Author Topic: Looking for advice ... getting back into Freshwater  (Read 365 times)

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Offline jeffreyrichard

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Looking for advice ... getting back into Freshwater
« on: March 20, 2019, 11:24:47 AM »
    I'm a striper guy who has ignored my local freshwater ponds for too long ... need to get back into it. Technically not a noobe as I fish quite a bit for stripers, and I grew up fishing every day at the local ponds for panfish, bass and pickeral until I was about 16 ... now I can barely register a hit when fishing freshwater.

    I have a bunch of tackle ... spinner baits, soft baits/worms, some jigs, a few stick baits. I have 2 setups ... a 7 foot Cherrywood/Cardinal Spinning Reel with 20# Braid, and a 6 foot med spinning rod with a Michell 300 Spinning rod and 8 # mono. I fish either from a kayak or from shore.

    Looking for advice on how to approach fishing a pond/lake without much knowledge of the fishing ...
    • Strategies for what to look for to fish
    • what 4-6 baits should I have with me when I'm just learning about a body of water?
    • how should I fish these baits?
    • when do I change my baits and tactics?
    All advice welcome. Thanks!

Offline Curt - RI

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Re: Looking for advice ... getting back into Freshwater
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2019, 11:43:19 AM »
First off, @jeffreyrichard , welcome to the site!  o/

Your questions cover a lot of ground, so I will reply with some basic answers right now and then more detailed info later on, when I have a bit more time to go into depth.

Regarding a new pond/lake, there are two things to do. First, check out a map of the lake in advance, so you can get an idea of the lake's depth, contours, etc. Pick areas to try based on the season we're in. This time of year, you'd be looking for deeper areas that are close to shallow flats and coves, where the fish will gradually be moving up into as the water warms. Remember that the northwest areas will typically warm up first due to the exposure to the sun almost all day long.

Once you have gathered info from the map, use that to check the lake once you've arrived and then let your eyes and your electronics (if you have any) tell you the rest. Maps won't tell the whole story. So using visual cues will fill you in on the rest.

As for what baits are "must haves", you'll get a few opinions on this that may differ some, but here is a pretty solid starter list:

1 - Spinnerbait to cover water.
2 - Lipless crankbait, also to cover water
3 - Small-medium crankbait, also to cover water
4 - Soft Plastic Craw imitation, such as the Sweet Beaver or Salty B-Bug (Texas Rigged)
5 - Plastic worm in 4 inch or 5 inch size. Most people will recommend a stick worm, such as a Senko style bait.
6 - Some kind of topwater bait,, such as a Heddon Baby Torpedo, a Jitterbug or a Rebel Pop-R

I'll be back later with more info for you  :yes:

Offline Brazzy

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Re: Looking for advice ... getting back into Freshwater
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2019, 02:24:27 PM »
I love topics like this because there is so much information out there and so many "rules" out there and even for people who do it all the time its great to list all all the tips and tricks just to bring you back to your foundation. We can probably keep this thing going through the year. As the year progresses your baits and presentations will change. I will start with general information and then go into what works this time of year.

First off, bass hang around "stuff". Trees, grass, lily pads, reeds, rocks, docks, etc. You can learn so much by just going to bass pro shops and looking in their tank. Big open tank with 1 large rock and a log. 80-90% of the bass in that tank are hovered around that log up against that rock. Seldom are they just randomly swimming around for no reason. So whenever fishing new water try to find that "thing" that the bass are relating to. If you find that "thing" and there is a lot of it then look for the one or a spot where it is irregular or isolated away from the rest. Bass related to objects and changes. The idea is you can start by finding things that are visible to everyone. Electronics will help you find those things that aren't visible to everyone such as boulders, humps, drop offs, fallen trees, and other stuff under water.

As for baits, Curt hit it pretty good. The only bait I would add would be a suspending jerkbait. That is a year round bait that by changing the cadence you can match the attitude of the fish. That and we have a fair share of clear water up here and they thrive in clear water. Using this bait you twitch the rod tip beginning and ending each twitch with slack in your line. Only use your reel to pick up slack, never use it to move the bait. Your rod does all the moving. The twitch can be a gentle tip of the rod to a hard snap depending on how you are trying to present the bait.

In presenting a bait general rule of thumb is in colder water you want small, subtle, natural presentations. As water warms and fish get more active you can go big, loud, obnoxious until we get in the dead of summer where its at its hottest. At that point you either need to tone it down or focus your efforts in early morning and later afternoon/evening. When we get to the fall they get active again and into the winter where they shut down.

In cold water a lipless and jerkbait are my go to. That jerkbait will take its toll on you. By early summer your forearms will look like PopEye's. In a week or two I will be on the water and the way I will work that jerkbait will be light twitches and long pauses. As the water warms I will pick up the speed and putting a little more "pop" into the twitch. By May/June I am just cracking that rod as hard and fast as I can.

Here is a general map. I dont love it but I cant find one better. Right now I would say we are in a winter pattern. As we get later into April I would start to call it "pre-spawn".
Bear Hill Baits

Offline senkosam

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Re: Looking for advice ... getting back into Freshwater
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2019, 06:31:39 AM »
Great advice above ! Let me emphasize the importance of what Curt and Brazzy suggested:
1. know the bottom of any water
  This means using sonar to locate fish of any size in as many areas as possible. Baitfish are one of the biggest forage types of any pond or lake and the fact that bass and pic's feed on them is not as important as their mere presence. Many areas devoid of baitfish will contain no fish period - at least in my experience.
   Like stated above, bottom types and contours help locate fish. Even shoreline drops into deeper water can hold fish parked under tree branches and in shade. This is an example of a combination of bottom related factors. More on combinations later.
   Knowing the bottom may take time especially since most lakes and ponds don't have maps available such as those on DEC's web site. But never assume there is nothing new to discover about bottom contours fish relate to. It might take years to know the bottom of any water but the more you fish one the more you take note of to put the odds in your favor vs anglers that fish blind, wasting time in unproductive areas.
   In general fish locations can be fairly predictable, but most times your lures are the best fish finders to rule out areas and this involves patterns or combinations of fish location factors. A combination/pattern involves finding:
1. where fish are
2. how to catch them

Both are interrelated. The where is not only bottom information but what is nearby. The above example where bass can be found from spring until fall involved 1. a steep bank, 2. overhanging shade trees, 3. water depth of 6 or more feet, 4. time of day and sun location. Better yet if a fallen tree (lie down) is near. This combination can be repeated in different areas and even year to year.

The combination like that of any padlock involves using the proper lure or set of lures the right way to unlock that combination. Many lure types may work in certain areas and most times do. In the steep shady shore example, these are just a few of the lures that DO catch fish in this situation:
plastic worms, skirted jig & trailer, light ballhead jigs & soft plastic, swimbait, short arm spinnerbait & trailer, a drop shot rig using finesse action soft plastic lures, and the list goes on. Lure design/action/size MATTER! For example:
In the shaded bank example, you might not want to use too large or heavy a lure. Punching heavy weeds with heavy 3/4 oz jigs is one thing, provoking a non-feeding bass just hanging out under is another that usually requires a slower moving lure that's in the strike zone longer. This is where lure presentation comes in as an important part of any combination. (More on lures in the next reply.)

A presentation is composed of many parts. The lure of course, but also line diameter, rod action, reel ratio (how much line is taken in with each reel revolution) and most important - angler imparted action (read the above posts). The bottom type and depth many times dictates presentation. But one thing to note about depth: fish may be anywhere from near the surface, at mid depth or near the bottom. Casting a shallow diving crankbait over 30' of water might catch bass near the surface, but unlikely if fish are just off bottom or at 10'.

Line diameter dictates lure action, the amount of line bow (slack) and strike detection sensitivity. Small diameter  lines are always preferable and should depend on the average maximum weight of a species fished for. They reduce line slack on the retrieve, increase strike sensitivity and most important - allow a lure to do its dance, especially one that is slow and subtle.

Fish in my opinion strike not to eat most of the time, but because a lure irritates their senses to a point of no return.
For example, a bass will stare at a lure resting on bottom - say a jig or soft plastic. That's just the beginning or its building irritation. Hop that jig once and BAM!  A fish that has been caught that's near other fish may infect those fish with a heightened sense of aggression leading those fish to also strike - one after the other.

2. Seasonal locations are part of the combination/pattern
   Fish spawn in the shallows depending on water temperature and not all bass spawn at the same time. Female bass may lay more eggs a week later with another male bass. (What little hussies!  :) ) Prespawn bass are what I search for in water 5' or less containing emergent weeds.  A spring pattern allows many lure types and presentations to be used. After the spawn, those shallow areas may hold potentially active fish as part of a morning pattern or maybe just morning and last afternoon.  I say potentially from an anglers point of view in that our lures and presentations activate strike provocations. Summer locations vary but fish may be shallow and deep on the same day or even in the same hour. Lures tell the story.

Granted there are rules that ensure more fish are found and caught, but none are set in stone. One angler may catch fish a totally different way using different lures than another in the same boat. Been there witnessed that! So the best advice is to keep an open mind and go with the flow of any water fished by finding it.

« Last Edit: April 25, 2019, 08:13:18 AM by senkosam »

Offline senkosam

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Re: Looking for advice ... getting back into Freshwater
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2019, 08:47:22 AM »
What to cast and why are the most important questions. Does one choose a lure because it looks like a prey animal, has a natural action, exhibits a scent/attractant or anything else humans assign to a lure's success ?? If it helps having confidence in a lure, by all means let that dictate lure choice. But lure design purists such as myself, know that lures of one kind may act totally different even using the same presentation. Similar-lure differences can make or break a potential strike provocation and those differences are lure action related.

What determines lure action for any lure? Shape and size are at the top of the list followed by material or materials the lure is made from. Silicone skirts flutter different than flat rubber skirts - especially at rest; different jig trailers move different; soft sticks vary in action depending on the plastic recipe used; an action tail will cause a different action than a subtle action tail connected to the same lure. These are examples of why many anglers prefer certain lures, conscientiously or unconsciously. They may say up front that a lure looks like this or that to a fish, but lure design and all the other stuff matter a whole lot more as part of the almighty combination of factors!

How can I prove the above is true? Just by using different lures to catch different species on the same outing says it all ! As I said, many lures catch different species - even turtles and eels (YUK!) Here are some examples of lures I've made or modified that have caught at least three fish species:
The Power Grub Ribbon Tail Grub below has a unique action that other grub tails don't and at slower retrieve speeds:

The Kalin Grub it totally different in design/action and the presentation retrieved:

The Crappie Magnet grub (left) moves significantly different than the spike tail (right), but both catch fish galore!:

...and in many different colors:

Remember Beetle Spins? Last year I caught bunches of fish on them using different soft plastics:

Just goes to show you the importance of not locking yourself in when it comes to lure design or color.

Remember the wacky rigged Senko and its superb action on the vertical drop? Well guess what, the same action can be possible with much smaller stick-like lures. Here are a few:
This one was poured and tested in my pond and has the exact action of the Senko:

I caught bass and panfish the first time I tried it and in many colors.

...and a catfish:

An idea sprung up: why not fuse together using a candle the bodies of two grubs and wacky rig it?

Then I tried rigging the lure from the front and found out it caught fish equally well:

What you use with a soft plastic can make all the difference what you catch. A Gary Y. Kut Tail Worm has a unique action all by itself, but when rigged on a light ball head jig, WOW!
The combo was used in water 3-5 feet with groups of weeds:

The first fish that smacked it was a sunfish followed by four 1.5-2 lb bass.

Also caught fish in a lake loaded with toxic green algae:

Modifying a lure can make all the difference. The original at the top couldn't catch fish, but modifying the tail made all the difference:

Used as a jerk bait in shallow water, bass clobbered it. No weight was needed because of the lure's plastic weight.
Just one more example of a winning combination.

Lure action speaks louder than words - PERIOD! ... along with size, presentation, where fished, etc.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2019, 09:38:11 AM by senkosam »

Offline metz12

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Re: Looking for advice ... getting back into Freshwater
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2019, 12:22:02 PM »
This is awesome. This topic should get posted to the top of the forum boards. Anyways, Welcome to the forums! As a former bank angler, who now has a boat, but does fish off the bank at a few specific honey holes, stay away from Treble hooks! Unless topwater. Jitterbugs, poppers, spooks etc are fine from the bank, but I would stay away from crankbaits, jerkbaits etc when on the bank. You will get hung up and unless you want to wade out to get your $7 kvd strike king lipless that hooked the ever popular stick fish. Like Curt said, Craw imitations, like the salty B bug from Lure parts online is a great bait, paired with a bullet weight. I also like the Missile D Bomb as well. And the senko is a great beginner bait. It can be weightless or have a bullet weight. Also, as for colors on soft plastics I like 3. Watermelon Red flake is my favorite for clear water and when the sun is bright, and then Black/blue or Black/red flake for darker conditions or dingy water. Paddletail swimbaits I am just getting into as well and i like the white keitechs. Senko brands I use is mostly the Bass Pro brand. They cast wicked far, have an awesome wiggle, and are much cheaper and more durable then the expensice gary yammamotos. I also like the Stike King KVD senkos, and the Strike king Ochos. I dont fish the ochos much though, as they are expensive.

For moving baits off the bank, Bladed Jigs, or chatterbaits are great. The hook points up, and comes through the grass pretty well. Spinnerbaits are also a favorite of mine. These are both fished very similar. Windy conditions or low light, dark dingy water. They are both very good with coming through cover. As for another moving bait, which is becoming a favorite of mine, especially this time of year is a swim Jig. Something natural green colored with a bit of white is my favorite. I make my own swim jigs from parts from Lure parts Online. Any other questions, dont be afraid to ask. I could type on and on on this subject.

Also, where are you located?

Offline senkosam

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Re: Looking for advice ... getting back into Freshwater
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2019, 06:57:14 AM »
NY - near West Point