Learning From Birds
Birds are excellent fishermen. They don't have the option to run through a McDonald's drive thru and order a Big Mac if they don't catch anything - their lives depend on success. If you see birds around the lake, you can be certain that they are there because they expect to find food. Because they are so good at finding food, we can use them to our advantage. They may not be looking for the same size fish that we are, but they can help us find bait fish and grass - both of which attract big bass.
I have noticed 4 different types of birds that can be of help for finding fish or grass. There may be several different species that help in the same way, but I have divided them up into the following 4 types: sky divers, underwater divers, stalkers, and grass eaters.
Sky Divers (gulls)
Sea gulls are probably the most obvious helpers for finding fish. They dive from the sky to the water to get baitfish on the surface. In many instances, the baitfish are being chased from below by bigger fish at the same time. Find the seagulls and you find fish. Seagulls are especially helpful for stripers, hybrids, and white bass. They can be helpful for finding black bass, but they can also work against you. Sometimes the gulls can be working an area that is overpopulated by baitfish. There may be shad all over the top of the lake, but if the bass aren't chasing them it can be a waste of time. Keep in mind that when the bass do get in a feeding mode, they will be looking for those shad.
Underwater Divers (loons & cormorants)
Loons and cormorants dive underwater in search of fish. They require a lot of fish to survive (they eat their weight in fish every day), so you can expect to find lots of baitfish when you find them. Baitfish are usually suspended where you find these underwater divers. Use your graph to find how deep the baitfish are. Look for bigger fish around the baitfish. Even if you don't find actively feeding fish around these birds, bass will likely be in that area when they get ready to feed.
Stalkers (blue herons & cranes)
Blue herons & cranes stalk their prey by waiting for the fish to come to them. You can expect to find fish where you find them. They will often be on the windy part of a shore or bridge awaiting baitfish to be blown to them. Sometimes, I will make a spur of the moment decision to fish a certain area just because I see one of these birds. They will often sway my decision when I can't decide which area to fish.
Grass eaters (coots)
Coots (mud hens) dive in the water in search of grass and insects. When the water is high enough to cover the hydrilla, they will get over it and dive down to it. If you see a bunch of coots diving, you can be pretty sure there is hydrilla under them. Hydrilla is my most productive source of cover. I like to know where it is and coots are a help when the water is high. Sometimes when the water covers the hydrilla, I will get in my car and drive around the lake over the bridges just looking for coots. When I find them, I will try to remember the areas and fish them when I get around to it.