How Fishing Was “Back Then”
I had the great honor and privilege to have lived and fished in the time before cell phones and GPS. Lakes were learned and navigated by landmarks and a Lowrance depth flasher was all we had. The best computer on our boats was our brain. We took what we knew about the lake and tried to piece together the puzzle.
Water clarity was found out the day of the tournament when we looked at the lake as we dumped the boat in. Water temperature was guesstimated by sticking your hand in the water or there were a select few that had a sur-temp gauge that was mounted on their trolling motor. Water movement was gauged by looking at docks, pier or bridge pylons, and debris on the water.
Bait was found by watching for the flickering of shad, bream on the beds or around the bank, seeing a crayfish around the rip rap or watching the birds for feeding frenzies.
Cover for bass was looking for the older docks, lay downs, a tip of a tree limb sticking out of the water, and looking under docks for Christmas trees placed there by the owners. Then you could always look for a piece of PVC pipe marking a stump or a submerge brush pile. We would use a piece of surveyors ribbon tied to a limb and then use it as a reference point to locate humps, points and channel swings. Paper maps were good for learning the basic layout of the lake, but nowhere near the detail of today’s maps using modern sonar and satellites.
Seasonal patterns were learned by experience and by reading magazines like Bassmasters. By the time the printed articles came out, we were all on a different seasonal pattern. With time and practice, the articles and patterns caught up with each other.
Taking it Back to the Basics
By looking at all of the ways that us older fishermen used to locate fish, there are some key points that the new age bass fishermen should pick up on! Many of these patterns and techniques can still be applied today and it might be just what you need to get that competitive advantage!
Always be thinking about how the fish stage at certain times of the year, don’t solely rely on those electronics, they might be your downfall if you lean to hard on them. Always consider lake conditions and any other variables that you may be faced with when out on the water.
First, Think About the Bass
Considerations Before Hitting the Water
As I stated before, anglers who fished prior to all the great tools we have now had a lot to consider before making the first cast. It sounds so simple now, but back then, it was overwhelming at times. We had to do all of our lure preparation at the lake upon finally seeing the water.
Many times phone calls from friends who had been on the lake the day or week before was the best source to obtain lake conditions and lure choices. Google and YouTube didn’t exist, so there wasn’t many ways to research those bodies of water and the bass that reside there.
Understanding How Bass Operate
The bass is a complicated yet simple being. They are driven by two things, food and cover, unless it is spawning season, all a bass will think of is its next meal and where to hide to ambush it.
Most times, a bass faces into the current when thinking of food and ambush areas. Current will help drive bait to the ambush points. With the introduction of Blue Back Herring into certain lakes, those bass have adapted to a roaming style, following the Herring. Yet, they still use points, breaks, drops, open water brush piles and other objects to set up ambush points as the Herring roam.
This again, takes us back to food and cover. Deep or shallow, food and cover will always be the focus of a bass. Knowing this helps you put together a general pattern before you even start your fishing trip.
Consider the Lake Conditions to Read the Water
Today, we have weather stations and the internet to monitor lakes and rivers throughout the world. Before the internet, lake conditions were learned and monitored on the water. The simple way I learned and I still use this today, is first I look at the shore to see the water line stain. To determine if the water is rising or falling I look at debris on the water. If leaves, sticks, garbage, floating logs and other items are moving away from the shore, even in small pockets, the water is falling. If such items are pushing up against the bank, the water is rising.
To determine how fast the water may be moving, I look at permanent items in the water such a piers, channel markers, docks and even lay downs. Sometimes you can see water flowing around these, showing that the water is really moving. It can be easiest to see on the main channel of that body of water.
When reading the current using channel markers, the current will always create a slack pool on the backside of the marker!
Bass will be on the inside of cover with rising water, and on the outside of cover or at the nearest drop off if the water is falling. These moves are again, relevant to bait moving on the rise and fall of the water levels. Bait need to feed as well and their forage is almost always moving with the current. So, bait will follow the current which causes the bass to feed off of the current breaks where the bait get pushed to.
There are Many Variables
Bass fishing, back then and right now is so packed full of variables that we as anglers cannot always button down exactly what the fish are doing. As we continue with the rest of our coverage on “Back to the Basics of Bass Fishing”, some of these variables will be covered. Lure selection, line selection, time of year or seasonal patterns, the spawn, water temperature, fronts, moon phase, and many more. All will be speaking on the simplest and basic terms.
If we stop and take a minute to consider how the fish may react, what the bass may be reacting to, and why the bass would react it’s a little easier to break down the pattern. Focusing on the root of their species, food and cover, we can reach a better understanding of the simple yet complicated life of a bass. Then using these “old style” techniques paired with our 21st century hardware we can more effectively dial them in.