Trolling! Trolling! Trolling!
tip of the point is by studying the slope and tendency of the land near shore. A road that ends at the water probably provides edge cover all the way out. A creek flow means a channel and a fish-important juncture where the creek channel meets the main channel.
The edges of weedbeds are highly productive both because they provide an edge between open areas and cover, but also because of the change in bottom composition or depth that the weed edge indicates. Abrupt changes in water color indicate depth changes and a kind of open trail among upright tree snags tells you exactly where the old stream channel meandered.
Another way to get the "lay of the lake" is to procure a topographical map or a marked fishing map. Because they were once dry, Missouri reservoirs have been well mapped, and it's good evening entertainment to translate a topographical map's squiggles into fish hotspots.
If all else fails, or if you feel like fishing without thinking, just troll the shoreline. It almost always gets deeper the farther out you go. Try different distances from shore until you contact fish or sense that your lures no longer are within a reasonable distance from bottom. What's reasonable? It varies for species, but I like to keep my lures running anywhere from nicking the bottom to three or four feet above it.
My preference to fish near bottom requires me to keep a lure retriever handy. Usually just a chunk of lead with some stiff coils of wire, lure retrievers are pretty simple affairs. When you get snagged and can't get off by yanking or pulling at the lure from different directions, you simply hover above the snag, slip the retriever on your line and let it slide down (it has it's own cord) Let it tangle in the hooks of your lure and then, hopefully, break the lure free. The amount of time I'll work at freeing a lure is directly related to the cost of the lure.
I always keep ready for instant deployment a couple of marker buoys to pinpoint fish locations. To frustrate anglers whose fishing strategy is to flock to other anglers' markers, I'll occasionally toss a dummy buoy that floats away from a hotspot and chuckle while they struggle to fish near it.
Planer boards are another neat trolling accessory. I use them to get my baits away from the boat. I've also used them to walk-troll long shorelines. If the wind is right, I can run a lure 50 to 75 yards out from shore while keeping my feet dry.
How many lines should you run in a boat? The formula I've concocted is: 2 equals 2, while 3 or more equals 1. I can easily run two lures--one on each side of the boat--but if my fishing companions and I let out three lines or more they invariably twist into one. I'm so afraid of this unravelable snarl that I don't dare take a turn, can't dig into the cooler for a soda and have to concentrate like the dickens so that the wind doesn't blow me off course for even a second. Fishing is supposed to be more fun than that, so I usually limit myself running two lines from the boat.
If you feel you must squeeze even more value from your fishing license, you can minimize tangles by combining deep and shallow running lures, long rods and short rods and lures run far back and lures run closer to the boat. Planer boards spread out lines wonderfully but, beware when they tangle--Oh, my!
Take a kid trolling
When you find a type of fishing that's fun, it seems a shame not to share the experience with someone. Trolling is as easy as a boat ride--you don't need a lot of elbow room in the boat and you don't need a lot of expertise. Anyone, even small children, can sit and watch poles and reel in fish.
Trolling is not as easy as that, of course. Sometimes you won't find fish no matter how many nautical miles you log. During those long dry spells, it helps to have a young voice or two to harmonize as you sing, "Trolling! Trolling! Trolling!