Pre-Fishing Desert Lakes

Unlike pre-fishing most of the lakes on the West Coast, the desert lakes require a little different approach. Most western lakes have off color water but the Colorado River lakes have crystal clear water. Now, with the Quagga mussels in the river, that water is even clearer. The use of a stealthy approach and a good pre-fish plan is a must.

When I first get to a lake before a tournament, there are so many different factors that go through my head. In this article I will discuss the different factors that affect how I approach my prefish.

The first and most important factor is the time of year. Is it a spring, summer or fall tournament? Time of year will dictate where I’ll start my fishing.

If it’s in the spring the first thing I will do is try to establish a cove pattern. I will run as many coves and pockets to see if the fish are in there. I will usually move pretty fast typically throwing a swimbait or jerkbait to help draw fish off of deeper structure. Since the water is so clear, you will be able to see the fish right on the bank, but I’ll need a search bait to pull the fish out of deeper water. I won’t have hooks on these baits as they’re just for locating the fish. If the fish are committing to these baits then I know I can probably catch them on that later, but if they aren’t I will take note of where they are and try something different during the tournament. My biggest goal in pre-fish is not to catch fish, but to find them.

Summer tournaments are a little tougher. Most of the bass population is deeper, buried in the grass beds and man-made habitats. This makes pre-fishing a much more time consuming process. The good thing is that they will be grouped up a lot more. Once you find one or two you can usually bank on a few more being there. That time of year I will use a drop shot, jig or deeper crankbaits like the Evergreen Combat 480. I will still cover a lot of water and fish fast, because they will usually bite pretty well when you find them. Once I have located a few different areas I will come back on derby day and pick them apart.

The fall is one of the best times of year in the desert lakes. There are so many different patterns. There can be a flip bite, crank bite, topwater or deep jig bite all going on at the same time. Again the thing I’m looking for is concentrations of fish. I will worry about how to catch them during the tournament, but for pre-fish I want to find as many good areas as possible.

The next thing I look at is the weather. I may be there for 4 or 5 days before the tournament but I need to know what it will be like on derby day. It may be a cold and rainy spring day when I get there, but if I know it looks like it will clear up and be hot and still during the tournament I won’t put so much faith in to what they are biting the first few days. Instead I might familiarize myself in areas I think they might move up to spawn.

The summer and fall months usher in monsoon season. Even though monsoons can be a nightmare to fish in, they can also be used as a tool for finding fish. These are the months where the better fish can be deep or inactive during the day light hours but the monsoons will trigger them to bite all day, because of the low light conditions and the start of cooler water temps. Those fish can now be found with reaction baits. If the weather clears up for the tournament, you’ll still know where they’re living.

Weather will also dictate what areas I will go to during pre-fish. If I have an area that is far away, I will check the weather for the best day possible. Im not going to run down lake knowing its supposed to blow. Tournament day is different but there is no reason to beat yourself and your boat up when you can make the run on a nicer day. If I know it’s going to be a nasty weather tournament day, I’ll try to save my favorite area for the nastiest weather day of practice.

Moons are the most over looked factor by most. I believe the guys who constantly do well pay attention to the moon cycles. Desert lakes really seem affected by the moon. I think that because the water is so clear the fish rely a lot on their sight to feed. For example during a full moon they will feed during the night. That will tell me I need to be in my best places first thing in the morning. On the other end of the spectrum during a new moon the best bite can be in the afternoon. I still might be catching small fish in the morning, but I can stay relaxed knowing my bigger bites will come later in the day. Another thing about fishing full moons I have found is that’s when a lot of fish will hit the banks, at all times of year.

The river lakes are a very tough place to fish. Hopefully some of these strategies will help you find more fish. And remember to shake off as many fish as you can, the winner of pre-fish doesn’t earn a dime.