How do you fish new water?
Response by Duane Knight - Dated 3/21/1999
First, I assume bass are creatures of habit based on several studies I have read and from my personal experience. In as much as bass are creatures of habit, I assume bass on a new body of water under certain conditions will respond like the bass in a familiar body of water under the same conditions.
For example, if I arrive at a lake that is fairly clear, 65 to 70 degrees, in mid April (I know I'm not in Michigan - just kidding), I am going to start looking for the bass to be positioned for the spawn. Bass from just before the spawn to about a month after the spawn don't like critters that bother their eggs or fry. So, plastic lizards and perch imitations should work well.
If I get to the lake and find it's very murky because of heavy rain, 85 degrees in mid-July, I will start looking for places where the water is less murky, usually toward the dam (if there is one). If I can't find any clear water, I am going to toss baits I know the fish can either see in the murky water, such as a yellow and red skirted spinnerbaits with #6 gold or copper Colorado blades, or a chartreuse and white skirted buzzbait with a blade that clacks.
Experience is a must to determine what to do on any given body of water. You have to get out there and fish in different conditions and be observant. You don't necessarily have to cut a bass open to know what it's been eating. They often regurgitate what they have been eating as you catch them or in your live wells. If you suspect it's the time of year or even month (right before or after a full moon) for bass to be eating crawfish, look in the fish's mouth, you can sometimes see the antenna or claws in their throat.
I know there are situations were the bass on a given lake respond much differently than bass on similar lakes, or even surrounding lakes. For example, the lakes in California where the bass have learned to munch on stocked trout are different from lakes without the stocking. But, as I said, bass are creatures of habit, so if the local Game and Fish starts stocking large amounts of trout in an Eastern lake, I would expect the bass to react similarly to those lakes out West. Of course, I wouldn't expect the same size bass because of the different growing seasons, but I would be tossing a trout colored Something-or-other (don't run out and look for this bait in you local tackle shop).
Let me leave you with this. I throw lures that I am comfortable with throwing. I select colors based on time of year and water clarity. I don't know if bass actually think a spinnerbait is any particular type of bait fish. I believe that if the bass can see it and the bass is in the proper mood, the spinnerbait will trigger a response in the bass to grab it and eat it.
I don't think imitating bait fish is always what you have to do to catch bass. Two quick examples - on a local lake, the shad spawn in the water weeds that grow along the shore. I have been fishing there and caught bass on buzzbaits, and other baits when you would think a bass would not even look at your bait for the amount of bait fish available for the taking.
The second example deals more with the actual look of the bait. I have often found that when bass blow up on buzzbaits, but won't take them, a switch to a white Zoom trick worm will catch the bass. I don't suspect that the bass are taking the worm because it looks more like the bait fish they are feeding on, it's more likely the spook factor. The buzzbait did trigger response strikes, but the worm triggered feeding strikes.