Thanks for doing this.
I'm wondering what are some of the primary things you do to help you determine the best places to catch fish when confronted with water that you have never fished before? How do you figure out where the fish are and how do you figure out how to catch them?
Kurt, good question but a tough one because there is so much involved, I'll just give you some basics to think about.
Number one, you need to be familiar with our four seasons and generally what the bass should be doing. Second, consider water temperature and lake elevation. Try to get a 5'-10' contour map of the lake. Mark each contour with a different color pen, so your can identify your humps, breaks and so forth. Third, find out if the lake has wood, grass, or is barren. One thing for sure is the bass will always be related to grass. Look for your off colored water, this is always a good starting point.
A) if the lake has grass in it. I will concentrate on that. The bass will always be related to the grass somewhere. I can't go into too much detail into the grass, or this post will be way too long.
B) if the lake has a lot of wood in it. You have to look to see if the fish are suspended in the wood or on the bottom.
C) moving to a lake that is barren, with no vegetation or wood. You will have to fish the rock or look for visual transitions in the terrain. Example: Sand to rock, or Sand to gravel. These areas will hold fish. Then combine that with a good break, point, drop off, or shallow bank to steep. These areas will hold more fish. Look for underwater humps, ledges, creek channels and so forth.
Let your electronics be your eyes, looking for shad schools. Try to determine what depth the bait is holding at. Combine your shad depth with your contour map to locate underwater contact points where the bass can ambush the bait. The electronics also applies to grass, wood, and barren lakes.
With lakes you are unfamiliar with start with off colored water. I can go on and on, but that is your basics to help get you started. Hope this helps.