Maps Are Your Friend
Before I venture out onto a new body of water, I like to put my time in at home with a variety of lake maps. I'll usually dig around on the Internet as well to see if I can find any reports on the lake. I understand that the best way to learn a new body of water is to go out and fish it, but maps and fishing reports will at least get you started in the right direction.
Having a variety of maps is important because some maps have information on them that others do not. It's mostly true that a map isn't going to show you that subtle one-foot drop on a flat that's just loaded with fish. However, it eliminates a lot of time finding that flat in the first place.
Maps are good to have handy on the water as well. Let's say the hot bite of the day is on offshore humps. These can be painstaking to find, and some maps are detailed enough that they'll show their locations. This will save you a lot of time, and time saved means more fishing.
Maps have helped my fishing exponentially, and are an extremely important tool. If you've yet to study maps, it's time to start because it could likely be what takes your fishing to the next level.
Editor’s Note: Though most maps on GPS/sonar units are very good, a hardcopy map is still a very useful tool. Looking for specific structure on a lake can often be easier when using a hardcopy map. It’s a larger view than what can be seen on most GPS/sonar units. Find what you’re looking for on the map, then find it on your electronics and set your course.