Map and Hatch study

Evan Fleming

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It’s the toughest time of the year as an angler, and not just on the water. We all know the bites are few and far in between when we actually get to hit the water. One of the hardest things is to find time to wet a line during the winter months. Between weather and holiday activities, you start to feel fishing withdrawals. Most of us resort to cleaning out the boat, organizing tackle, and preparing for the upcoming fishing season. Another tool I use to fill the fishing void is map and lake study. These can be the best tools as anglers. Knowing where to go, what to throw, and why. Even on your home waters, you’ll be surprised what new information you can find.

As a tournament angler time management is key, and even key to the average joe hitting the water. It doesn’t matter if you’re using 8 hours to hunt down that first place bag or just spending the day on the water, you want to make the most of your time. There is no worse feeling than being stumped on the water, you start to panic, you start junk fishing, and running all over the place looking for that bite. You don’t make the most of you’re allotted time. Doing some pre-fishing homework can change all of that for you. Knowing what to do in certain situations, starts at home.

My favorite tool is the Navionics boating app. Old school paper maps are great as well, but having every lake map in my hand at one time is easier. Even if you’ve fished your home waters for the past 15 years, I bet you will find a new creek channel, ditch, hump, or road bed you had no idea was there. This can be key to finding that bite or coming up with the winning bag.


Rather it’s dead of winter, the water temperature is 40 degrees, and your looking for that channel swing near a main lake point, or its pre-spawn and you’re looking for that bass highway heading to spawning flats. Map study will keep you on top of fish and making the most of your time. Knowing where these spots are is important to establishing a game plan, rather it being on a new body of water or your home lake.

I like to make my game plan out of my top 10 spots and list them in numerical order, starting with the one spot that I have the most confidence in. I know when I pull up I’ll have my best chance of getting a bite there, then work my way down the list.

After you get this list of spots, it’s time to determine what to tie on. Water clarity and water temperatures will determine a lot of this, but knowing what species of bait fish and crawfish are in the body of water is the next piece of the puzzle. Matching the hatch is what most anglers refer to it as. Knowing that your body of water has a larger population of Blue Back Herring than Alewife or Hickory Shad, will help make color selection much simpler. So if you’re throwing a jerk bait in cold winter waters, or


deep cranking hot summer waters, your color selection will be much easier.

The same goes for the crawfish population, this can be harder to match though. Yes, you can always reach in your box and grab the old faithful black and blue or green pumpkin jig and catch bass all day long, but what if you’re in a situation where the fish are pressured and have seen every black and blue combination that you can buy? You have to change it up. Then you remember that your water has a high population of Red Swamp Crawfish. You grab that black and red jig or crank bait and start back to catching fish. Also knowing when the crawfish molt and change colors can be key. You may be on fish all season long on a spring craw color, then the next trip your fish are still there but you can’t buy a strike. You look at the water temperature and realize that the crawfish have changed colors, you make your adjustments and are back to wacking fish.

Matching the hatch is crucial to catching fish, also to not wasting time and money on the wrong colors. Sometimes it’s little color variations or knowing the size of the hatch you’re trying to imitate. You may have to change the size bait you’re throwing too. It does no good to throw a lure two or three times the size of the natural bait in that body of water. This is a simple fix once you learn what color to throw. Changing the size blades on a spinner bait, or the size trailer that you’re using can help this. Also cutting some of the skirt material off a jig or spinner bait to help give it a smaller profile. On the other hand you may be looking for that lunker and need to throw a larger bait. You could be landing twelve inch fish all day long and need that kicker fish. Instead of throwing a 4 inch swim bait or 5 inch ribbon tail Texas rig step it up. The size bait is just as important as the color. Don’t over think the situation. Some times simple is the best. Use the bass to tell you what they want.


This winter while you’re sitting around dreaming of a twenty pound bag or that trophy lunker bass, do your homework to make that dream happen. Break down the water before you ever get the chance to go. Having this information can make you a better angler and make the most of your time. In the end it doesn’t matter if you’re competing against 200 other boats, your local club, or just getting a chance to wet a line we all want to make the most of it and catch fish.



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