New Water Jigsaw Puzzle
May 27th, 2010 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified May 27th, 2010 at 12:00 AM
Where do I start fishing? What do I use? I often asked myself this before venturing to a new body of water. I started fishing Walleye Tournaments 4 years ago, this required me to learn how to break down a new body of water if I wanted to catch fish and this process can be adapted to everyday fishing and most bodies of water. There are many factors in this process, time of year, water levels, predominant forage base, is it a lake, reservoir or river? I view this process like a jigsaw puzzle laid out on a table.
I would like to share with you my process of taking this puzzle and laying the pieces on the table and putting them together to make a complete picture.
Piece Number 1 Getting Started
The first thing I do is to find any maps that are available, check the DNR website, bait shops, on line map stores, or one of the electronic maps available on CD/ROM. One thing I have done if a decent map is not available is to make my own map in a much larger version, this makes it easier to read. I have made my own 2’x3′ maps by printing off sections from a C/D and blowing them up and them piecing them together and laminated it. Now I have a water proof, easy to read and mark map.
DNR websites typically have a creel surveys, stocking info and lake info this can valuable information on the average size of fish you are targeting, forage base, clarity and bottom make up. Stocked fish will typically fish different then natural fish, stocked fish typically are more weed orientated fish. Talk to the regional fisheries manager, ask them questions about seasonal movements, forage base and big fish spots.
Check out fishing websites, look at fishing reports, they usually have the past couple of years available, take note of water levels, temps and techniques used. There are a number satellite views available on the internet, these can be helpful by giving me a satellite view of a lake, for example Lake Oahe in South Dakota you can view lake structure when the lake was low and take notes of these areas, Lake Erie you can get up to date views showing mud lines vs. clear water. Also available from many of the electronics manufactures is the ability to use your computer and a software program that will allow looking at a lake, waypointing areas of interest, I then transfer this data to my GPS via a media card. Another item I don’t go on the water without is a quality high definition mapping chip, which gives me bottom details on the water.
Once I have collected this data, I sit down with my map and start arranging this data. I will have a good picture of what the lake will look like before I arrive. I also utilize the local bait shops, they can be a good source for lake info, I make sure to look the brag board, noting the date’s fish were caught, I also make sure to buy my bait locally to build a relationship with area bait shop and they made provide some information.
Another critical factor is weather, past, present and future forecasts that surround my fishing dates. Stable weather patterns leading up to and during will lead to a fairly predictable pattern fish will typically be active and feeding allowing you to go with a faster presentation trolling crankbaits or pulling spinners. Unstable weather, this will greatly affect the pattern of the bite, it may shut down, causing you to slow your presentation down such as Lindy rigging or vertical jigging, spot on the spot presentations.
Piece Number 2 on the Water
This is where good quality graph comes into play, you want a unit that will see all the underwater details, another awesome addition introduced by electronics manufactures to make your time prefishing more efficient is the ability to view objects out to the side of a boat, such as Humminbird’s Side Imaging, it gives the angler the ability to see items out to the side of your boat with picture like clarity, such as rock piles, underwater humps, and enter a waypoint on those spots for further investigation.
The first day on the water is a scouting day, taking info from puzzle piece 1 and applying it on the water, fine tuning my the information I have gathered by adding additional waypoints and taking notes on details. Things I look for are transition areas, weed lines, subtle bottom irregularities, little rock piles, small humps in main lake basins and break lines, and noting them on my map and entering waypoints on my GPS. Things to note along with structure, is water clarity, type of weed growth, water flow if there rivers, water temperature, bait fish, if you find fish, are they suspended or tight to the bottom?
I will drop a line in the water if I do see fish and want to verify if they are the species I am targeting and to get an idea what the mood of the bite might be.
Piece Number 3 Fine Tuning Presentations
I now take puzzle piece number 1, and puzzle piece number 2 and put these two pieces together; I will now see a picture starting to form. This partial puzzle will affect the color, presentation style, speed, location that I need to get started with.
Puzzle piece number 3 will be going to these areas to find fish, pick them apart, if I don’t see any fish, I move to the next area, and when I locate fish on my graph, I will then spend time on these spots and fine tune the presentation needed, looking for that “spot on the spot”. It sounds funny, but “Let the fish tell you what they want” how do I listen to the fish? With my presentations, I may start out trolling crankbaits such as the Lindy Shadling and switching up colors, sizes and speed or pitching jigs tipped with artificial bait such as Bekley Gulp, and if they are listening to this presentation life is good. But what if they are not listening to this presentation? They are still talking to me, I need to change up presentations, and possibly switch to slow presentation, such as a Livebait rigging or vertical jigging presentation, again looking for that “spot on the spot”. What type of live bait? Again, I will the fish tell me what they want whether it is a leech, minnow or crawler fine tune the presentation to their language.
The Completed Puzzle
When I put these 3 puzzle pieces together, I will have a completed puzzle, things will become clear on how and where to catch fish. I pick out my most productive spots, rank them accordingly to the quality and quantity for fish caught. I then set up my fishing arsenal based on my findings, unload the boat of unnecessary gear and clutter, making the boat a more efficient tool, and saving fuel with less weight.