Most of the advice out there about how to find a good fishing spot isn’t very helpful, and if you’re new to fishing, you probably don’t have a boat and powerful fishing electronics.
Instead, you’re probably fishing from the bank or paddling a canoe or kayak.
If you feel that this puts you at a disadvantage, don’t!
Yes, fish finders are awesome angling tools that make a huge difference, but you can find excellent spots to fish without them. All you need is some simple know-how.
If you want to know how to find the best spots to fish, keep reading!
Table of Contents (clickable)
Finding Good Fishing Spots Near You
Check online and ask at your local bait shop
The first step is to do a bit of internet sleuthing.
Pull up your location on Google Maps and look for rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams near you. That will give you a good initial idea of where you might head to find fish. You can also give your local wildlife agency a call - they’ll be glad to help.
And don’t be shy about asking at your local tackle shop; chances are, they’re fishermen, too, and they’ll happily point you in the right direction.
Ask at your local fishing store. They’ll know where to go, what’s biting, and what to use to catch your limit.
At the water’s edge: topography
As any experienced fisherman will tell you, finding water is the easy part. Just casting a lure out into the middle may seem to be the right thing to do, but it isn’t.
And imagining that all that flat water is just the same is dead wrong!
Because while the water you see is flat, the bottom below it is anything but, and the surface hides a myriad of contours, humps, ridges, drop-offs, and channels.
The first step to finding a good fishing spot from the bank is to look at the general topography.
Examine the contour of the shore.
Where you see the bank diving steeply into the water, that general contour probably continues. Small fish often hang out close to the bank, in shallow water where there’s plenty to eat and lots of places to hide. Big fish can be there, too, waiting in ambush. But those keepers also like to access deeper water more or less immediately, so locations that offer both can be a good bet.
And features like points offer just that combination. The top of the point is shallow but drops off steeply to both sides, providing the cover prey want and the food big fish hunt.
That overgrown point is a prime spot, no question about it.
At the Water’s Edge: Vegetation and Cover
Fish are also going to want to stick tight to cover, like live weed beds, brush piles, downed trees, stumps, pilings, and docks.
For small fish, this cover offers protection. For big fish, that cover holds prey.
Always look carefully at what’s in the water.
For instance, clustered saplings like those in the background of the picture below will often hold smaller fish like shad or minnows, while the stumps in the foreground are probably home to a few hungry bass or crappie.
Cover like these clustered stumps is almost always going to shelter fish.
And everything from weed beds to grasses, lily pads to pond scum can provide shade and a spot from which to ambush unwary prey.
Lilies like this almost always shelter big fish.
If you spot floating lilies, that’s a great place to look for hungry fish. A popper worked right down the side of these lilies at dawn is almost certainly going to get hit by a big bass. But weeds, aquatic grasses, and grass mats work much the same, offering a spot just waiting for an ambush.
Especially when the weather’s blisteringly hot, fish are going to look for shade. Overhanging vegetation offers just that, and while you may not be able to find every deep hole without electronics, shade is the next best thing.
Overhanging vegetation like this is where I’ll start when the heat’s on.
On rivers, fish will often look for current breaks and eddys, and pitching a lure into one, or letting a lure float down the eddy line, can trigger a strike in no time. That’s also true for any still pools created by bends or rocks, and these are often great places to search for trout and smallmouth.
Eddies give fish a break from swimming, and they create a natural trap for prey items washed downstream.
And, of course, logs and other obstacles create shelter in rivers that prey and predators alike seek out. Work these features carefully, and you’ll be rewarded by plenty of action.
I always work a log like this, running a lure down both sides or across it at multiple points.
Understand the Seasons
When winter starts to loosen its grip, fish are hungry but still sluggish. As cold-blooded animals, they need ambient heat to warm themselves up enough to become interested in chasing prey.
In the spring and fall, fish the sunny side of a lake, pond, or river, and look for rocks, concrete, or other large heat sinks that will transmit the sun’s warmth to the water below. Avoid locations sheltered from the sun, and work the west side of your lake, pond, or river, as it’ll catch the most sun in the morning.
Big rocks and huge pilings are a great location to fish since they conduct heat into the water around them:
Spring also means the spawn for most species, and they’ll be looking for flat shallows to mate and lay their eggs.
You can often see these beds from the shore, and any lure that irritates a guarding fish will probably trigger a reaction strike.
Spawning beds like these are a great place to fish in spring.
Summer presents the opposite problem, and fish can be stressed when the water temperature gets too high.
That’s when you go looking for shady spots, plenty of overhanging vegetation, and deeper water.
To learn more about weather and fishing visit our in-depth guide: Best Weather for Fishing
Learning to read the water will give you an edge when you’re fishing a body of water you don’t know, and it can really help you pick the best spots to fish.
We hope that you’ve learned something today, and we’d love to hear from you if you have!
Please leave a comment below.