The first and most obvious structural value factor Long considers is size. Is the lake a sprawling reservoir like Toledo Bend, a gigantic natural lake like Okeechobee or maybe a small municipal reservoir like those scattered around his Southern California home?
"Generally speaking, bigger is better," Long says, "but there are exceptions. Small waters can be devastated by sudden water quality issues, drawdowns and other things that might not impact a larger body of water. On the other hand, big lakes typically get a lot of fishing and boating pressure and are seldom managed for quality trophy bass fishing.
"I caught my largest bass — 'Dottie' at 20 pounds, 12 ounces — from a 70-acre reservoir, but that's probably getting to the small end of the water body spectrum. Bigger is typically better."
Another structural value factor is the availability of bass sanctuaries. Whether the lake is natural or man-made, big or small, bass need to have refuge from adverse weather and water conditions. This entails two important options — deep water and shallow cover. Both offer sanctuary to bass at different stages of their development.
"For young bass at the fry stage and for the first year or two, dense shallow cover is critical to their ability to avoid being eaten by birds, snakes and even other bass. It's also important to forage like panfish and crawfish," Long says. "If your water doesn't have plenty of dense shallow cover, that's a strike against it. It makes it tougher for it to produce trophy bass."
Deep water is the refuge of adult — and trophy — bass. Sure, some of them will retreat to shallow cover, but it's best if deep water is available, too. It also provides territory for shad and other pelagic forage.
"Deep is relative," explains Long. "In some parts of the country, 60 feet is deep but in places like most Florida lakes you don't have any water that's even half that deep. If you can identify the depth of the shallow feeding grounds on a body of water, estimate that you'll need some water at least twice that deep to provide a sanctuary for the bass."
If a body of water has sufficient size as well as deep and shallow sanctuaries, the next thing to look for is balance in the ecosystem. A lake with good trophy potential is going to be "healthy." It's going to have biological diversity. There will be a variety of forage types available to the bass, whether it's shad and crawfish or panfish and catfish or trout and frogs.