How to Fish a Lake for Bass: 7 Lake Fishing Tips

Updated on January 20, 2023 by
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The best way to fish for bass in lakes is select a bait that mimics the natural food source of the fish and target the correct depth depending on the time of year.

Fishing in lakes can sometimes be a puzzle that each angler must figure out themselves in one way or another. There are thousands of lakes across the world and each one is different and unique. However, there are some proven ways that you can maximize your success when it comes to fishing on large lakes and reservoirs. 

Depending on the type of fish you’re going after, it can take some effort and research to ‘crack the code’ and figure out where fish are located in the lake and how to catch them. Many anglers relish this process of trying different techniques and searching particular areas of the lake to successfully catch the fish they’re after. 

If you’re looking to learn more about fishing on likes and how you can use certain lake fishing tips to increase your overall success rate in them, keep reading. We’ve compiled this article to cover some of the most important tips, techniques and tactics when it comes to bass fishing on a lake. 

1. Understanding a Lake 

When you’ve decided that you’re going to fish in a particular lake, there are a few factors you should consider before planning your approach. It’s crucial that you have as much information about the particular lake you’re fishing in so you can make the best decisions and maximize your efforts. 

Here are a few questions you should ask before you start fishing:

  • What kind of fish are you trying to catch?
  • How deep is the lake in certain sections?
  • What kind of structure or cover exists in the lake?
  • What time of year will you be fishing?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should be able to start planning your approach and identifying certain areas of the lake that you want to fish. There are a few ways you can adjust your strategy while you’re fishing if you aren’t experiencing much success, but we also have a few tips that you can use to guide you along the way. 

Donny Karr with Two Bass
Donny Karr with Two Bass

2. Understanding Fish Behavior in Lakes 

One of the most important bits of information you need to know is what to expect the fish to do in the lake based on the time of year, weather patterns, and other factors. If you’re targeting one specific type of fish like largemouth bass, crappie, walleye or others, you can better plan your approach and tailor your efforts to catch those fish depending on their behavior and where you can expect them to be. 

In most lakes, fish will usually be in the shallow areas in the mild months out of the year such as the spring and fall. This is mainly due to the fact that the water temperature isn’t overly hot or cold, which is more comfortable for the fish, making them want to be more active. In these months, you can usually expect fish to feed rather aggressively in and around the more shallow areas of the lake. 

During the summer and winter, however, you should expect fish to react very differently to the elements. As the temperatures reach a very warm or very cold temperature, most fish will retreat down into deeper water where the temperature is more stable and less likely to be affected by changing temperatures and weather patterns. 

It’s also very important that you take into account what the fish behavior is likely to be at certain times of the year. Depending on the type of fish you’re going after, you might be able to target them around their annual spawning routine, which can turn out to be immensely productive if you time it just right. 

3. Using the Right Bait or Lure 

One of the most important things to remember when it comes to bait or lure selection in lakes is to ‘match the hatch.’ This is a saying anglers have used for many decades that encourages anyone fishing to try to use certain baits and lures that very closely resemble what the fish are actually trying to eat. 

In most lakes, you can rely on a range of artificial baits to catch a wide variety of fish species. Items like worms, grubs, crawfish, and other natural bait are usually great choices throughout most of the year in lakes that are situated in temperate climates. You can also rely on small bait fish like minnows and other types of fish to work as fish most often feed on shad or minnows throughout much of the year. 

If your plan is to use artificial lures, the same concept applies. You should select a lure that will be in the right level of the water column where the fish are located. It’s also crucial that your lure looks like and moves like the type of creature fish are going to want to eat. 

4. Keep an Eye on the Air Pressure 

Barometric pressure affects fish at a much greater extent than most beginner and novice anglers might realize. When the air pressure drops, fish can feel this decrease in pressure in the water. If you think of this much like having weights pressing down on you, air pressure works very similarly in relation to fish. When the air pressure first starts to drop, fish will feel very much like a weight has been lifted off their bodies and they will often be much more active in feeding and movement. 

Likewise, when the air pressure is increasing, fish will usually be much less active and stay hidden in deeper water. An oncoming storm is usually a time when you can expect the air pressure to begin dropping. If you’re on the water when this starts to happen, the chances of you catching fish will increase drastically. Be sure to keep track of the weather patterns in your area as you plan your fishing trip. 

5. Look for Structure and Vegetation 

Even if a certain type of fish is regarded as the apex predator in a particular lake, they will still stay very close to underwater structures like trees, rocks, stumps, and other things that provide them with cover. In some cases, they will use this cover to hide from potential predators while in others they might simply use the cover for shade from the sun. 

Vegetation usually works in the same way and many types of fish will seek refuge in dense moss, grass beds, and other types of vegetation. This is all relative to the time of year when you are fishing, of course. 

6. Be Aware of Wind and Current 

Fish will use their surroundings to their advantage when it comes to chasing down or ambushing prey. The elements that most often affect fish feeding times and behavior are the water current that might exist in the lake, as well as the wind. Where creeks or rivers feed into the lake, you can often expect fish to be staging and waiting on certain types of prey to come their way. 

When the wind picks up on the lake, you can sometimes expect to find fish feeding on the shore where the wind is blowing towards. This is due to the fact that the wind is often able to blow bait fish and the small particles that tiny fish feed on toward those shorelines. Larger fish recognize this and will migrate towards these banks where they will take advantage of this factor. 

7. Look for Schools 

When it comes to fishing for certain species, you’ll often find that they like to travel in schools. Crappie, bass and many other types of freshwater fish will school up at certain times of the year because there is safety in numbers. They might also do this based on their annual spawning ritual. If you’re fishing at a time when the fish are schooling and you happen to catch one, there’s a good chance that there are others nearby. 

Another type of lake fishing is using a trotline which we have explored in this article.

Photo of author

Donny Karr

Donny Karr is a Tournament Angler and writer whose work has been featured in magazines for nearly a decade. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the south-eastern United States, as well as trout fishing in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. He enjoys keeping up with the latest news and gear items in the fishing industry and is always looking forward to his next outdoor adventure. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, Paddling Space, Man Can Outdoors, Alabama Outdoor News, and Bassmaster.