Hi Mike, My question is to do with watercraft and tactics really, if you were tackling a lake for the first time that was unknown to yourself, how would you go about fishing it? Do you have some sort of routine that you adopt with regard to bait and tactics when faced with the unknown?
Nice to hear from you. Facing the unknown is my favourite subject! I love a challenge, and none more so than the excitement of tackling a new venue for the first time where you need to start from the very beginning and work it all out. Everything is fresh and new, and every little bit of knowledge is noted in great detail, and when you finally succeed, the capture just seems so much more rewarding.
My general routine is to try and find out as much as you can about the history of the water and its inhabitants. The questions would be numerous! Stock density and sizes of fish? Are there any topography maps available? (Although you may need to plumb around for sure, these maps are very useful indeed) Where are the hotspots? Are there any sanctuary areas? Angling pressure? Does it fish well all year? What months seem to produce more than others? Do the fish generally turn up on the wind, or is it a ‘back of the wind’ venue? Do certain fish get caught from certain swims/areas? (Just in case you want to target any specific residents) Does the lake receive much pressure? Baiting approach, ie, boilies or particles etc?
The list is endless really, but I would start by building up as much information as possible about the place, and because every venue is different, my approach would be one that can only be answered after I’ve digested all of the information in front of me. It is like a big jigsaw puzzle really, and the more pieces you put together, the clearer the overall picture becomes.
Having said that, I would always leave an open mind and try not to fall into the trap of the old ‘folk lore’ scenario! You know, the one where all the regulars say there’s no chance of catching a carp on a pop-up here mate and they’re all using bottom baits, but as soon as you pump out a pop-up, it rattles off!! We can all become a little stereo typed at times, particularly when you fish the same water year after year, so just try to keep an open mind, but at the same time, try and digest as much information as possible.
One thing I always do without fail on any new venue that I decide to target for any length of time, is to keep a diary and jot everything down. This is particularly useful for ‘swim sketching’ and pin-pointing hotspots. I have got hundreds of swim sketches from different venues over the years with all sorts of information jotted down. In fact, my son Lee is fishing an old venue of mine as I write this. I spoke to him earlier and he told me that all he had to do was get out the little red book and there was a mine of information in front of him about his chosen swim! Bars, gulleys, hot spots and a dozen crosses where I’ve caught fish or seen them show - alright for some!! Might be worth a few bob on ebay!
Of course the key factor on any venue will be location, and most of my initial work would be centred upon finding the fish and trying to work out their patrol routes or some sort of pattern to give me an edge. Remember location is king!
From a bait choice viewpoint, I never have to think about it too much. I will always use the best quality nutritional food source I can lay my hands on (B5) because I have 100% confidence it works everywhere. If it’s not the bait for you, that’s cool, but do yourself a favour and just make sure you really are using a QUALITY food bait because I can’t emphasise how important this is, and the edge you will have over standard or mediocre baits.
From a bait application scenario, once again, quality is better than quantity. I’m not what I would class as a ‘big baiter’, I use a reasonable amount yes, but I much prefer to trickle it into known hotspots or safe spots as opposed to turning up to the lake and blasting out several kilo’s of semolina out into the middle of nowhere because it was a few quid per kilo cheaper! Nonsensical springs to mind!
Lastly, I would watch other anglers closely. (No I’m not that sort of guy!) The fish would have been subject to certain methods/approaches by the regular anglers over a number of years (remember the ‘folk lore’ analogy earlier?). Try to be a little different. Simple things can make a world of difference. If no one is back leading - do it! If everyone seems to be fishing over big beds of bait - use singles or stringers! If the margins are being ignored - don’t ignore them! You know the score. Best of luck.