From Shallow to Deep:
The whole purpose of Shallow Water Mapping is to find the fish that you are going to search for later after you find the 3 best shallow water spots on your lake. My goal is to give you this start by helping you recognize the cove, creeks, flats, and structure that is required to find bigger Bass. Once you learn this you will have no trouble following them to their comfort zones as mentioned below.
In most reservoirs, bass reside on ledges and drop-offs adjacent to shallow-water feeding grounds. They travel along these areas in search of food. On the deep side of the ledge or drop-off, bass experience comfortable temperatures and better oxygen levels. The depth provides shelter while the shallow side provides food sources such as Minnows, Bluegill, Night Crawlers and Crayfish. To determine where to start your search, look for ledges and drop-offs with a significant edge. The faster the drop from shallow feeding grounds to deep water, the more comfortable a bass feels in its environment.
Fishing the channels, will help you recognize the important factors in deciding which areas should be most productive. Fishing at a depth of 8 to 15 ft. on the lip or edge of the channel is the more productive depth that you will find these comfort zones. A good map then should be used to see where the channels are located in various coves and regions of the lake.
Remember the pH scale? Bass are found in pH near 7. The cheapest one is the Color C Selector. Bass can tolerate pH from 5 to 8.5, and they can grow and be caught in waters throughout that range. The pH in many renowned Texas Bass lakes is 6 to 6.5.
Fact: Bass live where they have favorable temperature, adequate oxygen, and appropriate cover (which could be reduced light). They feed where the forage is. The bass’ life is good when their resting and feeding habitat is the same. As long as ample forage is in shallow water, some bass will be there, no matter what season; but a lot of forage fish move to deeper water to find their preferred temperature or comfort zone.
We are looking for flats and other locations with deep water nearby. Experience has taught me that the fish will move off toward deeper water as fall turns into winter. Huge Bass will not move any farther than they have to, however.
If Bass are on the top of a hump, I will look for them alongside of that same hump. If they were feeding up on a point in shallow water, I will follow that same point out to where it drops off into a channel or a breakline.
For safety and to preclude outside disturbance, bass will always move back to positions near deeper water when not actively pursuing food. This depth range, as I stated before, is usually between eight and 15 feet. Therefore, the most potentially productive ledges will be within that range. I think isolated cover is always "the deal," but that's especially true after a cold front. It doesn't matter whether you're fishing deep or shallow, wood or grass, clear or dirty water, postfrontal bass are going to be holding around isolated cover.
The terms 'cover' and 'structure' are NOT synonymous. They are different features. The potential of a given structure feature can be reasonably determined by: The nearby availability of 25 feet or more of depth; And, the 'steepness' of the drop-off associated with the access to that depth.
Cover consists of weeds, brush, grass or timber, and is used for ambush. It is not used for his protection. Bass will develop a route from there comfort zone moving from one piece of cover to another until they have fed up then return. Sometime they have to continue along this route all the way to the shoreline. Structure is for resting, comfort, security and for feeding just outside of the cover. The best of two worlds is finding a piece of structure as shallow as possible with cover on it. Now we have them cornered.
A productive structure feature is one which provides ready availability of food or serves as a reference point during periods of inactivity. In most cases, the bigger bass will be found on the best piece of structure that has cover and baitfish.
When a bass experiences fear or senses danger, his instinctive reaction is to dash for deep water.
Unless actively feeding, a bass will always hold near the edge of the drop into deep water.
Of all available structure features, ledges and drops are the most common AND the most continuously productive.
A `drop' is a contour change resulting in deeper water and has a downwards angler of decent of 30 degrees, or more. Any change less than 30 degrees is considered a slope and will not be as productive.
A `ledge' is the upper lip, or edge, of a drop.
While ledges and drops usually exist throughout a body of water, those associated with submerged channels and the deepest water in the area are always more consistently productive.
Ledges are a strange beast—sometimes you can fish a mile without any bites, then find several quality schools of bass in the next mile.
The next phase of locating our potential 'honey holes' is to back away from the old channels and look for similar contour variations and cover features in back-water sections of the lake or river. Apply the same rationale as before, but be especially conscious of the proximity of the deepest available water. This is where I do my shallow water mapping.
The quickest way to locate good ledges and drops is to consult a well-defined topographical map. I will start your map analysis near river and feeder creek channels and look for strong bottom irregularities and rapid contour (depth) changes. I will key in on those that fall within the 8-15 foot range. You will survey the general area for indications of cover close by as you fish these spots. The final step becomes to prioritize the list. To do this, I select the locations with the sharpest drop-off and deepest adjacent water and number them. Then they are rated using about 25 different factors that make a spot the best it can be. You now have a plan of attack which has been thought out in a logical manner. I primarily rely on my instincts when locating big Bass year round.
I find a lot more fish with a rod and reel than I do with a depth finder, I’ve idled over places that look okay without many fish, then turn around and absolutely wear them out. If I passed it over, I would have never caught them.
Spend some time learning where they are on your favorite lake and start with small areas that you have selected from my mapping. You cannot absorb the layout for the whole lake all at once. Just remember few fish are caught while you are running the boat from place to place.
Your goal is to find the best 3 shallow water spots on your lake. Your next goal is to find the best 3 second drop spots by fishing all the cover between the shallows and the bass's comfort zone. Your third goal is to find the 3 best ledges which will keep you on those bass as they return to their home environment and comfort zone. Having these 9 areas to fish each day whether your in a tournament of fun fishing is a must.
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