“Oh that’s a good cast” I thought to myself as I worked the lure down to depth. “Right in the snag…There’ll be a fish there for sure”.
Sometimes fishing can seem so simple.
It’s great when you’re fishing your home estuary. You know it backwards. You’re confident in your ability to find fish in a variety of locations and know the techniques that will best suit the species you’re after. You know which locations will fire and at what time of day to be there. But what happens when you are out of your comfort zone and have to fish in a new location. Can you still make it happen? Will your favorite lures and techniques still work? Where are the likely hot spots that are holding fish? It can be daunting fishing a new location but there are some general tactics that can be used by all fishos to increase their chances of finding fish.
Research, research, research
Success on the water starts long before you even hook the boat up to drive to the ramp. In our modern, technological world where most people have access to the internet, Google Maps can be an invaluable tool that can be used to explore a waterway even before you have laid eyes on it. It allows you to view satellite images of an area and can help you to identify places and structures that you think may be holding fish. Once identified, these likely locations can make up the beginnings of a list of areas to fish once you hit the water. In some instances, you can see street view images. This can be quite useful for checking out boat ramps and fishable man-made structure. .
If you’re a bit more “old school”, paper maps can be a fantastic aid to exploring a new fishing location. Topographic maps are great but I find the Australian Fishing Network map series brilliant. Not only do they provide a reasonably accurate map that shows where certain species of fish are often found, but they are also packed with written descriptions for many of the locations within a fishing area. They also have descriptions of areas that should be avoided for safety or environmental reasons.
Most fishing locations will have tackle shops with staff who fish their local area regularly. A quick phone call to a tackle shop in an area you are going to fish can reveal a wealth of information. You can find out things such as what the most productive times to fish are; if there is a lure, bait or technique that’s running hot; what species are most common; and where some good starting locations could be. I always make sure that I get the name of the staff member I talked to and I go into the tackle store when I arrive to meet them, purchase some new lures or other tackle and on the way home, I stop in to give them a report on how the fishing was and thank them for the information. A little bit can go a long way and can help you build up a great fishing information network.
Another source of information is the monthly fishing report publications that are produced for most states in Australia. The articles in these publications are written by local fishos who know their area really well so the information is current and accurate. When I’m getting ready for an ABT tournament, I will always go back through these publications and find at least three reports from past years for the month that I will be fishing the tournament in. This can help build up a picture of what techniques and lures to use and which areas fish have been found in.
On the water
Once all the research is done, it’s time to hit the water. Armed with the information that I have collected, I will actively identify areas that will allow me to fish to my strengths in a new estuary system. That is, I will fish locations and structures that are similar to those that I usually catch fish in when I am in my home waters. I will always start a session fishing lures that are my “confidence” lures and will use techniques that have a proven track record. Confidence lures are those that an angler feels most comfortable with. They are the lures that the angler believes, rightly or wrongly, always produce fish them. For me, my confidence lures are shallow diving hard bodies such as the Pro Lure S36 Crank, 60 mm Grubtails and stick minnows. These lures allow me to fish in a variety of areas within an estuary; Shallow hards on the flats; the stick minnows and grubs in most other locations. Once I have found fish, I will often mix up the lures that I am using to try and establish a consistent pattern to catch more fish.
When I plan to use a new technique or lure, I will always do this after I have located actively feeding fish using one of my confidence lures or techniques. Knowing there are active fish in an area can really fast track learning a new technique and catching a few fish on a new lure can give you confidence to try that lure again in another location or in a tournament situation.
While it’s important to have “confidence” lures, it is equally as important to have a variety of lures that you can pick from on any given day. Sometimes fish may only want a particular colour in a lure. All is good until they stop hitting that lure. Often this can happen on the second day of an ABT tournament when there is a lot of angler pressure. When and if it does, I will use lures of similar colour but different shape, action or running depth. This can turn the fish back on and prolong a productive session. Sometimes a completely different style of lure can also have the same effect so it’s worth keeping a variety of lures at your disposal.
Finding a few fish early in a session in a new location is a great confidence booster. This allows you to work through some other parts of the environment using the patterns that you have already established when fishing your early locations.
Fishing in a new location can be an extremely exciting experience. Success often depends on some time spent researching the location and the techniques that work in the area. Your research allows you to determine places that suit your style of fishing and the areas that you can use your preferred lures and techniques to successfully catch fish. It’s a big world out there with some great fishing opportunities to be had so the next time you’re stuck at home due to foul weather use your time to check out your next great destination.
My first priority when fishing a new system is to determine a pattern that will enable me to catch fish. The pattern includes:
Are the fish on the edges or down deep? I will generally start fishing my lures toward the edges first up in a new area and gradually work further out from the bank until all the water has been covered.
What type of lures will work? When fishing a new location, I have four rods rigged and ready to go. Each will have one of my “confidence” lures. This allows me to change lure and technique so that I can establish what types of lures are working quickly.
I always have a plan for which lures I will use and in which areas. This is usually done the night before hitting the water. I put the lures I definitely want to use in their own section of my tackle box so I don’t forget the plan.
What type of lure retrieve will work? I usually run through a variety of retrieves early in a fishing session to determine what retrieves are working best for each of the lures I am using.
What structures are holding fish? Once I have found fish in a particular type of structure, I will actively seek out similar structures in a waterway. Not finding fish can also help discount certain structures so you don’t waste time on the water.
Pro Tips: Jason Meech– Australian Hobie Kayak Team Member, Pro Lure Pro Staff, Samaki Pro Staff
When you are going to fish a new waterway, what things do you do before you actually get on the water?
Pro Tips: Scott Baker– Australian Hobie Kayak Team Member and 2012 World Champion.
When fishing a new system what determines the technique you begin your day with?
Confidence is such an important part of fishing for bream and many people spend countless hours looking for the magic bullet. There are very few things you can control when fishing for bream but it’s really important you do have control of basic things. This means starting from the bottom up. If the basics work you can then adjust to suit the situation. So I always use super light leader and also super light line straight through; as light as 2 lb straight through and a 3lb leader with braid. I will use a 65mm blood worm grub on the lightest jig head for the conditions and then a deep diving crank bait in natural colours. Why? Because that’s what I’m confident with. Those lures have worked for me more times than not. If they don’t work then I start to swap colours and jig head weights. I always keep in mind that the technique is sometimes more important than a magic lure and so I always start with super slow, long pauses and I will also try ultimate finesse. That is, cast out and do absolutely nothing. Just leave it. If this doesn’t get results I start to experiment with different retrieves until I start to catch fish. For me, it comes down to confidence so I use techniques that have worked for me before and try to keep it simple.
Pro tips: Wayne Friebe
When you are fishing a new waterway, what influences your choice of technique?
I believe that similarities exist in all waterways we fish for bream and I like to choose my techniques to suit my strengths and the ways I enjoy catching bream.
Because of this, I will always look for areas that suit my preferred styles of sight fishing, surface hard bodies and plastics. These styles are best suited to flats and vertical structure so that’s what I look for.
This makes reading a new waterway easier as you can break it down into more familiar areas and structures, even though it may be your first time on the water in that location.
Success is often very satisfying when things fall into place as well.
Written by Jon Clisby