During the summer a lot of anglers seem to struggle with finding fish. Early morning and late evening fish can be caught up shallow, but what do you do with the rest of your fishing trip? When water temps rise and boat traffic increases fish move offshore and get away from the bank. I get a lot of questions from clients about what I am looking for when I am out graphing with them trying to find fish.
I figured I would take the time to make a write up about what I look for, how to approach the fish, and how to catch them. If you have ever wanted to get away from the bank and catch a few, read this!
Above I have included a Navionics map of a section of Lake Travis. Take a look at my annotations... if I were going to fish this section of the lake, these are the 8 places I would graph and look for fish. I particularly look for areas where the contour lines are close together indicating a large ledge or drop off. I also look for secondary points and humps.
One thing you need to keep in mind is depth, I have caught bass in as deep as 80 feet of water, but typically you won't find them that deep. Pay attention to the depths you have been catching them at to give you an indicator as to what to look for. Lake Travis is currently 20 feet low, so the depth numbers you see on this chart are inaccurate. (I find Navionics to be pretty inaccurate to begin with... Lake Master is a lot better IMO)
Lately I have been finding bass in 25-45 feet of water, this seems to be the sweet spot, so that is what I look for. When you find these areas graph them and make lots of way points. You're wasting your time if you try to fish every one of these areas. Find the fish on the graph before you drop a bait down.
This is where your technology can really make a difference. I have my Skeeter equipped with Lowrance's at the bow and console, a Humminbird at the console, and a MinnKota Ultrex. Once I find a school of fish I will mark a waypoint on my Lowrance; that way I can see it on the Lowrance I have networked on the bow. I also run a Lowrance Point 1 Antennae so that I know exactly which direction I am facing, even when not moving. This is a huge help in knowing where your waypoint is in relation to your boat. Once you shut off the main engine get on your trolling motor and place yourself approximately 50 feet upwind from the school. I will then engage Spot Lock on the Ultrex and take a second look at the map zoomed in as far as it will go. I want to make sure my casts are going just past the school of fish and are being dragged past them. This is what separates good anglers from great anglers...if your cast is poorly placed you are wasting time. If you ever watch professional anglers on TV you will notice how efficient they are with their time on the water... you should do the same. Make a well placed cast and take your time working it through the school.
Now I mentioned earlier I position the boat upwind. This is typically my first approach, if the fish are not biting but I know they are down there I will then move the boat to deep water and work my bait from shallow to deep. If they are still not biting, I will do the opposite and fish from deep to shallow. Sometimes the direction your bait it coming at the fish from makes a big difference. If you are fishing a body of water with current this is extremely important. Bass will position themselves facing upstream, so you want your bait moving downstream. Play around with boat orientation and pay attention to how you were positioned when you catch one.
This is a prime example of what you are looking for. You want to see fish grouped up close to each other just off the bottom.... these are fish that can be caught. Suspended fish can be caught too, but you're going to have to work harder to fire up the school. When you get on a school like this... this is what you get! -->
Once I find a school I make a rotation through a few baits. My go-to baits are a Strike King 10XD or 6th Sense C25 to get down deep, a Carolina Rig with a 1oz weigh, or a drop shot with a trick worm or fluke. These are my search baits, once I know the fish are willing to bite there are a few other baits I will throw to try and get a bigger bite. Rotate between these baits and try to fire up the school.
Now this is important! Once you catch a fish, you need to be as quick as you can to release it or put it in the live well, and get back to fishing. Once the school is fired up they typically won't stay biting forever, you might have a 2-15 minute window to keep catching them. If you are fishing a tournament work quick and get your bait back in the strike zone as soon as possible. Take pictures later... catch fish now!
I hope these tips help you, if you catch anything using this advice, leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you!
Lake Travis - Lake LBJ- Offshore Fishing - Fishing Guide - Austin - Texas