Bass Fishing Techniques for Pinpointing Where They Live
Drifting is by far the best and most efficient of all the Florida bass fishing techniques used by the guides for locating and catching fish. This technique is used to cover a large area. It’s especially great for shallow lakes with a large subsurface hydrilla growth. You’ve heard the theory “100% of the fish are located in 10% of the lake”. This method is the fastest way to find your share of that 10%. Florida lakes, for the most part, are large shallow bodies of water often with a mean depth of 6 to 8 feet. Unlike reservoirs with old creek channels, tree stands, well defined points, current etc. for the fish to relate to, Florida bass are much harder to pattern since they can be scattered anywhere in these vast shallow lakes.
Before we start our drift we need to get ready by getting a marker buoy out and placed where we can get to it quickly. Turn your GPS on, if you have one, and set it to present position (this is the page for marking a new waypoint). Turn your depth finder on and set it to an appropriate depth range for the lake you’re on.
Now you’re ready to start you’re first drift. This is the most critical part of these fishing techniques, please read carefully. You’ve located an area with a good growth of hydrilla that comes to within 3 feet or deeper of the surface. This could be any number of Florida lakes. Run your boat in to the wind to the top of the area you want to drift over. Turn your boat sideways to the wind. Raise your motor high enough to keep the lower unit from dragging in the grass and turn it so the prop is pointing toward the wind. This causes the boat to slide at an angle and keeps it from turning in circles. Make sure the boat is drifting sideways as described before dropping lines in the water.
As in the previous fishing technique, pulling, speed is important. In high wind conditions you’ll want to use a drift sock to slow your drift speed. If the wind dies down too low to move the boat, just put the trolling motor down and “pull” as described in the first bass fishing technique method.
Okay let’s start a drift. Start at the upwind side of an area that you know has a good population of hydrilla that comes within 3 to 4 feet of the surface. Set the boat up as described above with the outboards lower unit in the water and the prop turned towards the wind. Winds are just at a stiff breeze so we won’t need the drift sock yet. Your marker buoy is in a handy, easy to get to, place on the deck. Your GPS is on and should automatically display the present position once it locks onto the required number of satellites. And your depth finder is on and set to the appropriate depth range. All of these steps describe in fishing techniques will become second nature after your first couple of drifts.
Once the boat starts moving, either set your lines in the water and feed line out or cast into the wind. Stagger your lines so they vary from 20 to 40 foot distances from the boat. Also space your rods along the length of the boat. These steps are necessary to keep lines from tangling.
As a guide I’ve spent countless time untangling twisted lines because someone wasn’t paying close enough attention to these simple rules. I cheated a little by always having extra rods rigged and ready to go just for this reason. As a fisherman just out for a day of fun or on a vacation trip with limited time, you don’t want to waste time untangling a mess when you should be fishing.
Now you’re in your first drift. You’ve traveled a few hundred yards or even the better part of a mile and nothing. Pick up your lines and head back up to your starting point, move left or right a few yards (50 yds. or so) and start again. On the next drift you get one bite and catch a fish…keep going. All of a sudden you see a big boil behind one of your floats. Before the fish can eat the shiner, another line takes off. Throw your marker buoy out and mark the spot with your GPS.
Remember, I said earlier, to set your GPS to present position. Now when you hit mark (depends on your unit, mine is AUTOSTORE) it will record the spot (waypoint) where you tossed your marker buoy out. This serves two purposes 1) Marks the spot where you found the fish (in the next section of fishing techniques, we'll talk about how to fish this hot spot) 2) Perhaps the most important reason is to find that little marker buoy you just tossed in the middle of the lake.
I could write a whole new bass fishing techniques just on finding marker buoys. When your fishing in the wind and the sun is reflecting on the water, it is nearly impossible to find these small buoys, especially yellow. Some days you may be fishing in the fog. Ever try to find a street sign or a house address while driving in the fog? Try finding a 6”x6” yellow marker buoy.
Note: Alligators love fluorescent orange marker buoys. Not trying to scare you because they won’t be around when you go to pick one up out of the water but I have watched them attack them and found the buoy later with teeth marks in them.
Part of my collection of marker buoys is those that I have found abandoned by someone who gave up the search because he didn’t have it marked on his GPS.
Enough about marker buoys lets get back to fishing techniques. We located a group of fish in a small area and marked it and now we want to concentrate on that spot. I recommend one more drift maybe left or right just to see how big of an area we’re looking at.
Note: when you run back up for another drift, swing wide of your marked spot and any boats fishing in the area. You don’t want to disturb your spot or other fishermen on the lake…common courtesy.
- Do not use hooks with weed guards when fishing open water hydrilla. Use an open hook for better hook-ups. Open hooks will not hang up in hydrilla.
- Use styrofoam floats for drifting open water. Balloons have too much drag and you’ll constantly be replacing broken ones.
- Never leave a rod unattended with the spool or bail locked. A fish will pull it in.
You made another drift and found more fish in the area or decided the 1st spot you pinpointed is the best place to concentrate on.
I have used these techniques, pulling and drifting, to find most of my fish. Once you find them and you stored the waypoint on your GPS, you can go straight to the spot day after day. These open water fish will stay in a spot for weeks or even months.
Let’s move on to the next bass fishing technique, setting up.
Return to Bass Fishing Techniques