Get a treasure map
An accurate lake depth contour map is a
fisherman's best friend. Whether it's in the old-fashioned form of a
printed map, or a digital rendering in your sonar or GPS unit, it's
critical to know the "lay of the land" beneath your boat.
With your map open in front of you, the first things you want to
do are to identify classic structures and to eliminate dead water.
By classic structures, I mean sharp drop-offs, underwater points,
humps, saddles and inside turns. Also, locate potential areas that
could have defined transitions in bottom content. For example, where
a shallow bay meets a deep main lake basin, there's a good chance
there will be a transition from soft silt to a hard bottom. Fish
like these transition areas.
Highlight all such areas with a pen if you're using a paper map,
or with waypoints if you're mapping digitally with GPS. You'll want
to check out these areas. In the process of identifying them, you'll
also effectively eliminate dead water. Places where there are no
striking depth contour features, like big midlake flats, are often
lacking in good fish populations.
Now remember, this is a generalization and not a hard rule.
Because some lakes, like legendary Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota,
have huge, featureless flats that are actually fish magnets. In the
case of Mille Lacs, it's because the big flats are muddy and are
breeding grounds for bug hatches — which all fish like to eat.
I already mentioned GPS. Ever since accurate GPS and digital
mapping became available to anglers, recreational fishing changed
forever. It's simply amazing technology, and if you truly want every
advantage when fishing, you owe it to yourself to invest in a GPS
unit. But if you can't or don't wish to, at the very least I
encourage you to own and use a high-quality sonar unit. Sonar is the
single best way to determine whether you're on fish or you aren't.
Armed with your marked contour map, go to the areas you have
selected as potential fish hangouts and slowly explore those spots
while looking at your sonar for fish. Maybe you'll spot suspended
"hooks" on your screen. Or perhaps you'll mark fish hugging the
bottom. Either way, if they're there, fish 'em! If your screen is
blank and fishless, don't bother fishing there. Move on and keep
moving on until technology tells you, "This is the spot, buddy!"
[to top of second column]
Nothing tells you there are fish present like your own eyes. And
there are two ways to see the fish. The first is simple: with a good
pair of polarized sunglasses. Polarized lenses help deflect surface
glare so you can more easily see down into the depths and spot fish.
This is especially true when fishing the shallows for bass, bedded
panfish, pre-spawn pike in bays and more.
Another piece of underwater viewing equipment is a submersible
video camera. These are dynamite for positively identifying the
particular fish species you're after — after locating the presence
of fish with your sonar unit. An underwater camera will also show
you the size of the fish beneath you. Finally, by using the camera
while fishing — best done when ice fishing — it will teach you a lot
about fish behavior, how they respond to different baits and how
different bait presentations can trigger strikes. Plus, it's just
plain fun to watch fish on your TV screen above water.
Look on top
Let's not forget the most basic way to find fish, which is by
watching the surface. Naturally, this is best done on nice, calm
days. If I go out for bass or panfish on a calm day, the first thing
I do is sit and scan the surface for several minutes. If I see
panfish rising and popping, or spot a big bass crashing something on
top, then that's proof positive that there's a catchable fish right
on that spot!
I hope these fish-location tips help you find what you're looking
for next time you're out on the water. May all of your hot spots be
[By BABE WINKELMAN]
Babe Winkelman hosts "Good Fishing" and
"Outdoor Secrets," the most-watched fishing and hunting programs on
television. Tune in on NBC Sports Network, Destination America,
Velocity, Time Warner Sports Texas & New York, and many local
broadcast channels. Visit
Winkelman.com for airtimes and more information. Follow
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