It’s a new fishing season for many of us. We’re excited to get back on the water, and we’re also excited to try new equipment and techniques in our attempts to catch a few or a lot of fish. But before we hit the water, it’s a good idea to get some thoughts together regarding those attempts to catch a few or a lot of fish.
Many anglers think of themselves as “walleye fishermen.” Others prefer to be considered “bass fishermen.” Others are even more specific. They proclaim themselves to be a “jig fisherman” or a “plastic person,” or some other technique-oriented angler. Most fishermen though, consider themselves to be just that: “A fisherman.” It seems that most people who consider themselves to be “a fisherman” have more fun and, at the end of the day, have caught more fish.
When we begin our day of fishing, it’s a good idea to have a plan of attack. For instance, today we want to get after largemouth bass. Our plan is to start with spinnerbaits. Spinnerbaits allow us to cover water quickly and bass like to eat spinnerbaits. Unfortunately, largemouth bass sometimes don’t think the way that fisher-people think. Today they’re not on a spinnerbait diet. After an hour with no action, we switch gears. We tie on crankbaits and try a different area. After more inactivity, we decide that crankbaits aren’t the answer either. Experience tells us that when faster moving presentations like spinnerbaits and crankbaits aren’t working, a slower technique will produce. We tie on Zero Stick or Shim-E-Stick plastics and rig them Wacky style. These baits can be fished very slowly, and when the bass are reluctant to bite, slow is the way to go. Zero Sticks and Shim-E-Sticks will catch’em when nothing else will. We are now at the make-or-break point. If the bass won’t respond to the slow-moving plastic, we can either go home or do something completely different with our fishing. For most of us, going home is not an option. What we’re going to do is switch gears completely. This is where the “just a fisherman” philosophy engages.
Instead of beating ourselves up trying to catch bass, we’re going to try to just catch something. Anything. Most people who are “just fisherman” prefer to catch crappies, walleyes, northern pike or whatever instead of not catching bass. Lakes that are good bass lakes are typically good panfish lakes, and in the Upper Midwest, many also have a good walleye population. When you get a lemon, make lemonade. Or in this case, when we can’t catch bass, let’s catch crappies. Or walleyes. Or whatever. Let’s just catch something.
Varied species of fish behave differently. Often, when one species isn’t aggressive and willing to bite, another species will be. After a weather front goes through and the sky is clear and the air temperatures cooler than the previous day, walleyes might not be interested in eating. That’s when northern pike become the target. They are more willing to eat under those conditions.
Some fish aren’t as willing to bite when the sun is shining, but smallmouth bass do. If you’re on a lake that has a good smallmouth and walleye or crappie population, consider chasing walleyes or crappies early and late in the day, and smallmouth at midday.
As mentioned earlier, don’t rely on one technique to catch fish. If you’re set on catching a particular species of fish, experiment with different techniques that have been productive for that species in the past. Some techniques will produce better when the target species is aggressive, others will be better when that species is sluggish. If you’re willing to chase different species of fish, and if you’re willing to try different techniques, this fishing season can be memorable in a good way.