How do you catch bass on a lake you’ve never fished before?
I posed that very question to our intrepid bass expert, Big Fred Contaoi the other day. A valid topic, I figured, as he has been fishing a bunch of new waters in his first two seasons as a pro on the FLW Wal-Mart Tour for Orange County Choppers.
Many of the tournaments he’s been fishing have been on bodies of water that Fred had never laid eyes on before. Most have been quite unlike the lakes of the West that he has cut his teeth on. So, what the heck do you do in that situation?
“For example, my first-ever tournament on Tour was at Florida’s Lake Okeechobee,” he says. “The first thing I did was fish a nearby lake — Lake Toho — so I could get a feel for the fish in this general area,” he said (he caught a nice 8-pound largemouth that day). “Then, I drove my truck around Lake Okeechobee for a couple days to just check things out and talked to people at local tackle shops, etc.”
Fred says that, when you’re chatting up the local experts, ask them about the size and color of the forage that the fish are on and what sort of cover they like in the lake.
When it was finally legal for him to begin pre-fishing, Fred simply got out on the water and started sniffing around.
“You have to remember that bass are still bass no matter where they live and they all have the same basic needs like food and shelter,” he says. “Once you figure out what they like to eat and where they like to live, you can set up a game plan.”
It’s not a bad idea to also try to set up a couple “emergency plans” in case you get a sudden change in weather between the time you’re practicing and tournament day. For example, poll the locals about stuff like where the area’s bass go when a sudden cold front moves through (think deep water) or what happens when the north wind blows on that particular lake.
When you’re going to try a new water for the first time, hiring a guide isn’t a bad idea. You can learn more in a day with a guide than you could in weeks of doing it on your own. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, a guided bass trip can run you $125 to $250 per person…money well spent, to be sure.