“Learn” the bottom with your baits

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Once you have a handful of promising spots picked out, it’s time to head to the lake. The difference is these fishing trips are more for learning areas than actually catching fish. When I intend to find offshore spots, I’ll only have three rods and presentations on the deck; a deep crankbait like a Strike King 6XD, a 3/4-ounce football jig, and a heavy wobble-head jig like a 11/16-ounce Gene Larew Hardhead. These serve as my tools for learning how the bottom lays out and finding key offshore spots.

Go to the areas you’ve picked out and use the deep diving crankbait and heavy-weighted baits to start digging up the bottom. Fan cast the spot, dragging your baits around to try and determine where the shallowest areas are versus where you perceive the edge, or drop off of the spot to be.

If you’ve got a simple depth finder, use that to find the drop off. If not, you can get a good gauge on different depth zones using the three lures above. Consider how long it takes your lure to reach the bottom based on different casts and different casting angles. Use a deep-diving crankbait and pay attention to where you are dredging bottom versus where it’s too deep for your lure to make bottom contact. This paints a picture in your mind of how a particular spot or area lays out.

Pay close attention as you come across every foot of the bottom and feel for anything different. Feel for brush piles, snags, grass patches, shell bars, weed beds, big rocks, rubble patches, etc. Using lures that maintain bottom contact allows you to determine the bottom composition and locate these key features. It takes practice and a lot of time on the water, but eventually you’ll be able to distinguish between sand, clay, mud, grass and rock.

Perhaps the best advice I can give is to have a long memory while learning these offshore locations. As you come through a brush pile, over a boulder or across a shell bar look on the shoreline for an easily remembered landmark and triangulate the spot. Lock this triangulation in your memory bank or write it down in a notebook. You might not fire up a school of bass while you are learning the area, but being able to replicate your casts to the high percentage areas ultimately leads to being more efficient and catching more fish.