it. There are lake maps and topography maps (topomaps) fishing blogs, fishing tips and all kinds of info that can be researched. It will all be very important to find but some of it may be useless. When you begin find out what kind of lake you will be fishing, is it a man made reservoir that is subject to water fluctuations, or is it more of a natural lake that only fluctuates with weather, or maybe something in between. What is the primary forage in the lake? Look for fishing reports that give you an idea of lures to use but pay special attention to the time of year that the post was made. You don’t want to plan a fall trip with springtime information. Next what types of lures being used may give you insight as to what kind of forage the fish may be feeding on. For example maybe jigs are being used, the main forage may be crayfish, maybe spinnerbaits or crankbaits are the ticket then some sort of baitfish is the lucky one. Next get a lake map, there are many great topo maps (topography maps) out there so you shouldn’t have a problem picking a good one. My preference is the Fishing Hot spots Maps from, they have information on them from professional guides that live on the lake They usually already have Hot Spots picked out of areas that may hold fish. It is color coded so you can find your specific species of fish and they have specific lures to try in those areas. Once you have your map and the time of year you are going to be fishing you can look at the hot spots and find areas in them that might be holding fish. If you are fishing during the spring and expect a possible spawn bite, look for areas that are shallow but with deep water access, possibly in the Northwest corner of coves (water warms faster there). Maybe it is a summer pattern and there is some deeper water where the channel swings close to the bank. Or maybe a fall pattern and you see some good coves where the bass might follow some baitfish to the back of. Other information to look for would be Local Guides, Bait and Tackle Shops, possibly books and magazines. Now that the homework is done next is the fun part.

Before you go fishing get the boat out and drive around the lake or walk the shoreline, you can get important information if you just look around. Here is what to look for when you are cruising the lake. Notice the water levels, and water clarity, this may clue you in to type and colors of baits to use. As a general guideline I use the following, for clear water, natural colors, transluscent colors and smaller baits ( has some great baits to offer, or a Balsa Crankbait (, for off color water I will go with a little darker or brighter colors, example jigs PB&J, Green pumpkin, or watermelon red flake, Spinnerbaits would be the combination colors such as chartreuse and white and a little larger baits, like a 3/8 ounce OBB Jig (, Fat Bass baits ( Poisontail jig, Saurkraut or spinnerbait, for darker or dirty water I will go with dark baits all around, Black and Blue, Black and Yellow, Black and Chartreuse etc. and bigger baits like the ¾ ounce OBB Pro model jig or the ¾ ounce FatBass baits Poisontail jig depending on the structure or cover. Next you want to drive around the lake and notice the structure. Look for Fallen timber, tules, cattails, rocks, standing timber, brush, take note of all of these so they can be picked apart later. While you are cruising the shorleline notice the points and flats, and look for anything that looks different along the shoreline, like big rock changing to little rock, maybe a Log or two in the water, maybe a small cut in the bank, etc. Keep an eye on your map and watch for deep water access into these areas, bass use these as highways into these areas. Look for birds on the lake, occasionally birds will be feeding and the fish will be right below them feeding from underneath.

Where to begin? Ask yourself, what kind of fish am I going after? Is it bass or walleye, maybe trout?
(Although this article is about bass if you study your species of fish you should be able to find them) What time of year is it, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. What is your favorite or most confident way to catch fish, Flipping a jig, top water, Cranking and how can I use that way to catch fish? What can I expect the fish to be doing at this time of year? I have been told many times that a Bass is a Bass anywhere you go so use the KISS Method of fishing. Keep It Simple Stupid, so with that in mind if you are fishing during the spring and the spawn is in full swing, get a good pair of polarized sunglasses and a good rod and reel combo, Tigerodz custom rods ( makes the lightest and most sensitive rods I have ever used and is a good place to start for a custom rod. Next, stay off the shoreline and look for beds to cast to. Use a good fluorocarbon line either as a mainline or a leader, I prefer 20 lb powerpro braid with a Lake Fork Tackle ( Parallium 14 lb leader (Parallium is a new Hybrid line that is Flourocarbon on the outside and Copolymer on the inside) and I will pitch a Fatbass custom bass baits sauerkraut soft plastic right on the nest and let it set. If the water is really clear I switch to a ¼ oz Stall Jig made by OBB Lures and tip it with a DS Darter or Shakin Worm from Poorboys baits I rig this on Tigerodz Custom Shaky head rod and pitch the lure out and just let it sit on the nest. Don’t forget to occasionally try some points with a Jerkbait and look for some of the big females that have not come into spawn yet, fact is, not all the bass spawn at the same time. Summer time Fishing I will begin to look for structure, early in the day I look for shallow structure and throw topwater I like to use the Fat Bass Baits Double trouble Buzzbait, or a Super Spook Junior, then as the sun gets higher and the water warms look for deep water structure, Channel Swings , or drop-offs from shallow to deep water. Football Jigs, OBB ¾ and 1 ounce Promodel jigs and Deep crankbaits excel here but keep a Carolina Rig on hand with a big 10 – 12 inch Fat Bass Baits hand poured worm or Brushhog tied on. Fall patterns include looking towards the back of coves and watching for bass to be feeding heavily on the resident population of baitfish or throwing a jerkbait or Carolina rig to the entrances or points surrounding the coves. On a good day here you can fish topwater, Spinnerbaits and shallow running crankbaits. Once winter hits the Bass migrate back to the deeper water where blade baits, and jigging spoons are the ticket. 

Although seeing a new lake seems intimidating it really isn’t as long as you do a little homework, and use skills and techniques you already possess. Remember the time of year you are fishing and what your species of fish should be doing at that time is very important so keep that in mind. Look for areas that you can fish using techniques you are confident with. Watch your water clarity so you can use the correct colors, and keep an eye on the weather for new water being introduced to the lake through rain or if the lake may be falling due to water being released this may scatter the fish or cause them to feed. If it is a large lake pick out and fish smaller areas that you can focus on. And the biggest point of all, don’t get caught up in the hype and dock talk around the lake and fish your way!

Tight Lines, see ya on the water!
Frank Villa


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This page was last updated on: January 5, 2017
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