by Eric Monyhian
For all of you anglers who regularly travel to places, on vacation or fish tournaments, that might bring you to unfamiliar water, you’re probably familiar with that funny feeling you get when you launch your boat; “What Do I Do Now?” Well, to offer some empathy and advice, there are several steps you can take to subside this all too familiar problem, many of which are much easier than you might think.
Most of all, quite possibly the most important step you can take in preparing to fish new lakes or rivers, can be taken days, if not even weeks in advance is to physically travel to your fishing location if possible. I consider this step a form of “improving your odds.” If done before fishing, this will eliminate a whole lot of unproductive water. Also, topographical maps of the area, making a few phone calls to local marinas and bait shops is another way to prepare. And, as of late, GPS and Loran numbers will most definitely help at improving your odds and improving your angling success.
Now that you are at the lake you need to figure out where to start. Make sure that you cover all your options. Start fishing various areas of a cove which you can establish where the fish are located. At each location, fish deep, then medium depths and then shallow. Use lures you can cover a lot of water with quickly. Remember that at this point you are just trying to locate fish.
Begin fishing by locating a cove or water off of the main lake and start fishing on the outside corner where it intersects with the main body of the lake. Once you have covered the various depths, start moving into the inside of the cove. First start to look for subtle irregularities such as small points, brush or rock piles. Fish all depths and move from the main lake slowly to the back of the cove.
At this point you are probably out of deep water and are limited to shallow water. Move your way across the back of the cove making certain you are fishing all the way up in the shallowest water in the back of the cove. Now work your way back out of the cove using the same method only in reverse order to which you came into the cove.
Once you have completed this pattern you should be able to visualize the best area of the cove on which to concentrate. The majority of the time you will find that fish will concentrate in one of three general areas of a cove: the outside by the main lake, the middle with access to open water or the back of the cove. Within this cove the fish may move up and down throughout the day.
Pay careful attention when you catch a fish or get a strike as to why the fish was there. How deep was the water? What type of cover was there? Was the fish suspended? Learn as much as you can on this quick trip through the cove. Now with this knowledge you can start making a plan for your day. You should be able to have a pattern to fish for the rest of the day, and start concentrating on the most productive sections of each cove as well as the main lake that you come across throughout the day.
Remember that a cove is a simply a small version of the main lake. If you found fish in the shallow end of the coves the fish will probably be concentrated in the shallow end of the lake. If you found fish half-way into the cove, concentrate your efforts on trying to fish the middle part of the lake. Try to use the same patterns to fish the shoreline and cover where you caught fish in the cove. Adjust your depth of fishing throughout the day to cover the fish which are roaming up and down at different depths throughout the course of the day. Remember with proper preparation a good trip can be a great trip with just a little time spent in advance.