It's been said before that 90 percent of bass fishermen focus their efforts in the shallows. This may be because of the target-rich environment most shorelines afford. But Todd Faircloth, runner-up for 2008 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, argues that offshore angling is where the real action is. The decision most anglers face when venturing away from the shoreline to target bass is, simply put, where to start. "When you're fishing offshore, your electronics are your eyes, and you have to use them in that way," Faircloth says. "When I'm fishing offshore, I'm not trying to map the entire lake. Instead, I'm fishing a specific rock, or a specific tree, or even a specific fish."
Having grown up during Lake Sam Rayburn's big bass bonanza, the Jasper, Texas, native won his first event on Missouri's Table Rock Lake, using (of all things) a finesse rig. While he considers himself a very versatile angler, being pigeon-holed as a shallow water junkie because of where he cut his teeth isn't an accurate label.
"I'm really comfortable offshore now, but it's not something you can have confidence doing from the start," he points out. "You have to put in some time learning to use a depthfinder and developing an understanding of which areas of the lake will be holding fish at that particular time of the season."
Faircloth advises would-be offshore anglers that patience is truly a virtue when trying to leaving your comfort zone of the bank and all its casting targets. "You can't learn how to be productive offshore by just reading a book," he cautions.
"Of course, you can learn how to use your graph by reading the owner's manual, but until you actually get out there and spend time using it in the way it was intended, you won't gain the confidence to actually stay out there and fish."
For Faircloth and any other bass angler, the learning process never stops. "I'm still learning about fishing offshore and utilizing my electronics to this day," he reveals. "It seems that every week I learn something new about my electronics and how to use them more effectively." Faircloth recognizes that the move away from the bank, where there are ample targets to cast towards is a difficult one to make.
With that in mind, he recommends to use the same approach that he does. "Get a good map of the lake and pick out a main lake point that you feel should hold fish," he recommends. "Then go out there with just your depthfinder and a GPS or a map and pick the point apart until you can 'see' it in your mind.
"I'll do S-turns back and forth, marking waypoints along the way, until the point tapers into the main channel. By doing that, I can understand how it lays out and where the key pieces of cover and structure are." Once a potential deep water spot is found, Faircloth explains that he doesn't casually enter a waypoint into his GPS. Instead, he dedicates additional time to discovering other details about the spot in order to have a complete mental image of the area. "A lot of people will catch a fish off a spot and then just enter the waypoint thinking they've found a spot for the tournament," he explains.
"They never try and move around and discover what else is out there that might be holding fish, or where the fish might pull off to if the slightest thing changes. If you'll spend a little time looking around and learning about the spot you've found, you'll be in a much better position come tournament day because you'll be fishing more than just a waypoint." Faircloth stresses the importance of spending time studying every nuance of the offshore structure you're trying to fish. "You have to realize that when you're fishing offshore, you can miss the mother lode by 5 feet and never know that any fish were nearby," he says.
"That's why it's so important to develop the best mental picture of your spot as you possibly can and be as detailed as possible in trying to uncover everything about it."
(Provided exclusively to BASS Insider by Z3 Media)