New Lake: Where to go?

By Bob Jensen - March 1, 2005

As I sit writing this on a February weekend, the temperature outside reaches into the 50's giving this writer some serious spring fever. Luckily it won't be long until spring and open-water reemerge. Like most years, I will probably venture to new fishing locations this summer. Finding and catching fish on unfamiliar waters can be a difficult, yet very rewarding experience. Here are some thoughts on how to go about fishing a "new" lake.

The first thing I always try to do is to obtain a lake map of the particular body of water to be fished in advance. I then sit down and "study" the map. That is I look at the map and try to identify areas on the lake that look like they would hold the particular targeted species. If walleyes are my target then I will look for structural elements like sunken humps, islands and points. When panfish or bass are pursued, areas of weed growth like reeds, lily pads and deep weed lines are identified.

I usually hi-lite or make note of potential areas as ones I'll want to check. Along with finding potential fishing spots, my map study also familiarizes me with where lake accesses are located. With the lake map in hand, now it's time to head for the lake. I like to start by motoring around the entire lake (if it's not too big) trying to get a feel for the lake's bottom contours and also things like water clarity and weed growth depths.

The next step is finding one of the potential hotspots identified by my map study. I do this utilizing the map and cruising the approximate area keeping an eye on my depth-finder to find the spot. Once the spot is found, I often continue to cruise around it trying to learn as much about it as possible. Incidentally, the new Matrix series of fish locators I've been using are very easy to use and do a great job of helping me find fishing spots and fish holding on those spots. Once I'm familiar with the spot, now the fishing can start. I like to start using a presentation that fishes quickly as this allows me to search for active fish and allows me to learn the structure even more. A bottom bouncer/spinner combination is a good search lure for walleyes, crank baits and spinner baits find active bass, and trolling a jig/plastic tail combo is a good way to find panfish.

If fish are found on the structure, then I can either continue to use my search lure or, if the fish are holding on a particular spot on the structure, I may slow up and try to strain the area for the biters. After I've exhausted a spot, either feeling I've caught the active fish or no fish are found, now it's time to head for the next spot identified by the prior map study where the process can be repeated. Utilizing information like the water depth the fish were holding or any other helpful things learned at the first spot can be of benefit when searching future spots.

Finding and searching potential fishing spots is one of the challenges presented by new water. Following the steps just provided will hopefully be of benefit to you as you search learn new lakes during the coming open-water season. Good luck with the search!

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at www.fishingthemidwest.com.