Murphy’s Law – Pre-Fishing New Water


Next Saturday is the first FLW Walmart BFL for the Shenandoah Division, hosted on Smith Mountain Lake near Roanoke, VA.  I have never seen this body of water, let alone fished on it.  With the responsibilities of a full-time job and being the father of two children under six, my practice time will be limited to the two days before the tournament, and maximizing that time on an unfamiliar large body of water will be essential if I am to succeed on tournament day.

As daunting as this task may be, with a little pre-tournament preparation, I can narrow down my search areas before I even get to the lake. Here are the tools I will be using to tackle SML with a plan:

–       GMCO waterproof Pro Series Map.  Goin’ Old School.  These topographical maps are designed in collaboration with local guides, clubs, the USGS and National Ocean Service.  Every effort was made to research and compile every bit of available data in the construction of this map, from common striper areas to old road beds, underwater cemeteries, and more.  I also like to be able to spread this map out and get a good feel for the entire lake before I arrive.  It gives me a mental picture that makes me more familiar with what is unfamiliar territory.  Go to to see if your lake is covered.

–       Google Earth.  FLW Tour Pro Adrian Avena showed me how he uses Google maps to locate structure, find clear water areas, and grass beds while on tour, and it has been great advice.  A quick look around the lake with Google Earth’s satellite pictures can show a LOT of underwater nuances that some maps overlook – data which other anglers might overlook because they don’t know it’s there.  Google Earth updates their imagery regularly, and if you are lucky, you might get to see some satellite images during a low water period, exposing structure that will be underwater when you arrive for tournament day.  Do you think knowing where a submerged stump field is might be critical to your success?  Start using Google Earth.

–       Navionics for iPhone.  I have Navionics on both my iPad and iPhone, and it is the most valuable fishing tool I own outside of my Humminbird electronics.  Navionics is updated regularly, and shows underwater contours, structure, creek channels, road beds….the works!  Navionics also works with my smart device’s cellular network as a GPS device, which means I can plot waypoints, mark areas I want to fish, and know when I’m on that area all from my phone.  Because of its constantly updating database, I know that the information I am receiving is current, and coupled with my GMCO map study, I have the confidence that I am seeing everything I could possibly see about the lake before I launch my boat.

–  It’s always a good idea to check the archives of both professional tours to see how they attacked a particular lake. The Bassmaster Elite Series held the Blue Ridge Brawl in 2009 and 2010 in mid-April, and reading the “how they did it” sections of their archives can provide invaluable information before I head to SML.  Imagine if KVD and Skeet Reese could give you advice on every tournament you fished – do you think you would be more successful?   Don’t just stop at the big tours though, checking local tournament reports, past BFL’s, BASS Opens, and Rayovac (formerly Evertstart) Series events can provide a wealth of information on any body of water, and clue you in on which strategies are working, and which to avoid altogether.

In my next piece on my preparation for Smith Mountain Lake, I will walk you through how I have analyzed these resources and what I will be looking for come next week.  For your next tournament, try utilizing GMCO Maps, Google Earth, Navionics, and prior to your practice, and see how much more efficient you can be!

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