Bass Fishing Tips: How To Find Fish on New Lakes

Visiting a lake you've never fished before? Professional angler Scott Canterbury reveals his best tips to locate bass before and after hitting the water.

Bass Fishing Tips: How To Find Fish on New Lakes

Alabama pro angler Scott Canterbury does his homework before hitting a lake he's never seen, including studying maps and doing internet research. The work helps him eliminate what he believes will be unproductive areas and focus on a starting point when he hits the water. (Photo: Alan McGuckin)

If GPS technology had not become part of cell phones and dashboards, current Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year points leader Scott Canterbury should have sought a sponsorship from mapmaker Rand McNally to help him find his way.

The Tundra-driving Yamaha pro had never been to five of the 10 Bassmaster Elite Series venues on this year’s schedule. So how did Canterbury find fish at a supreme level on waters he’d never seen before?

On the eve of the last regular season Elite Series event of the year at Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma, one of the reservoirs he’d never seen before, the Alabama pro graciously shared three tips for successfully finding bass on new waters.

Do Your Homework

Like most modern day anglers, Canterbury makes a study of Google Earth as well as online tournament results and reports, but he offers a wisdom rich warning.

“Tournament results can tell you what to expect to catch within reason, and reading about winning areas of the lake or river helps too," he said. "But don’t get caught up in knowing the exact place where a past winner caught his fish, because almost never do two tournaments get won from the exact same spot."

Love Friends, Hate Dock Talk

If you want to elevate Canterbury’s blood pressure a notch or three, ask him about “dock talk.”

“I’m telling you, 100 percent do not listen to “dock talk” – learn to ignore it completely!” he says. “I’m fortunate to have a guy like (fellow pro) Matt Arey who I can totally trust to share areas of the lake we think are productive. But a guy like Matt is hard to find, so if you don’t have a buddy you can totally trust, rely on yourself, don’t talk to anybody." 

Work Hard, Find Best Area    

Look at a lake on a website or map and the numbers of places you think might be productive can be mind-boggling. That's when common sense, such as thinking about the season, water temperature and past experiences, come into play.

From there, winnow your options to what you think will be the best starting point and then get busy. After that, the task becomes finding the best area before picking it apart.

“I try to fish one area of the lake per day in practice. I don’t run all over the place every day,” Canterbury said.

“If I don’t love the area I fished at the end of the first day of practice, then I look forward to dissecting a new area of the lake during the second day of practice. Heck, at Winyah Bay this year, I never found the best spot until the final three hours on the third day of practice."

Canterbury is also known for fishing thoroughly in shallow water, working hard to catch bass from shorelines in skinny water that most would consider unattractive. 

“The good looking stuff is so obvious, but I try to slow way down and figure out ways to catch shallow fish from areas that don’t look good at all to most people," he said.

As for Lake Tenkiller

Canterbury has never been to the eastern Oklahoma impoundment that Jimmy Houston and Jason Christie cut their legendary angling teeth on, and he says things won’t be easy this week.

“The biggest challenge this week is catching five bass everyday bigger than the 16-inch minimum length limit, and leaving here still leading the Toyota Angler of the Year race,” he said. 

Don’t bet against him. Canterbury has a history of being right at home on waters he’s never seen before.

Alan McGuckin is Director of PR for Dynamic Sponsorships, a Tulsa-based company with clients including Toyota, Carhartt, Quantum Fishing and others.


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