Fishing on a new lake can be intimidating. If you have never been to a body of water before, the first question is "Where do I begin fishing?" Fishing success does not have to elude you simply because you have never been to the lake before. Here are a few simple tips to help you fish on an unfamiliar lake. 

nice largemouth bass caught on a rocky shorelineCredit: Jay Angel: Photo

Doing your homework

Fishing success begins long before you drop your boat into the water. You need to do your homework. Homework consists of studying the lake. Scour the internet for any information you can find about it. Some lakes have bathymetric maps. These are maps that show lake depth contours. This way you will have an idea of what the lake bottom looks like. Most better maps will also show you features such as rocky bottoms, submerged timber and fish concentrating structures. This information is a great place to start. 

The next thing to do is to go to google and perform a search on its name. You should have all kinds of information at your fingertips. There should be articles that you can read, message board posts as well as regulations that you need to familiarize yourself with. This is the point when I begin to look at specific species that I might want to target. For instance, if the lake has a good population of crappies, I would expect to find several articles about how to target them there and lots of photos of crappies caught there on message boards. 

What to look for

Standing timber:

Whether you enjoy fishing for bass or crappies standing timber is one of the first structural elements you should consider. Standing timber is "trees" in the water. Many lakes are the result of flooding a valley. When the valley was flooded the engineers usually choose to leave the trees knowing that they will be in the lake for decades and they will create excellent habitat for aquatic life. 

I know I have found a good spot if I see lots of trees together in a group. You need standing timber that is water that is four feet or deeper. 

You will find that many reservoirs have plenty of standing timber. You might even see that it lines the banks of the creekbed that was used to fill the it. If you find the creeekbed on a map, that would be a key area to begin your search for fish. 

Standing timber is always a great place to begin your search for crappies. These fish will almost always be hanging out around standing timber. To target crappies here first you must determine how deep it is either by a depth finder or by dropping a weight on your line down to the bottom. I like to start by setting my bobbers to half of the depth of the water. For instance, if the water is 10 feet deep, I will begin with my bobbers set to 5 feet. You might have to use a slip bobber if you are dealing with deep water. Ensure that you are using small bobbers and thin wire hooks. Minnows or shiners are both fantastic baits for crappies. The small bobber can be easily pulled under by one of these fish and the thin wire hook can he bent if you happen to snag it into a branch. If you are angered every time you get a snag, this isn't the place for you to fish because you are going to become snagged..often. 

Fish on every tree that you find. Don't spend too much time at any one place unless you catch a fish or get a bite. Crappies live with other crappies. What this means is that if you catch one, there are others in the area. So keep moving until you find an active school.

Largemouth bass also live around standing timber. You have to target them differently than you would crappies. I like to use a Texas rigged plastic worm or a jig and pig. Cast either of these rigs out to every tree. Allow it to sink down to the tree's base and hop the bait around the tree. I like to use short little three inch hops. You will need very stout equipment and strong line in order to pull these fish straight up after you hook them. If you allow a bass to swim around they will wrap your line around a branch and break it. 

Rocky Shorelines

Rocky shorelines are another key structural element that I target when I am searching for fish on a new lake.  This is the first place I go to when I am targeting unfamiliar water. Bass will never be very far away from the shore providing that the water is three feet deep or more. The first presentation I use is called wacky rigging. Wacky rigging involves the use of a soft plastic lure called a Yum Dinger. Use a size 4 octopus hook and hook it through the middle of the lure. Cast this lure out towards the rocks. The best place to put it is by the rocks and where you can no longer see the lake bottom. After the lure lands all you have to do is allow it to sink. It is time to reel in after the lure hits the bottom. Then cast out to the next rock. 

There are so many ways to target bass on rocky shorelines. Another one of my favorite presentations is casting crankbaits. You will need a shallow running crankbait. Square billed crankbaits are not designed to run deep. That is why they are good to run along rocky shorelines. The most important part of this presentation is to cast parallel to the shoreline. You will run your lure into the rocks and you are going to get hung up. If you feel it hit the rocks you are casting in the right spot. Many times a fish will hit it right after it bounces off of a rock. 

Don't be afraid to fish a new lake. Sometimes unfamiliar water can be very productive. I have given you a few tips here to increase your fishing success. 

Strike King Pro-Model Series 4S Bait
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(price as of Jan 17, 2016)
This is a square billed crankbait