With all the new-fangled electronics available today, I often wonder how fish can continue to evade anglers.
There are depth finders that project 3-D bottom contours, high-definition images, and side imaging that shows you what is on either side of the boat. There are also underwater cameras with infrared technology to show you exactly what kind of fish or what type of structure is under your boat.
Although they no longer have anywhere to hide, our finny friends still make it tough for us to catch them because they still have the option of either accepting or rejecting our offerings.
The latest electronics are great tools to have if you fish professionally and can write off the thousands of dollars it costs to have this equipment rigged on your boat. Since most of us do something else for a living and only get to spend so much time fishing, it’s hard to justify buying such expensive devices for that fishing boat at the lake cabin.
I always say you can make fishing as expensive or as inexpensive as you want, and that includes finding hot spots on your favorite fishery. The cheapest way to find hot spots is with your own two eyes and a little knowledge of what types of structure and cover fish prefer.
Low-tech Depth Finders
If you don’t have one of those GPS/depth finder combos for your boat at the cabin, here are some creative alternatives for checking out depth and bottom contour.
- Stick your rod in the water to determine if you are fishing deep enough.
Put out an anchor and measure how much line it takes to reach the bottom.
Fish with medium- to deep-diving crankbaits and Carolina- or Texas-rigged soft plastics with heavy weights, which will give you an indication of depth and bottom composition and contour.
Determine water clarity by dropping a bright-colored jig in the water and watch it vanish, then try fishing at the depth at which the lure disappears.
Portable depth finders capable of showing bottom depth and contour are available at reasonable prices.
Go for the Green
Just about the best hot spot you can find on any given lake contains aquatic vegetation. Some cabin owners disdain weeds for aesthetic reasons or because they ruin their swimming area, but fish absolutely love the green stuff.
Aquatic plants provide all the comforts of home for fish including shelter, shade and food (frogs, minnows, crayfish, insects, etc.).
Knock on Wood
Another visible hot spot on any body of water is wood, whether it’s a tree blown down along the bank, partially or fully submerged stumps or flooded standing timber. Any wood with slimy green algae on it is the first link of the food chain as it attracts zooplankton which is eaten by minnows and baitfish, which are then devoured by gamefish.
Head for Home
Sometimes the best fishing spots are right at home. Your boat dock is an absolute fish haven providing plenty of forage, shade and security. Gamefish have plenty of places to hide under a dock to avoid anglers’ lures and set up ambush points to pluck any minnows or forage hanging around the piers.
Head to the Bank
If your favorite fishery lacks visible cover, you can still find some hot spots by taking a close look at the bank. A steep shoreline usually indicates the water will be deep close to shore, which makes it a good area to try in the summer and winter when most gamefish prefer the comforts of deep water. A flat or gently sloping bank indicates shallow water that is best to fish in the spring and fall.
Learn the structures frequented by your favorite gamefish and you’ll find out that good fishing spots are right before your very eyes.
Although he does get to test some of those high-dollar electronics, John Neporadny still spends plenty of time in canoes and two-man boats where he has to find hot spots the old-fashioned way.