Skip to main content

4 Quick Tips to Catch Bass on New Waters

Check out these suggestions for your first trip to an unfamiliar lake.

4 Quick Tips to Catch Bass on New Waters

Ways to minimize your learn curve when planning a fishing trip to a new lake. (Shutterstock image)

Finding fish on a lake you’re visiting for the first time can be a tough assignment, especially if the conditions aren’t similar to those you encounter on the lakes you frequently fish.

This can be especially true when you travel farther and farther away from your home waters. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the learning curve.

Eric Roberts, fisheries management bureau chief for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, fields lots of questions each year from anglers planning fishing trips to Big Sky Country.

1. MAKE SOME CALLS

A productive first step is to start thinking about how you’re going to fish the lake long before you even get to the boat ramp. "Play some insider baseball and lean on the locals," Roberts says. "Get in touch with the local biologists, game wardens, bait and tackle-shop employees and folks who run the marinas on the lake. These are great resources for up-to-date information on what the fish are biting." It’s also a good idea to study maps and videos ahead of time that might provide clues on how to fish the lake or river of interest.

2. READ THE CONDITIONS

Once on the water, there are two crucial things to consider that will be affected by the time of year it is: water clarity, water temperature. Warm summer months and clear water will require different tactics than colder winter and spring months when rains and snowmelt can increase the water’s turbidity. These factors will influence how you look for and find fish. Keep an eye on the weather in the area during the days leading up to your arrival. Was the weather typical for the time of year or abnormal? What are forecasters predicting for the days you’ll be on the water? The answers to these questions will inform the tactics you use.

FIND THE COVER

Locating cover that is likely to attract and hold bass is also important. Look for docks, grassy areas (surface and subsurface), points with deep water off one or both sides, riprap or rocky banks and isolated pockets of cover—anything that gives bass a place to ambush passing prey species. Anglers who own and know how to use today’s advanced electronics have a huge advantage over those who don’t when scouting new waters. Locating underwater structure and quickly eliminating potentially unproductive areas with featureless bottoms are just two ways electronics can help you increase your on-the-water efficiency.

MAXIMUM EFFICIENCY

Rig up multiple rods with different lure options. This will save you time while trying to dial in the bite. If you’re having a difficult time finding fish, it’s important to move quickly. Don’t spend more than 10 to 15 minutes doing the same thing in the same area without something good happening. Either try different baits or move to new locations until you start getting bites. And use lures you can fish efficiently in the given conditions. To cover more water in a shorter period of time, use a search bait, such as a swim jig, Rat-L-Trap, spinnerbait or something similar.

Bass Tips from the Pros

  • Two fishing guides share their top tactics for targeting Western lunkers.

Fishing is a game of patience, but those with pro-level knowledge don’t need as much of it as an occasional angler or someone heading to a new body of water for the first time.

That’s why I reached out to Randy Pringle, owner of The Fishing Instructor (thefishinginstructor.com) in northern California, and Rich Tauber of Rich Tauber Fishing (richtauberfishing.com), in southern California when I was planning a bass-fishing road trip to hit some of the best lakes in the West. These two are professional fishing guides who specialize in Western waters, and they know what it takes to catch fish in a variety of conditions.




Here are things to know, remember and do. Harness the power of this advice, and you can catch more fish, boat bigger bass and set yourself apart from your fishing buddies.

TIME OF DAY

Pringle takes advantage of low-light conditions in the morning and evening. He prefers to get to the lake as early as possible—often when it’s still dark. That makes it easier to hit his best spots during that first bit of light. Then, he does the same in the evening to be in position to hit the most promising spots at last light.

“Watch when the sun comes up,” he says. “Make the sun your friend. Fish the area the sun will hit first. I have more morning bite opportunities by fishing before the sun hits the bank. Then, I can relocate from one side of the lake to the other and utilize the sun to my advantage.”

Recommended


After fishing shallow water with soft-plastic stickbaits early in the day, Pringle starts moving to deeper water as the sun rises. Then he uses heavier drop-shot rigs and jigs with soft-plastic minnow imitations.

When afternoon arrives, more patience is required. Tauber says to consider using a Texas-rigged worm and agrees with Pringle about the effectiveness of a drop-shot rig fished slowly and methodically around structure.

COVER AND STRUCTURE

When fishing a shoreline, Pringle looks for exposed rock formations and pays attention to how they enter the water. He says changes in these formations, either the type of rock or the size of the boulders, often will attract bass that use these sites as ambush positions.

“Looking at your depth finder, you’ll be able to see rock formations get bigger or smaller, and the differences between rocks is what you’re looking for,” he says.

In the morning, Tauber focuses on areas with grass or moss, as well as shaded areas for working topwater lures. In the afternoon, he looks for points, ledges and drops that are anywhere from 15 to 40 feet deep.

He likes drop-offs that offer quick access to shallow and deep water, where bass can feed near the surface in the morning and retreat to deeper, cooler water in the afternoon.

BEST BAITS

In August, Pringle likes Berkley’s The General soft-plastic stickbait, which has the versatility to be fished shallow early and late in the day, and used to target deeper structure the hours in between.

When fishing water that has surface vegetation or submerged grassbeds, he’ll use a frog imitation or an Ima Little Stik, a walking bait that lets him cover water quickly. When the sun is high, Pringle goes deep.

“That’s when I go to 6- to 8-pound-test fluorocarbon line with a drop-shot or jighead,” he says. “I need something that gets me down there—maybe up to an ounce. I use imitations of little fish. Something like the Berkley MaxScent [Flatnose Minnow or Flatnose Jerk Shad], something that’s going to have a minnow look to it.”

Tauber is similar in concept and objective, but slightly different in his approach. He prefers fishing topwater lures early in the morning and late in the evening. In open-water situations, he throws the tried-and-true Zara Spook for its walk-the-dog action that allows him to cover lots of water.

If bass are relating more to cover, things like lily pads or tree stumps, he’ll fish a Rebel Pop-R or other popper/chugger lure. He also likes to use a Roboworm Straight Tail Worm (4 1/2 or 6 inches) on a drop-shot rig, opting for shades of purple early and late in the day and natural nightcrawler browns when the sun is overhead.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Learn

Bass Crash Course: Shallow-Water Power Lures

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Destinations

Minnesota Double Down: First Visit to New Farm Goes Perfectly

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Fishing in the Wind

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

She Kills The Biggest Bird of the Year

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Unlock the Patterns Squarebill Crankbaits

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Learn

Tips for Cooking Over an Open Fire

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Videos

How to Build the Perfect Campfire

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

First Morning: Father/Son Iowa Turkey Double

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Destinations

Shot the Same Bird! UP of Michigan Double Down

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Hunting

Work and Play: Merriam's Turkeys in Wyoming

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Gear

Winchester Waterfowl Loads

Building on the success of the .350 Legend, Winchester releases a new straight-wall rifle cartridge for deer hunters loo...
Gear

Winchester .400 Legend

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now