Tips for Finding Bass – A Pro Panel

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story and photos by Dan O’Sullivan

One of the most daunting tasks in bass fishing is figuring out how to catch bass on a strange lake. The thought of arriving at a body of water for the first time for a tournament or a fun fishing outing can be downright overwhelming.

Whether the lake is completely new to you, one that is not new, or is one you have not been at for a long time is irrelevant to this discussion. The fact is, we have to locate fish every time we go out on the water. If we do not locate fish, we don’t get bites, and no bites equals no fish in the livewell.
In a series of interviews with touring pros recently, the discussion about the topics of locating bass has been prominent. While working on pieces about other topics, we always seem to come back to the first order of business, and that is finding them.

TipsforFindingBassGaryKleinWe discuss many topics here on Advanced Angler, and for the most part, they are about how to catch more fish on specific techniques. Those topics are useful exercises because we all love to know the ins and outs of the techniques of the sport. However, if we do not start with finding bass, then we have no chance of catching them; no matter how many lures we have in our tackle boxes.
We talked to three pros recently who addressed different parts of the locating equation at some point in our interviews. Those anglers are Elite Series pros, Gary Klein, Ish Monroe and James Niggemeyer.

Klein – Think of the Fish
Klein is a believer in staying “current with the fish.” In fact, he has said that one of the most difficult questions he has to answer from other anglers and fans are those that relate to how that person should go about catching bass on a specific lake at any time of the year.

Klein’s answer to those questions is usually the same. “I tell people that the truth is that I cannot really give them that answer completely,” he said. “I could get into general conversations with them, but without having some basis of history of the lake and knowing the current conditions, I really can’t tell them exactly.”

Sure, with more than 30 years under his belt, the 29-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier has experiences that he can recall, but he believes that works against the grain of trying to be the best angler he can be. “I want to make my decisions based on as much current information as I can,” he said. “That way, I am working in the moment, and not reliving the past.”

Klein said that his decision making starts the moment his boat touches the water. “A look at the conditions will tell me how I am going to go after fish,” he said. “Is the lake clear or muddy, a shallow lake or a deep lake, wind and sky conditions all factor in. I look at what the current conditions tell me, then make a selection of a good starting point, then select the right tool for the job.”

The one tip that Klein left was that anglers need to seek as much feedback as possible and decode the information with each bite. “Analyze each bite,” he said. “They will tell you something about why they were there every time.”

Monroe – Play to StrengthsTipsforFindingBassIshMonroe
A four-time B.A.S.S. winner, Monroe believes in fishing to his strengths in order to help him be successful. It is a mechanism he has learned while getting reduced practice time while fishing both the Bassmaster Elite Series and the FLW Tour. “I figured out that when I had short practice periods because of travel, I fished to my strengths and usually did pretty well,” he said. “So, I started adopting the same philosophies when I had a full complement of practice.”

What he started doing was begin looking for the types of water that would seem to match his style of fishing; for Monroe, that means frog fishing and Flippin’ into heavy cover. “I start by trying to find the water that has the type of cover that suits my style,” he said. “I look for grassy areas and I look for creeks and canals. I know in those areas that I can typically find stuff to fish to my strengths, and that when I start getting bites, I will typically get better than average ones to bite.”

While you may envision Monroe driving around a lake looking for his type of water, he said he has a more efficient method. “I spend a lot of time on my Navionics maps and my Lowrance HDS Touch units,” he said. “The technology nowadays really helps me find grass beds and canals so that I don’t have to waste time driving when I could be fishing.”

Niggemeyer – Familiar Areas – Fresh Look
For Niggemeyer, he likes to visit areas on lakes that he knows there has been a history of good finishes, or one that he has done well himself in the past. But, while he likes to visit familiar areas, he tries to keep an open mind with the seasonal pattern being the basis for the start.

“There are reasons that there are community holes on lakes all over the country,” said Niggemeyer. “Those areas that deliver quality bites and high finishes, and that is because there are components of structure / cover and forage that hold bass year after year. I want to give those areas a chance, but I need to look at them with the current conditions in mind.”

TipsforFindingBassJamesNiggemeyerWith that in mind, Niggemeyer said that he tends to choose areas of lakes that he feels are a microcosm of the whole lake. If he can find a major creek arm or section of the lake that has all of the major features that the rest of the lake holds. If he starts catching bass at a specific area of that creek, then he can look at the rest of the lake and find creeks that match it.

“An example of that is Lake Fork; where I guide a lot throughout the year,” he said. “I spend so much time each year that I need to keep an open mind and try to work each day I’m on the water to follow the fish and make sure that my clients have a good time, learn something and catch fish.”

As you can see, each of them have similarities to their methods, but they have their own unique twists to finding the fish that will make them competitive. The perspective of the effective angler should be to first focus on the “where,” before thinking about the “how” and our fishing results can improve.