Fishing a new lake can be a daunting task. There's so much water, and without any reliable information, it is nearly impossible to get on fish quickly.
We asked three of the top Major League Fishing pros to give us their strategies for fishing our mystery lake in April. Here's what each of them would do.
Hometown: Blacksburg, South Carolina
Bio: The thinking man's angler, Montgomery started angling seriously while earning his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from Clemson University in 2004. While in college, Montgomery fished weekend tournaments while still maintaining a rigorous school schedule. He began fishing FLW BFL's and moved on to the FLW Tour for five years. In 2010, Andy qualified for the BASS Elite Series through the Southern Opens. In 2014, he began fishing MLF. Montgomery won two BASS Opens (Smith Lake in 2010; Lake Norman, 2014), has seven Elite Top 12's and has earned "around a million" but "spent at least that much making it."
Location 1: I'd start in the areas protected from a north wind that were likely places for fish to spawn. These are places where the fish can get into easily and are calm areas to spawn.
Bait: Since this is a mystery lake, I would use a search bait, one I could cover a lot of water with. I would start with some sort of buzzbait or a Strike King Rage Swimmer. Both of these can be worked relatively quickly and are efficient at covering large areas, drawing strikes and letting me key in on where the fish are and what they are doing.
Location 2: I would specifically target coves or pockets. Once again, these are protected areas where fish can move into while being out of the wind, and there is less boat traffic there.
Bait: I'd begin slowing my baits down as I begin locating fish. As I find fish, I'd start throwing something like a Strike King Rage Lizard.
Location 3: I'd focus on any blowdowns, shallow water and docks you find in isolated coves and pockets. I'd start narrowing down where and what fish are relating to. I'd look for any type of structure that fish could relate to with hard bottom for spawning.
Bait: I'd use a stick-style worm like a Strike King Perfect Plastics Ocho. I'd work it very slowly, targeting specific fish and very specific structure where the fish were holding.
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
Bio: Lane grew up in a fishing family in Florida, spending considerable time on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. He started fishing professionally in 2002 and began fishing the FLW circuit in 2004, winning the Rookie of the Year award that same year. In 2007, he qualified for the BASS Elites, again winning Rookie of the Year honors and qualifying for his first Bassmaster Classic. Since then, Lane has qualified for another 10 Classics, and has earned more than $1.2 million on the BASS Tour. In 2009, Lane won an Elite event on Kentucky Lake and has finished in the money 95 times in 128 tournaments.
Location 1: I'd start in the pockets with the docks. Those would be great spots for any spawn or early post-spawn activity. These are protected areas and would offer the tightest cover in shallow water, both of which are must-haves for this time of year.
Bait: For me, narrowing it down to one bait would be difficult. It's going to depend on what I see while I'm actually on the water. But I would more than likely start with a Yo-Zuri Pencil. That bait has a great side-to-side slashing action that draws aggressive strikes, both feeding as well as reaction. It lets me cover plenty of water to locate fish. I would go with a shad color as it imitates baitfish that congregate in the shallows and those that bass would naturally feed on while there.
Location 2: I would focus on blowdowns or any related cover that is found in shallow water.
Bait: Once I began locating fish and the specific structure they're holding on with the slash bait, I'd switch over to something that allows for more precise presentations. My go-to bait there would be a PowerBait MaxScent General rigged wacky.
Location 3: I'd target the shallow docks and trees for fish that were spawning there, or might be there guarding fry.
Bait: Since I'm probably zeroed in on specific fish now, I'd stick with precision presentation baits, like a creature soft-plastic whacky rigged — one I can fish slow.
Hometown: Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Bio: Tim has been a professional angler since 1999 and was named as one of ESPN's 35 greatest anglers of all time. Tim is the only BASS angler to win Rookie of the Year and Angler of the Year the same year. Horton has hosted numerous outdoor television shows, and appeared on "Fox & Friends" a total of three times. He is a member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame Board of Directors, and has qualified for 11 Bassmaster Classics. He has five first-place finishes on the BASS tour and 34 Top 10's and has finished in the money 135 times, winning $1.65 million.
Tim's Choice 1
Location 1: I would start in the cove with the laydowns. This is by far the most protected area with shallow water, where fish are going to be spawning. I'm looking for protected areas with good, solid, hard bottom where fish can spawn. I'm also looking for structure they can spawn next to. Laydowns are always superior spawning habitat — much more so than, say, standing timber.
Bait 1: The bait is going to be very dependent on the conditions on the day I'm fishing. For instance, if it is cloudy and low pressure, I would opt for a moving bait based on water clarity. In darker water, I would start with a spinnerbait or a Chatterbait. Both of these give off fish-attracting vibrations and flash, which helps fish hone in on them and locate them in less than ideal water conditions.
Bait 2: If the water is cleaner and clearer, I would start with some type of jerkbait. One that imitates the baitfish that are resident in the lake. I'd match the pattern of those baitfish with my bait. I'd also try a shallow-running crankbait and vary my retrieve speeds until I figured out what the fish wanted and where they were relating to water depth-wise, and what cover they were staging on.
Bait 3: Now if it were sunny with bluebird skies, I would pitch to those specific targets and structure that were holding fish using a Profound Outdoors Crawsome rigged with a 1/4-ounce weight. I like fishing it during the spawn on a stand-up jighead as this puts it in a defensive position. During the spawn, that triggers females into biting.