Dissecting a lake
As a guide, I need to follow a procedure for learning new lakes quickly. Yes I depend upon experience to determine where to go but ecosystems change over time and I need to adapt to those changes. A good example is Escanaba lake. During the drought years of 1988-2008, the water clarity was very good (18 feet) for tannic stained lake. Green cabbage which provides cover for baitfish and ambush spots for predators was luxuriant. Any mud bottom under 12 feet had great stands of cabbage. As the precipitation increased and the tamarack swamps on the east end of the lake filled with water the needles decomposed and released tannins into the water. This tannin stained water spread throughout the lake until at last reading the secchi disk reading was 8 feet. With reduced light penetration, the cabbage was only present in 7-8 feet of water or less. Eel grass or wild celery replaced it as this plant does not need the same amount of sunlight to thrive in deeper water. Fish were found much shallower but soon the perch population which the walleye preyed upon was reduced and walleyes did not have this option as a food source. They relied on worms and insect larvae in the mud basin of the lake for a consistent food source. This put them in a spot which most anglers found inaccessible. Unless you adapted.
I use the procedure of Fish Fast to Find Fish. There are two methods I use depending on the conditions. I will either troll or use the wind to move us quickly over weeds or structure. I will not slow down until we have contacted active fish. Only then will I slow down and throw 1/16 oz. jigs with a half crawler, leech or minnow and slip bobbers. When setting up to fish structure ,whether it be a rock or sand point or hump or a weed bed, I will alway search for the point where the wind is hitting the structure directly. Wind blows algae and zooplankton and minnows follow. The food chain is activated when the wind blows into structure.whether it is a wall of milfoil, a cabbage bed or rock structure.
With wind I will put the boat in a desirable depth( weed edge, standing cabbage or rock structure. My clients wil cast swimbaits, twitch baits or crank baits to find fish. On the other side of the boat, I will put either a slip bobber with a tiny spinner blade or a drop shot with a floating plastic and leech and crawler. Clients on the ends of the boat will either cast outward from the bow or stern and then the middle man directs his casts from 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock to cover water more efficiently. Using your GPS tracking allows you see your path so you fish new water with each pass. If you have enough rods, motor back upwind while trolling with your trolling motor. We have been successful twitching and trolling X raps and Stunna jerkbaits over the weeds. You will need at least 4 feet of “clearance” over the weeds or else you will snag weeds constantly.
If faced with calm conditions, you can try trollling deep diving crankbaits on the weed edge. This varies on the clarity of the lakes I fish from 8 feet to 17 feet. Trolling over deep sand grass can be very effective. Very soon a “basin bite will begin when water becomes too warm in the shallows and perch migrate to the mud basin to feed on worms and insect larvae hatching from the mud.
Sometimes the fish will be in the weeds using the shade provided by the stalk and leaves. Long casts with plastic paddle tails weaved through the cabbage is the ticket here. Always hit points, inside turns and pockets in the weeds. Sometimes helicoptering the paddle tail into a pocket will stimulate a strike. Pro tour baits paddle tail minnows are the best by far.Use your trolling motor to quietly approach the weed bed and navigate through it.
Once you find a concentration, spot lock or anchor and use light jigs and slip bobbers to dissect the area. Anchor upwind of where the wind is hitting the structure directly or blowing into a point or inside turn.