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Fetch Me A Breeze Please!

By Russ Bassdozer

Fetch is a nautical term meaning the distance over which wind-driven waves travel without encountering obstructions. The longer the fetch, the more powerful the waves! When those long-fetched waves finally pound up against the shoreline? That, my friend, should be a bass-laden location... and you should be fishing those spots whenever it's windy!

What's that you say? You don't know any good spots to fish in the wind? Well, just climb on board, don your windbreaker, and let's take an imaginary boat ride on Internet Lake! We'll try to locate some really windy hotspots for you where bass come up to aggressively feed whenever it is windy!

No, we don't have a GPS to navigate on Internet Lake, but we have something even better for our computerized excursion - USGS charts downloadable from Microsoft's TerraServer! These charts are just about the best tools an e-angler can use to study fishing spots both far and near. Any USGS-charted body of water can be navigated with a few mouse-clicks and downloaded onto your computer. A person who knows how to use an image editor (or even Microsoft Word), can annotate the maps with comments and mark hotspots on them as you see I've done below. Best of all, TerraServer usage is FREE!

On our first windchart, the three elliptical goosenecks in the upper left are narrow, necked-down and circuitous areas. There are no readily-identifiable windward shorelines in these goosenecks. Now study how the water widens with a lengthy run of unobstructed wind-driven waves crashing onto the open exposed shoreline of Spot A.  Spot B also has a long run (several miles) of wide open water and wind-driven waves being funneled and forced through the constriction marked by the two X's before battering against Spot B.

When we drive the boat into Spot A, we see it is actually an island and the promontory of an underwater point extending out from the mainland.  We also see a very pale brown line extending around the outside of the island, and then the line parallels up and down the main shoreline. No doubt, this island is a rocky reef, and all the area contained between the brown lines behind it is likely to be a boulder field extending back to the main shoreline! The island, the boulder field extending to shore and the main shoreline behind the island should all hold plenty of bass that get the "need to feed" in the wind. Below Spot A, we see a wind-battered bay which may develop a mud-line close in to shore that harbors some feisty largemouth! Below the wind-battered bay, there is another wind-exposed point - a classic smallmouth point well worth trying before we fire up the big engine to scout Spot B.

Spot B also reveals itself to be a series of wave-beaten points and bowls as we get closer to it. Again, expect smallmouth on the points of Spot B, extending as far out offshore as the barely-visible thin brown contour line, which is an underwater ledge line. Expect largemouth tucked up tight to shore in the very dead-centers of the wind-beaten bowls, on the edges of any mud lines kicked up by the incessant wave action.

As we continue to journey further up Internet Lake, we again run through a narrow, winding section on the left of our chart which has no obvious windward shoreline. That is, until we come clear of the last bend and the lake widens once again into a section with plenty of fetch (remember, fetch is the distance over which wind-blown waves travel without encountering obstructions). On the chart, the red arrows (which show the direction the wind blows) are bending around to follow the contours of the shoreline. This is exactly what the real wind will do - bend around any shoreline which has bluffs. After all, air is fluid like water, and air will bend and flow like water does, conforming its direction and speed to the contours of the topography.

As we come off plane and idle into Spot C,
we see it's a virtual "windy wonderland" of smallmouth-stacked points and largemouth-filled cuts and coves. In fact, there can be no doubt from our TerraServer USGS charts that the entire shoreline of Internet Lake for many miles above and below Spot C is the same heavily-corrugated shoreline! With the many ins and outs of the shoreline above and below Spot C, it  would probably take us about one week to fish all of this massive mega-spot properly! Hey, do you think we can get a wind that will blow hard for the next seven days?

Okay, it's one week later, and we're cruising yet another virtual section of the seemingly endless expanse known as Internet Lake. We've already learned a lot about how to locate "wind spots" using our TerraServer topo-mapping system. So it is an obvious and familiar situation we now study the map for...and find! It's a very wide basin to the left, wind bending around the topography, and funneling long-fetched waves between the constricted area marked by the two X's. Now, we've found the topography we want! Next, let's zoom into the area just downwind of the two X's hoping to find a sweet spot. Hmmm? You see the brown topo line extending out as an underwater point well off the mainland? It's a clue, suspicious and promising to scout around for an elusive Spot D, typically a high spire or tower-like rise at the promontory of that underwater point!

As we zoom in to cruise around...lo and behold! Spot D appears to be a brush-filled reef and no doubt a rock-rubble strewn one too if it has been able to survive being pounded by what appears to be the most wind-exposed spot we have found yet. Looking at the map, there can be no doubt this brush reef must literally crawl with largemouth that mysteriously emerge out of the depths here for an all-out feeding frenzy whenever they feel a stiff wind smearing whitecaps across the surface!

Now, Spots A, B and C are all at the very end of a fetch where all of the power of the waves is ultimately delivered. This is a fundamental concept to me in finding predictable wind spots - that the fetch stops there. However, Spot D is not like A, B and C in that the waves continue on past Spot is like a brick wall dropped smack in the middle of the wave's fetch! This doesn't make Spot D any better or worse of a hotspot, but it does make such spots less predictable to find using TerraServer.

Spot E is one of the last places we'll try today. The two arrows illustrate the possibility that wind may blow into Spot E from either of two different directions at different times. In either case, Spot E is also different from A, B and C in that Spot E is not the end of the fetch, but actually a "turning point" where the wind will bank around this turn and continue on down the other side. Now, although this is a bend, the waters off Spot E are actually quite wide and open, not at all like the narrow circuitous goosenecks preceding Spot A or Spot C. Now at this map resolution, Spot E just appears like a mild bump being kissed by the outside bend of the main channel...

...but when we pull up on Spot E, a protruding main channel point materializes, along with what I call a "wind lane" because the wind channels past the outside edge of this point in a lateral direction, regardless of whether the wind's blowing from left or right. Now, wind lanes usually equate to feeding lanes.  As the wind starts to flow the water past them, fish take feeding stations on bottom in the wind-driven current and wait to see what tender morsels come blowing by them in the moving water. Usually, wind gets everything moving, and the map is marked with an arrow showing the length of drift to be made from either direction, keeping in mind this is not only a nice point, but it's also the dead center of the outside bend of the main channel...always a great place to fish!

One last word of caution. Somewhere around 20 knots, it becomes extremely dangerous to attempt fishing any wind-swept, wave-slapped point, reef or main shoreline at the end of a fetch. But even at lower wind speeds, you must always leave room to get out of harm's way in an instant! Wear your life jackets! Maintain a safe distance and have an escape route ready for when a rogue gust or big series of waves or boat wakes tries to overwhelm you. Trust me, it will overwhelm you if you are not constantly ready with a way to immediately turn out of there! The most careless point comes when you hit a big fish in the wind, become pre-occupied with landing it. NOT the time to turn your back and wrestle with prying out those trebles. NOT the time to take a photo! It IS the time to turn out of there into open water until the fish is fully-dispatched, your tackle's squared away, and you can fully-focus on boat positioning again. Turn your back an instant, and it won't take more than 1 or 2 rogue swells to roll you over on the curved knee of a sloping bluff. Stray a second too close, and it won't take too many 2 to 3 foot waves to jackhammer your boat up and down on a barely-submerged boulder and split the bottom open. Your 107 lb. thrust trolling motor will not get you out of there when that happens! Regardless of any warning, enticement or advice given in this article, only you are the one personally responsible for your own safety and the safety of your passengers. For the avid enthusiast, Mother Nature can make bass fishing an occasionally extreme and exhilarating outdoor sport, along with all the required precautions. If you agree with this statement, then you probably already understand the degree of safety, experience and skill required by the avid bass boating enthusiast. And if you don't agree with this statement, then please stay at the dock when the wind blows!

Today, we've demonstrated the power of TerraServer to locate, to download and to mark hotspots on any available USGS-charted lake. Plus, we've talked some about the wind and the waves, and the excitement and exhilaration of fishing in them! I think it's been quite fetching! How about you?

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