Fishing Lesson: How to Fish Pressured Lakes

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How to fish a Crowded Lake

Almost all fisherman want to help the sport grow. But reality hits them hard when they pull into the parking lot and see a line of boats waiting to be put in the water. This is something that we all need to get used to though, because lakes are only getting more crowded. When presented with this problem, take a step back and try out some of the approaches down below.


Of course, the best way to avoid other anglers and surprise a pressured fish is to fish during weekdays, or at night. However, this is not always an option for most people. So, take a closer look at where you’re fishing and you’ll see some patterns emerge.

Areas with heavy cover and nearby deep water are magnets for pressured fish and most fisherman. You would think if you wanted to avoid pressure then you would avoid these areas. When really you should be trying these spots first. A problem a lot of fisherman have is they hit key areas too fast and never thoroughly fish it.

You’ll see a lot of people come through these spots hopping a Texas rigged worm across the bottom a few times, and when they get skunked they determine the area is fruitless and move on. This is where you swoop in, and try something different. You just saw a Texas rig go poorly so try burning a crank bait or throwing a weightless senko. You should be fishing spots harder on pressured lakes and give the fish a few extra lures to look at.

The bottom-line is most people aren’t willing to sacrifice the time needed to tie on a few other lures and thoroughly fish a spot.


Bass love hiding out in areas of heavy cover when they feel pressured. Because of this, their strike zone will decrease significantly, so your casting accuracy and how well you present your lure will be tested. Because they hold so close to cover, if you want them to bite you’ll have to essentially hit them on the nose with it. So be accurate, and throw an extra cast for good measure!


Something that often gets overlooked in fishing is stealth. Most bass fisherman are also avid hunters who understand the importance of being quiet and keeping a low profile. But something seems to change on the water and people begin banging their trolling motor on structure, or slamming their gear boxes.

You don’t need to take it to the extent that hunting does, but a pressured fish is a spooky fish. Any noise could run them off of a spot. If you’re fishing with a buddy you don’t need to whisper to each other or army crawl around the boat, but keep your distance, try not to run your trolling motor  into cover and make sure to close your gear boxes carefully.

If fishing a clear lake, then look for windblown areas. These are a great spot that helps conceal your presence on the water.

Lure Selection  

When you’ve found that piece of cover the bass are holding on you should thoroughly work the area before leaving. Begin with a naturally colored tube bait with a 3/4oz sinker. The bass love this lure because of how erratic the fall is and surprisingly a lot of fisherman don’t keep many in their tackle box, which means bass are not conditioned to seeing one.  

Lure Size

Pressured bass are more susceptible to striking a smaller lure. If it’s a gorgeous Saturday morning and the parking lot is full of cars, then downsizing your selection might be the ticket for the day. Instead of a 10” ribbon tail, try throwing something in 4-6” range. Same goes for your hard baits. Downsize that crankbait and you’ll be surprised with how many big fish will attack something so small.

Lure Color

Busy lakes condition bass to be extremely picky. A lot of times fisherman will be throwing out something bright or chartreuse when a natural pattern will work best. Anything that’s green, brown, crawfish, or shad color is going to work best. That’s not to say you shouldn’t experiment with something a little wacky though. Keep an open mind and some creativity in your back pocket when on the water. Being different with your selection and presentation is key to fishing bass this time of the year.

Final Thoughts

Don’t be upset when you show up at a busy lake. In fact, I would say learn to embrace it, because it can only make you a better fisherman. 

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