March 30, 2016
A basic knowledge of bass habits, combined with keen observation, can make for a very productive day.
It's nice to find a “spot” where bass are biting. But, tournament pros and guides would rather find a “pattern.” A spot gives an angler a general area to fish. A pattern tells the angler the specific depth and cover situations within that area where his casts need to go—and those areas that can be ignored.
Not every bass on a given lake will be doing the exact same thing on the same day. But, a significant percentage will be relating to the same type of depth and cover. That's a pattern. Find that and you can eliminate a lot of water that you don't need to fish.
Making this concept successful requires an understanding of the two types of patterns—seasonal and daily.
Seasonal patterns are those areas the bass move to with the seasons. During the spring spawn they will obviously be in shallow waters. During the peak of the summer, or the dead of winter, they will move to deeper waters. Understanding the seasonal patterns will allow you to find the general area the bass are using. Once you get into a proper area for the seasonal pattern, determining the daily pattern is a matter of trial and error and observation. Do that, and you can have a great day. A classic example of that is a mid-July trip I took to Orange Lake with professional anglers Bernie Schultz, Pete Thliveros and his son Nick.
None of us had been on the lake in months, but we knew that a seasonal pattern would have many bass holding in large offshore hydrilla beds. We found one that stretched for half a mile and started on the deepwater water side. Using a variety of lures we probed edges, cuts, pockets, points and flipped crowns. After an hour without success we moved to the inside, or shallow water edge, and repeated the process of elimination.
We found bass feeding on scattered points of hydrilla on the shallow (three to four foot depth) side so we concentrated on those, ignoring the less than productive waters in between. Moving from point to point, we finished that trip with several dozen bass, including an 11.2-pound fish caught by Pete.
That is pattern fishing at its most basic. Figure out where the seasonal pattern will put fish. Eliminate the depth and cover they are not using that day, and concentrate on what they are using.
The same patterning process can apply in any circumstance and greatly eliminate the amount of water you have to sort through to find bass.
Say you're fishing a shallow flat in the spring and catching fish off of arrowhead, but not from pads, coontail or maidencane. A savvy angler would zero in on the arrowhead. If you're fishing a line of docks and only catching bass from those that extend out the farthest, why waste time fishing the shallow docks? Bass holding on deepwater ledges during the winter? Note whether the fish you have caught came from the peak, the slope, or the base. They may be living on ledges, but that's the portion of the structure they're using that day.
Pay special attention to where, and from what part of the cover, you're catching fish, and you've begun the process of patterning bass for that day. You're eliminating the portions of the structure the bass are not using, which allows you to zero in on that proverbial “10 percent of the water holding 90 percent” of the fish.
The advantage to pattern fishing is efficiency: You're not wasting time on unproductive water. The bonus is that if you encounter those depth and cover situations in other areas of the lake, you'll likely find them holding bass as well.- FS