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Treat Local Bodies Of Water Like Classrooms, And You'll Be Prepared To Fish Anywhere

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December 09, 2013

Treat Local Bodies Of Water Like Classrooms, And You'll Be Prepared To Fish Anywhere

By Dave Wolak

Not too long ago a reader asked, "How does bass fishing in a confined region prepare an angler for fishing more diverse bodies of water outside of the region?"  Great question. The way I look at it, it's the same idea as taking classes in school. Even though you may not see a direct correlation to the future while you're sitting at that desk, all of those classes are aimed at somehow preparing you for the "real world." Many regions across the country have numerous types of waterways within a reasonable driving distance. Your job is to take advantage of every "class" your region offers. That means fishing all throughout the year to learn the seasonal complexity of every pond, lake, or river that's close to home. Too often an angler will get stuck in a rut fishing similar lures on one body of water around the same seasonal stage. That's like taking the same class in school over and over.

Keeping with the school theme, try to master the core curriculum, then move on to the graduate courses.  First ask yourself: are there more rivers, manmade reservoirs, natural lakes, ponds, or swamps in my area? Whatever the answer is, focus on that water type before the others. Next, break those bodies of water into smaller sections. Treat the small sections like classes within the whole regional curriculum of bass fishing. For example, let's say you're limited to one section of the Mississippi River. Well, chances are your region's section of the river has all kinds of main river structure to fish in both heavy and light current. You're also likely to have various sizes of oxbows offering different water clarities, depths, bottom content and even aquatic vegetation types. Depending on the season, the bass will relate to all these choices differently. One region's primary school then becomes twenty smaller classes to study. Pass the tests in all of those, and you're on your way to a bachelor's degree in bass fishing.

Your master's training comes when you're capable of applying this experience and skill set to entirely new places. I often hear comments from anglers that are trying new waters like, "I have no experience in tidal waters," or "I'm just a deep-water ledge fisherman." Most of the time the keys to success are right in front of them, but they don't make the connection. To use the same example, the Mississippi River guy should ask himself if he's ever caught a good stringer of bass when his local oxbow lake was experiencing drought conditions. If so, then he has a good idea of how to handle low tide. The same goes for the self proclaimed ledge fisherman. If he's ever made the correct adjustment to move shallow when he's seen his favorite ledge not produce after heavy rains, then he's also passed the course on shallow bass migration during high tide. If you understand the big picture, the little things will fall into place when wandering outside of your region's classrooms.

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from rjw wrote 18 weeks 1 day ago

More great advice. I am guilty of sticking within my comfort level, I see guys fishing deep and I will fish shallow coves/flats (up to 15’ deep) and have success. Although I did spend most of one summer on Lake Champlain/Lake George fishing sun up til well after dark, every day. During the beginning of that period I started with my comfort level and soon after I would spend hours fishing places I would never touch on a weekend trip. I found spots within spots, patterns within patterns and had an excellent time and learned a lot about the fish and myself. This Bass thing is addictive.

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from David Wolak wrote 18 weeks 1 day ago

Love those places:)

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from jw2003 wrote 18 weeks 1 day ago

Great advise. If we can only match the lake, time of year, lure, line, and lake location. Keep this information on file and maintain a log on the results.

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from santa wrote 18 weeks 18 min ago

Dave, I sometimes forget how spoilt I have become fishing saltwater, tidewater, and southern lakes/ponds. AS for me,... my all time favorite species to fish for is the Snook, but they do not habitate my local waters. My second most desired species, the Spotted Seatrout, (speck) is very plentiful in my local waters. During the summer months they are in the gulf around the offshore barrier islands and up in the inshore bays. Then as the weather turns colder, they move up into the local rivers to spawn. In order to chase them I have studied them extensively. For example, the lower jaw of a speck does not hinge down far enough for the speck to pick up food off the bottom without swimming vertical. The swim bladder of the speck is not suited for vertical swimming, therefore it is seldom that you catch a speck dragging a bait right on the bottom. But if you bounce the bait off the bottom so that it gets an inch or more off the bottom, then you will get their attention. A fish that looks like the speck and is also very popular, is the Sand/Silver Seatrout, (white trout). Although the white trout looks basically the same as a speck without the spots, the jaw does hinge down further and the swim bladder will allow vertical swimming. Therefore white trout are easy to catch by just dragging the bait along the bottom. These lessons were learned years ago my me when fishing with my father. He would be catching specks and I wouldn't. I got him to switch sides of the boat with me, swap rods and baits with me, I copied all his movements of how he jerked (worked) the rod and cranked the reel, all to not avail. It was not until I learned that the bait was moved while it was off the bottom of the jerk and reel cycle and not the other way around, that I started catching fish. Most people think that shrimp are the favorite food of the specks and use them or an artificial facsimile as a preferred bait. Yet after checking the contents of hundred of speck bellies, I have learned that the Killifish is much more preferred by the speck over shrimp. Over the years I have even had a two hundred and fifty gallon aquarium with specks in it to study them. Actually I have used the aquarium to study many other species also. So I have taken the going to school and studying the fish to extreme. When I was bass fishing big time for a living, I kept records of when, where, the weather conditions, water conditions, water temperature, water levels, water depth, type of cover, time of the day, time of the moon and what the fish I caught were feeding on. I also learned that the largest amount of bass that I caught were not feeding, they were just protecting their territory. Yet Shag and I caught a pile of bass that were ten pounds or over while they were feeding to transport and relocate. All of those lunkers were caught at night on black soft plastic worms and had to be kept alive during transport from Florida back to Alabama. Bottom line, You learn something new each and every day, (get schooled), but remembering, recalling, and using what you have learned is the real trick.

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from rjw wrote 18 weeks 1 day ago

More great advice. I am guilty of sticking within my comfort level, I see guys fishing deep and I will fish shallow coves/flats (up to 15’ deep) and have success. Although I did spend most of one summer on Lake Champlain/Lake George fishing sun up til well after dark, every day. During the beginning of that period I started with my comfort level and soon after I would spend hours fishing places I would never touch on a weekend trip. I found spots within spots, patterns within patterns and had an excellent time and learned a lot about the fish and myself. This Bass thing is addictive.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Wolak wrote 18 weeks 1 day ago

Love those places:)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jw2003 wrote 18 weeks 1 day ago

Great advise. If we can only match the lake, time of year, lure, line, and lake location. Keep this information on file and maintain a log on the results.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 18 weeks 18 min ago

Dave, I sometimes forget how spoilt I have become fishing saltwater, tidewater, and southern lakes/ponds. AS for me,... my all time favorite species to fish for is the Snook, but they do not habitate my local waters. My second most desired species, the Spotted Seatrout, (speck) is very plentiful in my local waters. During the summer months they are in the gulf around the offshore barrier islands and up in the inshore bays. Then as the weather turns colder, they move up into the local rivers to spawn. In order to chase them I have studied them extensively. For example, the lower jaw of a speck does not hinge down far enough for the speck to pick up food off the bottom without swimming vertical. The swim bladder of the speck is not suited for vertical swimming, therefore it is seldom that you catch a speck dragging a bait right on the bottom. But if you bounce the bait off the bottom so that it gets an inch or more off the bottom, then you will get their attention. A fish that looks like the speck and is also very popular, is the Sand/Silver Seatrout, (white trout). Although the white trout looks basically the same as a speck without the spots, the jaw does hinge down further and the swim bladder will allow vertical swimming. Therefore white trout are easy to catch by just dragging the bait along the bottom. These lessons were learned years ago my me when fishing with my father. He would be catching specks and I wouldn't. I got him to switch sides of the boat with me, swap rods and baits with me, I copied all his movements of how he jerked (worked) the rod and cranked the reel, all to not avail. It was not until I learned that the bait was moved while it was off the bottom of the jerk and reel cycle and not the other way around, that I started catching fish. Most people think that shrimp are the favorite food of the specks and use them or an artificial facsimile as a preferred bait. Yet after checking the contents of hundred of speck bellies, I have learned that the Killifish is much more preferred by the speck over shrimp. Over the years I have even had a two hundred and fifty gallon aquarium with specks in it to study them. Actually I have used the aquarium to study many other species also. So I have taken the going to school and studying the fish to extreme. When I was bass fishing big time for a living, I kept records of when, where, the weather conditions, water conditions, water temperature, water levels, water depth, type of cover, time of the day, time of the moon and what the fish I caught were feeding on. I also learned that the largest amount of bass that I caught were not feeding, they were just protecting their territory. Yet Shag and I caught a pile of bass that were ten pounds or over while they were feeding to transport and relocate. All of those lunkers were caught at night on black soft plastic worms and had to be kept alive during transport from Florida back to Alabama. Bottom line, You learn something new each and every day, (get schooled), but remembering, recalling, and using what you have learned is the real trick.

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