Where do you start on a new lake that you've never fished before? At home in front of a good map. Before heading to the lake, do some planning. Check the following water factors, online or at a local supply store:
• Light penetration.
• Oxygen content.
• Recent rainfall or snowfall.
• Wind direction and velocity.
• Water clarity.
• Rising water levels or currents.
Use a detailed contour map of the lake (with 5-foot increments, if possible) to determine where you'll cast. The best places to start are areas with grass or wood coverage, channel bends and creek entrances. Marinas, docks and ramps are also good places to begin your search for bass.
Using a crank bait is an excellent way to locate fish. You can cover a tremendous amount of water in a short period of time and still be very thorough in your search. The only reason that I wouldn't start out with a crank bait is if the lake was frozen solid. Don't hesitate to switch colors and depths of baits until you hit on the right combination.
If bait fish are active in the areas you're fishing, try to get a close look at them and match their size and color as close as possible. When you establish a shallow water pattern, stick with it and don't waste your time on unproductive areas.
— Rick McFerrin, fishing guide, www.tennesseebassguides.com