Scoping a site and finding fishing hot spots in 4 simple steps

Scoping a site and finding fishing hot spots in 4 simple steps

Finding a fishing hot spot can be the difference between a blank session and landing a trophy. So knowing how to scope out a site and locate those perfect spots to cast to is a really important skill. Plus, as Deeper Hero and guest writer Nichole Delio, this side of angling is also a ton of fun. You get to explore new spots and use all your detective skills to figure out where the fish are hiding.

There is nothing better than waking up at 5am and heading out to the pond or lake for a day of fishing. I love to walk the banks, as the world starts to come alive. As everyone else is fast asleep in their beds, you get to watch a glorious sunrise and take in every moment. Then you can find a hot spot all to yourself where you know you’ll catch. And I follow 4 simple steps to find the perfect hot spot:

  • Step 1: Do your homework
  • Step 2: Scope out the location
  • Step 3: Home in on vegetation and features
  • Step 4: Think temperature

Step 1 – Do your homework


Here’s my checklist of points to research before you head out:

  • What season are you in?
  • What kind of weather are you experiencing?
  • What is the temperature?
  • How will these factors affect your target species behavior?

All of these things are a big factor in which spots to select.

Nikkis's tip
One of the first things to take into consideration while scouting out a pond or lake for shore fishing is the time of year. Also, what kind of species are you fishing for. You’ll have more success if you are focused on a specific species – then it’s easier to decide which areas to focus on. Then do your homework and study the species and the kinds of weather or the bodies of water which hold those species you are after.

Step 2 – Take a walk and scope it out


When you arrive at your spot, take a slow walk all the way around the water, or as far as you can go. Take notice of your surroundings; there are useful signs everywhere. I like to scope out a body of water the day before I fish it. This gives me the time to think carefully about which spot to choose.

Nikki’s top tip: Take notice of the birds. They are often going to be where the baitfish are.

My favorite tool for this is my Deeper Smart Sonar. Its perfect for fishing a new body of water. I cast it out, open the app on my phone, and start scoping our the water.


First, I check the depth and temperature


Second, I will map out the bottom, looking out for vegetation (more on this later, bottom hardness, contours, and any structure. Having researched my target species, I can look out for the kind of locations they will be hiding in at this time of year.


Third, I will actually try to mark some fish. I’m not trying to catch them right now, but I’ll look out for what depth they are at.

Nikki’s top tip: Don’t worry about approaching the shore while you’re scoping out
It’s important to know that when scoping the pond out, it’s ok to walk up close to the bank, it might even help you. If you scare the fish, you might be able to see where they come out from and where they are holding up. The fish will usually be feeding on the banks, especially early morning. But remember when it comes time to actually fish, you want to stay back far enough away so you don’t scare the fish. Plus, they will feel any vibration, so make sure you are as quiet and soft on your feet as you possibly can be.

Step 3 – Home in on vegetation and structure

Now you have an overview of the whole water, investigate in detail those locations that have potential, looking for the best types of structure and vegetation.


Top structure to target

Structure can be any object that in or around water that provides some kind of shelter for the fish.

  • Docks: a Dock can provide great cover for fish – bass love to hide under docks.
  • Ledges: Many freshwater species such as Walleye or Muskie love the cover of a ledge.
  • Lay downs: “Lay downs” or logs are another form of structure. “Lay downs” refer to a tree or log that may be laying down in the water that fish love to hang around for cover, shade, or just to hide and wait for prey to grab. Again, bass especially love this structure.

Top vegetation to target 

Vegetation is key when looking for a hotspot, and just as with structure there are many types of vegetation to look out for.



Hydrilla is an invasive vegetation, and is also known as a “bass magnet” because bass love to be around it.


Lilly Pads

We’ll get into more specific detail regarding hooks in later sections, but for now, remember to purchase hooks that are not snelled. Snelled hooks have a leader pre-tied to them that the user then attaches to a swivel snap. Gamakatsu makes sharp, durable, long lasting hooks that are available in almost every tackle shop.



Another type of vegetation to target is called Hyacinth. Hyacinth is a free floating weed and another excellent cover for bass!

Nikki’s top tip
All vegetation is a great way to find fish, especially if you are new to a fishing spot and don’t know where to begin. Look for that vegetation, those mats, lilly pads, tall grass, and you’re sure to pull out a nice fish!

Step 4 – Think Temperature

You now have a good picture of the water you’re at – the depth, where bait fish might be, the features and vegetation. But there’s still one factor that can affect everything – water temperature.

Temperature change, along with the changing of the seasons, will provoke different reactions from different fish, and knowing how your target species will react to these changes can certainly increase your chances of catching them.


Warm water species

Cold water species

Can tolerate temps up to 97 degrees F Can only tolerate temps up to 73 degrees F
Example species: Largemouth Bass, Bluegill  Example species: Lake Trout, Muskie, Pike
Behavior: Largemouth bass or bluegill are perfect targets for those warm summer months. During the really hot temperatures, you can find them in shallow water and hidden under structure as we talked about earlier. But in the cold months, in late fall or winter, they will start getting harder to catch and the bite will greatly decrease.



Behavior: Cold water species such as Pike and Muskie are perfect targets for those cold months. They are more apt to bite during Spring and Fall.
A final thought
Find your structure. Know where the cover is, that will hold the fish you are looking for. Find that vegetation. Look for coves or areas the fish will be held up in. Look for signs in the water. Baitfish being chased and making little jumps and commotion in the water. As I mentioned earlier, there are signs everywhere, you just have to look. In closing, remember it is not all about fishing. Enjoy your time out on the water, and take in every moment you possibly can. Have fun, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t catch anything straight away. That’s the beauty about fishing. The fish will always be there, and there is always that next bite that will keep you coming for more.
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