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Posted by Matt MagnoneDecember 08, 2018, 8:18 AM

Arguably one of the toughest lakes in Southern California, Diamond Valley in Hemet, CA is the body of water I'm proud to call my home. Working for Last Chance Bait and Tackle, literally 10 minutes from the launch ramp, has given me the opportunity to spend 7 days a week before, after and my days off trying to decipher the clues needed to unlock it's healthy Bass population. Some weeks I'm fishing 7 days while others I'm lucky for 2. Never the less, water time is learning time. With the lake filled with it's notorious up and down cycles, DVL has the uncanny way of taking every bit of logical reason an angler has and flipping it upside down. There's a saying all the locals have on the lake and that is "What happened yesterday; Wont happen tomorrow". Although there are days that simply have me scratching my head for lack of bites or fish in the boat, over the course of a decade I've come to conclusion, as anglers, our biggest weakness on Diamond Valley is our "Mental Approach" when utilizing the swim bait.

To be successful fishing the swim bait requires a stone cold mindset and approach. An angler needs to be focused, in tune and be ready to attack their body of water with everything they've got in order to generate a bite. Some days you'll strike gold and fortunately hook and land a fish, or several , while other days, weeks or months you're forced to endure many fish-less days that will oftentimes become your undoing. While reading this, some may argue,

"Why put yourself through this "torture" when you could just as easily cast out a Drop Shot and put a load of fish in the boat?"

As a bass angler, you'll have to ask yourself truthfully, are you in it for big fish or are you in it for the numbers? If you've settled for the latter, fishing the swim bait might not be for you; and that's perfectly fine. There's a plethora of techniques available that may tailor to your individual fishing style that still have the same big fish appeal. If you're dead set on targeting the big fish with the swimmer, then you've committed to a life of chasing several fish-less days for the "one" special bite. While not for the faint of heart, fishing these over sized lures can offer an angler the chance to hoist up their own "fish of a lifetime". From the sheer percentage standpoint, there are very few techniques that produce bass over the 10 pound mark with the same regularity of that of a swim bait.

Deciphering Diamond Valley, I stay glued to Weather charts. I want to know barometric pressure, wind direction, wind speed, clear skies or grey. I want to know when the Sun and Moon will rise and set. All of these "variables" help me set up my game plan for my day of fishing. Thinking in terms of Bill Siemantel's notorious "Point System", every clue I've been given, prior to my day of fishing, will help me set up the spots I intend to fish in whatever order I'd like to fish them.

As anglers, we commonly call this a "Milk Run".

Taking things another step, I've created a routine where I cross reference what I've gathered, through weather charts and media sites, then match all the data to popular Google Earth satellite imagery. I can then create a simulated day of fishing without even leaving the house. While still elementary, I will have a better understanding based on the Sun angle and it's shadow lines, wind direction and areas where key variables all line up to produce a positive response from the fish. Points, ridges, creek channels, humps and flats are all key big fish locations. When key variables such as shadow lines, wind and cover all line up with these key structural features, anglers are provided a higher percentage of getting a reaction from a fish of a lifetime. After countless hours of lining up all my spots in accordance to the weather and Sun angle, some days just don't go as planned and this is usually where the wheels fall off for many anglers. This is where an angler needs to be confident in their approach and limit bait selection to just their confidence baits as there's no sense in throwing 20 different swim baits when you could throw just 3 all day with confidence.

After launching, the light switch flips to the on position and I become solely a listener and an observer. Not in the way of literally listening to dock talk or watching other anglers fish, but more or less, listening to Mother Nature and observing the clues that she's given to me.

What's the primary forage this time of year?
Is there any wind?
Which way is the wind blowing?
Are we under a low pressure and have clouds in the sky?
Is it a high pressure with Clear blue skies?
Do we have and shade lines?
What part of the water column are the fish hanging in?

I've always believed that "one clue missed, could potentially be, one missed opportunity at a big fish". Working off what I've already learned through studying the weather and having a disciplined knowledge of Diamond Valley's current water state, I process my information as fast as possible. While over the years it's become simplified to split second decision making, many anglers should think of it as a percentage game. Two primary ingredients on Diamond Valley that act as the "trigger" for the swim bait are both wind and shadow lines. Again with the percentages, with Bass being a top tier predator in most lakes, they feed off of ambush. The percentages of a bass sneaking up and corralling it's prey under the shadow of darkness are far greater than the percentage if they were to ambush in a bright, calm open water environment. Like wise for a Lion in the Savannah. Female Lions don't work together in the open and think to themselves, "Oh hey, there's a Zebra; let's kill it!".They simply wouldn't have a chance. Instead the lion lay in ambush and wait for opportunity to mesh with luck much like the Bass do.

As stated above, 9 times out of 10 you're going to find big fish on one of 5 key structural elements; Points, ridges, creek channels, humps and flats. Based on current water level, time of year and current fishing conditions any one particular type of structure may at one time be better than the others. As a whole, my key starting spots are generally points as they're a dime a dozen and can be searched and scanned in the quickest amount of time possible. Points whether they be main lake or secondary, offer forms of security, ambush and possess the percentage of a prime feeding opportunity for the bass. Big bass like deep water. Deep water offers security. When deep water is found adjacent to one of the 5 primary pieces of bottom contour that offers an ambush point to feed; You my friends have found a potential big fish location.

As I'm headed down the lake to a random point I'll scan what I have to work with as each day is different.

Does the point have a shade line?
Is there wind blowing on it?
Are there birds perched on the rocks looking into the water?
Has there been a trout stock recently to warrant this spot being better than another?

Every detail makes a difference in the grand scheme of things.

Much like my scenario regarding "Point" fishing, the same general idea applies to creek channels, humps, flats etc. Say we're dealing with late Fall conditions and you're clued into thinking that a large portion of over sized bass are holding deeper on humps gorging on bluegill. I'll run my same process of elimination on all the humps to decide which is the best and In which order. Only then will I actually shut the motor off and fish them. Instead of surface layer variables I'm now going to search for subsurface variables such as current, thermocline and soft cover shadow lines. When you finally figure out what's going on and you've narrowed bait selection down to something like a L.A. Slider, Little Creepers Trash Fish or a Huddleston 68, this is when I utilize the "stealth approach" and pull up without driving circles over the spot to check for life. I'll utilize Mother Nature (Wind) to drift up to the spot as an ambush predator and then plan my attack much like the analogy of the Lion and the Bass. Crazy how close the similarities?

From all this tech talk referring to utilizing weather forecasts, scoping out Google Earth, listening to Mother Nature, talking about shadow lines and above all fish location, You're probably asking yourself,

"Well, where's the knowledge at on actually throwing the swim bait? I just don't catch fish on them and I want to!"

Don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but "It's all Mental". Yes, I may take the logic further than most, but having every tool at your disposal will help you break the code in a quicker amount of time translating into more and bigger bass in the boat.

Any angler, young or old, big or small has the power and the potential to throw the swim bait. If there's a will; There's a way. When it all comes down to it, over time, with practice, patience and understanding, you'll develop a way of breaking down all the variables and be able to recognize a good area from the bad utilizing gut instinct. A huge percentage of anglers on Diamond Valley, or anywhere for that matter, don't really put the under water image into their heads before they actually cast across a spot. Case in point; Stock day on So. Cal lakes. How often do you see anglers sitting on the same point, casting the same angle and fishing it ALL DAY LONG the same way? While not illogical, taking it one step further. for every cast across the spot think about what the fish are thinking? There's something to be said about fish cycling through areas on peak feeding times, but to show a repetitive cast, as often as it is AND with the same bait at that, does nothing than condition the fish potentially pushing them into a negative feeding mode. No different than seeing nice Chopped 1949 Mercury, wide white walls airbagged and rumbling exhaust creeping down the street. First time you see it you're thinking. "That thing's WICKED!". Once you see the same car driving down the street over and over, day after day, yeah it's still sweet looking but eventually the initial shock value will most definitely wear off.

Failing to process every clue from weather forecast, sun angle, wind direction, the spots you're fishing and on those spots how many casts you're making, do in fact ALL influence you're outcome. Bass Fisherman to Bass Fisherman, I promise that if you take the mental approach one step further, it will pay dividends in your quest for a personal best.
Category: Fishing Blog
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