Finding the Pattern

When you’re freshwater fishing, finding the pattern refers to an elusive combination of two factors: the location of the fish; and the presentation needed to make the fish bite. This pattern often changes from day to day, and even sometimes several times during the day.

The first step is obviously locating the right type of fishing spot. Take into account the season, the conditions and the time of day. You should also consider the typical behavior of your target species. For our purposes we’ll focus on bass. On an overcast day, for example, bass will tend to stay up in the shallows. On a sunny day, they may feed in the shallows early in the day, but then move deeper into the shaded areas as the sun moves higher.

When scouting for bass, most anglers will use a fast-moving lure like a crankbait or spinnerbait. A hungry bass will strike at most anything, so you should utilize fan casting to cover as much water as possible. Keep trying deeper and shallower spots to dial in where they are hanging. If you catch one, note the depth and type of cover, and move on if you fail to catch another fish in that spot. What you want to find is an active school of fish. 

Once you find a school, be careful not to spook them. Keep the boat at a distance and your noise to a minimum. Keep working the lure they want until they quit biting. After you have skimmed off the active fish or the bite slows down, change up your presentation to a different action, color or size. Once you find one that triggers a bite instantly, use that lure and experiment with slightly different spots and retrieves. 

Before leaving a good spot make sure you mark your waypoint on your electronics, (or contour map if you’re old school). Also make note of any landmarks to assist in finding your spot again, or to look for similar spots. Concentrate on features within a similar depth range, but occasionally try deeper or shallower water depending on your success rate.

If the weather remains stable, that pattern may be repeated about the same time the next day. Bear in mind that several patterns may exist at the same time, or at times there is no definite pattern. You may catch a fish here and there, so keep moving if you fail to find an active school, and keep track of where  you caught those fish.

You’ll want to look for similar structure once you’ve moved on, and have several rods rigged up to experiment with different lures without needing to tie on new ones. If you move onto deeper water, be aware that deepwater bass will often ignore fast moving baits. Try a slower presentation and try to find shaded spots if you’re under bluebird skies.

Always try to land your fish quickly to avoid spooking a school of fish, and use your landing net sparingly once you find a hot spot. Untangling lures from the net eats up time, and the added commotion may alert other fish to be wary of your presence. 

Finding the right pattern can offer fast action and some of the best days on the water as an angler. Pay attention to the details and try not to be too disruptive, and you may find similar patterns over time that enable you to replicate such days on other water. Now go make some memories!   -WR