How to approach a new fishing lake —Bass Master Class with KVD

fishing lake

Want to catch more bass? There’s an art and system every time you fish a lake, even if you’ve been there before. Kevin VanDam takes you inside his system after over 3 decades fishing at the top level of the sport, as the most successful angler of all time. Check out this bass fishing master class lesson, with KVD!


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A Fresh Perspective on Familiar Waters

A new lake or a new body of water can be a thrilling adventure. Even the lake you’ve fished your whole life can feel different every time you go out there. It’s essential to understand that every trip can offer new challenges and opportunities. Here’s a detailed approach to effectively breaking down a lake for a successful fishing experience.

Preliminary Research: Leveraging Modern Technology

First and foremost, doing a bit of research is crucial. With today’s technology, planning your fishing trip has become much easier. For example, if I’m planning a trip to Lake Gunnersville next week, I start by gathering information:

  • Location and Weather: Using various weather apps on a smartphone, I check the long-term forecast. Weather patterns are critical, as they influence fish behavior. A warming trend or a cold front can significantly change my approach.
  • Wind Conditions: Tools like Windfinder help assess the wind conditions for the day. Whether you’re planning your trip seven days out or just seven hours before, understanding the expected weather is essential.

Paper maps and technology give anglers an edge

Understanding the Lake’s Characteristics

Determining the basic type of lake is another critical step. Each body of water has unique characteristics that affect fish behavior:

  • Lake Type: Is it a river, natural lake, reservoir, or tidal water? Bass act differently in each type.
  • Seasonal Patterns: Knowing the general seasonal patterns helps identify the areas of the lake to target. For instance, in reservoirs, the upper end is typically shallower and warms up first in the spring.

Utilizing Maps for Effective Fishing

Maps are invaluable tools for any angler. Here’s how to use them effectively:

  • Paper Maps and Digital Tools: Historically, paper maps were crucial, but now, digital maps like LakeMaster mapping are indispensable. They provide detailed information about depth and topography.
  • Seasonal Areas: Identifying areas that fit the seasonal pattern is vital. For example, the upper end of a reservoir is usually shallower and warmer, making it a good starting point in early spring.
  • Directional Layout: In natural lakes, consider how the lake is oriented. Northerly facing banks warm up first in the spring, which can be crucial for locating active fish.

Fishing tools and accessories


Depth and Structure Analysis

Understanding the depth and structure of a lake is fundamental:

  • Highlighting Zones: Using LakeMaster maps, I set a shallow water highlight, usually at 5 feet. This acts as a safety factor and helps focus on key areas, especially during the pre-spawn and spawn periods.
  • Adjusting for Depth: The depth zones may need adjustment depending on the lake type. Deeper, clearer lakes often require focusing on deeper zones where bass are likely to reside.

On the Water: Initial Observations

When you arrive at the lake, the real work begins:

  • Water Clarity and Temperature: Check the water clarity and temperature as soon as you launch the boat. While temperature is important, don’t get too hung up on it. Factors like time of year and moon phase often play a more significant role in fish movements.
  • Weather and Natural Indicators: Pay attention to changes in the weather, wind direction, and water clarity. These subtle shifts can provide valuable clues about fish behavior.

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The Importance of Mobility and Flexibility

Staying mobile and flexible is crucial when exploring a new lake:

  • Covering Water: It’s essential to cover a lot of water to find where the fish are active. I don’t spend more than 10 minutes in one area using the same bait or technique unless I get positive feedback like a catch or a follow.
  • Electronics and Visual Cues: Use electronics like side imaging and mega live to gather information. Look for structure, cover, and baitfish. Observing birds and other wildlife can also indicate fish presence.

Understanding Forage and Habitat

Knowing what the fish are feeding on and the type of habitat they prefer can make a big difference:

  • Forage: The type of forage varies by region. In Michigan, bluegills are a primary forage, while in the South, lakes like Gunnersville have an abundance of crawfish and shad.
  • Habitat: Bass typically rely on flats for feeding and spawning. Identifying these areas on your map can help target your efforts.

Fishing history

Seasonal Patterns and Fish Behavior

Seasonal patterns and fish behavior are closely linked:

  • Spawning and Movement: Bass often follow specific routes to their spawning areas. In reservoirs, they use creek channels and ditches. Understanding these travel routes can help locate fish as they move.
  • Moon Phases: Full and new moons influence fish behavior and other species’ activities. For example, crawfish and bluegill spawn around the full moon, affecting bass movements.

Utilizing Technology and Staying Observant

Modern technology and keen observation skills are essential tools:

  • Electronics: Use tools like LakeMaster maps, side imaging, and mega live to gather as much data as possible about the lake.
  • Awareness: Stay alert to all your surroundings. Changes in weather, water clarity, and natural indicators like bird activity can provide critical insights.

Making Adjustments and Staying Persistent

Flexibility and persistence are key to successful fishing:

  • Experimentation: Don’t be afraid to change tactics if you’re not getting results. Try different areas, baits, and presentations until you find what works.
  • Continual Learning: Each trip offers new learning opportunities. Keep refining your approach based on your observations and experiences.

Conclusion: How to approach a new fishing lake

Breaking down a lake is a multifaceted process that involves research, observation, and flexibility. By understanding the lake’s characteristics, using modern technology, and staying aware of environmental cues, you can significantly improve your chances of a successful fishing trip. Keep these strategies in mind, and each trip will bring you closer to mastering the art of fishing.

Head over to Bass Pro Shops to get the top-quality fishing tools I rely on. For all your bass fishing and outdoor sport’s needs:

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