In last month's article I discussed getting your equipment ready for the coming fishing and tournament season. Making sure rods, reels and your boat are in top shape certainly ensures your time on the water will be well spent. This article is about the "homework" I do before I get to the lake to make my time on the water more efficient, so I can catch more fish.
First and foremost is knowing the seasonal pattern. The type of water or places you'll fish in the winter are different than the spring; so forth and so on. In the spring, I'm looking for secondary points leading into spawning areas; in the summer, main lake points, humps and river channel drops; while in the winter, I'm concentrating on main lake points. Once I've determined the seasonal pattern, I can go to my topographic lake map and identify the likely places the fish will be holding/using. Map study is a critical part of preparation as I can narrow my search for productive water significantly before I ever launch the boat.
Next I consider the weather patterns for the week or so prior to the fishing trip. In the early spring, a warming trend the week of my trip will likely mean there will be fish moving shallow and feeding. Whereas, a cold front coming through will cause those same fish to pull out to deeper water or hold tighter to cover. This information also helps guide me on how much and what type of clothing to take. There's nothing worse than packing shorts for a trip to Florida, getting there and being greeted by a cold front and 40 degree air temperatures.
I also monitor the lake level for the body of water I'm going to fish. There are various ways to get this information, such as Web sites, automated phone services and even local newspapers. Another important bit of information if it's available is the hydroelectric power generation schedule. Power generation creates current, stimulating the feeding of the fish and affecting their positioning on structure. A rising water level might be a clue to fish moving shallow, while falling lake levels usually means those fish will be moving out.
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There is a wealth of information on the Internet with many Web sites offering fishing reports and tips from fisherman local to the body of water I'm going to fish. While these sites and the information they offer may not tell me exactly where or how to catch the fish, they will often clue me in to how deep the fish are or how well they are biting. If I read lots of reports from locals catching lots of fish, I know the fish are active. The other side of that coin is if the locals are "singing the blues" then I should prepare myself mentally for a tough fishing trip. It's important to consider the source of the information you're receiving and process it accordingly.
Once I've done my homework, I have ideas about where the fish should be, how active they may be, the lake conditions and how the weather is going to be when I go fishing. Doing your homework and having all this information is going to make use of time on the water more efficient and help catch more fish.
There is no substitute for time on the water.
Rusty White of Rock Hill is a professional fisherman and full-time guide on the Catawba chain of lakes, offering full- and half-day services. For more information, visit fishingwithRusty.com.