Plan Your Attack!

When targeting bass and many other types of gamefish, boat position and angle of attack in relation to a promising piece of cover or structure are absolutely critical.

Rather than running around blindly lobbing casts, I thoroughly scout potential fishing areas with an eye toward setting up future casting passes.

In clear, shallow water, a good pair of polarized sunglasses can help you identify areas that attract fish or funnel their movements. Examples include depth changes, weedlines, bottom transitions and woody cover. Keep in mind that even subtle irregularities in cover and structure can concentrate fish activity.

High-quality electronics are also a big help. I lean heavily on the side-imaging feature on my Humminbird 1199ci HD SI sonar-chartplotter combo for scouring areas 60 to 100 feet off the side of the boat. I can even use my cursor to drop waypoints on top of key areas, as well as where I want to position myself for properly fishing the spot.

When choosing boat position, consider the angles at which you want to present your bait to the fish. Don't forget how wind, waves, the position of the sun and other factors affect how fish position themselves in relation to cover and structure. And always keep your boat as far from the fishing area as possible, especially in shallow water.

When mapping, use icons that will mean something when you return to that spot months or even years later. Take the time to choose symbols and names that will help you remember what the waypoint is for. For example, I use a Red Cross medical symbol to mark hotspots where I can "get healthy" in a hurry if I'm struggling in a bass tournament. I also use small symbols for boat position, and larger icons for structure. By developing your own intuitive system, you can chart a course of attack for return trips that produce fish for many seasons to come.

Proper scouting and boat positioning was key to Bonnema catching this 8.29-pound smallmouth bass in the 2014 Sturgeon Bay Open on Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Big-fish of the 150-boat event, it helped fuel a top-5 finish.

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