Few things are more exciting than fishing new water. You begin to paddle out while nature is still waking, and you are filled with anticipation, possibility, and you know your fishing knowledge and skill are going to be put to the test. I have had many mornings that started like this and ended with me not catching anything and others ending with great success. In order to maximize your chances of success it is important to have a good strategy when fishing new water. In my experience, the best strategy is to have baits ready that can match a wide spectrum of your target species’ potential behavior. Regardless of where I fish, I have come to trust these three baits for fishing new water.
The lipless crank bait is a classic. Many of us started fishing by throwing some sort of variation of this, and quickly found success. This bait is one classic I always have tied on when fishing new water. Regardless of the water conditions this bait can serve as a great locator and indicator of what the fish are doing. You are able to locate grass, depth, structure, and see if the fish are feeding aggressively. I try to stay pretty neutral and natural with my color selection. I have a wide variety of shad variations currently sitting in my tackle box. When fishing new water or when conditions are changing, this is the bait I always throw first.
I LOVE throwing a speed worm. I have had success on this bait in so many different states and in so many different conditions. Rivers, deep water, shallow water, and even inshore, fish will eat a speed worm. What makes a speed worm special is its versatility. I can fish it slow on the bottom, or swim it through grass and sticks. It allows me to use it as a location bait and as a bottom bouncing bait to survey the bottom the of water I am fishing. Speed worms can be great big fish baits as well. My first 10-pound bass ever was on a speed worm. You will catch your fair share of small fish too. I fish my speed worms on a classic Texas Rig in either junebug red or watermelon red.
When fishing new water, you have to be ready for big fish. I always have a rod (and net) ready with big baits that specifically target the top of the food chain. I typically go to this if I am getting bites early and often or once I have located the fish and I am dialed in on their pattern. I would let your big fish bait be something you have confidence in. This will also vary based on where you live. Living in Florida typically my big fish bait is a 4-inch creature bait I am punching through heavy grass. So throw what works for you and the water you fish. It is however hard to argue with the trend and success of chatterbaits and swimbaits. I have caught quality fish on both and I always have them ready to go when fishing new water. I highly recommend throwing these baits, especially after you have caught a handful of fish. I will mirror exactly what I was doing with the rattle trap but with a chatterbait. So after you have had success, go back through with your big bait lure and patiently fish spots, patterns, and areas you know fish are in.
The true theme of this article is that when it comes to fishing new water, throw what makes you confident and be ready to adapt. These three baits and tactics have provided a lot of success for me and I hope they do the same for you. Best of luck of your next fishing trip!