Three baits for scouting new fishing spots

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of trying out a new fishing spot. And there’s nothing quite like the disappointment that comes when it doesn’t pan out.

While patience will forever be a virtue of fishing, there’s something to be said for cutting to chase.

There’s a special section in my tackle box for “scouting baits,” a small collection of go-tos that help me quickly assess what is (or isn’t) going on in a new location.

While these choices are a little bass-centric, these starting points can easily be tailored to your desired target species.

  1. Black/Silver Rapala F7

I have affectionately referred to this lure as the “OG of stick baits.” It’s a classic lure from one of the most recognized manufacturers in the world. And there are plenty of good reasons this bait has become a standby for so many anglers. Simply put, it works.

This lure fell out of my rotation until the middle of this summer. I brought my dad along on a trip to a local bass lake I had been fishing hard recently with little success. He busted out the ol’ F7 and it cleaned house. He out-fished me by a sizable margin that night.

For the rest of the season, I never left home without at least one F7 in my bag. In fact, that night, I went on the Rapala website and ordered three. This classic brought in plenty of fish for me this season and will continue to do so for many years to come.

A few weeks after that trip with my dad, I went back to the same lake and caught the biggest largemouth of my life with that very lure.

It’s subtle wiggling action and minnow-like appearance are tough for fish to resist. It also offers you a host of retrieval options, from the straight retrieve, the reel and pause, slow twitches and jerks, pull and reel, you name it. This bait is a fabulous way to cover water quickly.

I’ve caught pike, rock bass, and even bluegill on this lure. It will quickly become one of your favorites. If the fish aren’t hitting this, it may be time to pick a new spot or a different day.

2. 5″ Green Pumpkin Yamasenko

The day I was introduced to the senko, my fishing life was forever changed. This is a killer bait. And while it requires a little more patience and finesse than the Rapala, it is likely to produce similar results.

This plastic is bass fishing 101, in my opinion. Whacky rig it, Texas rig it, drop-shot it, no matter your depth or cover, there is a way to effectively fish this bait.

Many of the multiple colors available will work (hot pink has been the ticket for me in heavily-stained water), but I have found that the relatively neutral color of the Green Pumpkin pattern is conducive to more consistent success in a variety of situations.

My preferred presentation is whacky rigged on whacky-style hook. Cast the bait out and let it sink to the bottom. Slowly pull up off the bottom and let it flutter back down. Then slowly reel up the slack. Most fish will strike as the bait falls.

In addition to bass, I’ve caught perch, walleye, rock bass, and more on this setup. It’s a quick way to find fish.

3. Live bait

I can already see the eye rolls, but hang in there.

Yes, this one is obvious. But so many anglers forget the basics when scouting new spots. They’re so excited to try their 18-inch plastic worm from Japan or their new $30 quadruple-jointed stick bait that they forget the basics.

Want to know if a spot is holding fish? Toss out some live bait. Float it under a bobber. Deadstick it with a single hook and some splitshots. Whatever you want.

In most rivers or inland lakes, if the fish aren’t willing to bite a nightcrawler or minnow, they aren’t willing to bite. Period.

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