Most anglers have a lure, technique, or spot that is their absolute go-to when they go fishing. There is something about that lure that usually works, or the spot is a producer, or maybe that particular style of fishing comes easy to them. Whatever it is, having that one go-to can absolutely be a lifesaver in some scenarios and a hindrance in most others.
Now, before you send out the cavalry, hear me out. The problem with having just one go-to is that when the conditions are just right, then it usually works great. What about the other 11 months of the year when the conditions are entirely different, and it doesn’t work anymore? Do you chalk it up to lousy fishing, or is it actually your go-to that’s holding you back?
Fish are just like any other living thing; their entire existence is based on their environment and their food source. So as the seasons change, so do the conditions in which fish thrive. At one point during the year, they may be feeding off of bugs hatching on the surface, and then the next month, they switch to feeding on crawdads and other insets on the bottom of the lake.
If you’re still using a surface lure, you stand no chance of catching anything that is now feeding on the bottom of the lake. In the same breath, if you are using a crankbait and the entire bottom of the lake is covered in moss, you are never going to be able to cleanly present your lure to the fish.
I found myself in a similar scenario the other day.
In the fall, I love fishing with our Swim Finesse jigs because I know they work, and have caught many fish using this lure. The problem is that the past two times I’ve gone out fishing, nothing commits to my lure. I get plenty of taps and follows, but no bites. I’ve switched up colors and trimmed back the skirting, but still, nothing commits. Meanwhile, Andy is fishing next to me with a jerkbait and landing his fish.
I know the Finesse jig works in the fall; I have previous catches to prove it. But, if I stop and think back to the times, I did use the Finesse jig and was successful with it, what was different? Why was I catching fish then, but I’m not now?
This fall, I’ve been fishing during the middle of the day when it’s bright, sunny, and with low wind. Thinking back, in almost all of my previous catches, the conditions were cold, windy, partly cloudy, and sometimes I was fishing after the sun had already set. All of those factors impacted the visibility of the fish, making it much easier to convince them that my lure was a prey item. The conditions made all the difference in my success, and if I hadn’t gotten stuck in my own way during my past two trips, I probably could have switched up my bait and been much more successful.
What’s the answer? Research, practice, and don’t get stuck in your own way.
Research: Know your target species! Even knowing things like what they feed on, their seasonal habits, and their spawning pattern can go a long way to increasing your success rate. All of these factors matter because as the seasons change, so do the patterns of the fish. Knowing their target prey can help you narrow down your location, technique, and lure choice. For more info on research tools, refer back to our Expand Your Fishing Knowledge blog post, where we break down both free and paid fishing resources.
Practice: There is no better teacher than on-the-water practice. You can do all the research you want, but in the end, you need to go out, pick a spot based on your earlier research, and commit to trying something new. Will it always work? No. You may need to strike out a few times, do more research, try somewhere completely new, and switch up your lures, but eventually, you are going to put it all together.
Don’t get stuck in your own way: This one may seem like a no-brainer, but we can all be guilty of fishing the same spot over and over because it used to produce, only using one technique because it doesn’t take much effort, or not wanting to retie our lure yet again. But, being open to practicing new techniques with different lures or picking a different spot on the lake can make a huge difference in your success.
Get outside and try something new; your next adventure is waiting!
– Stormy Cochran
For more info on research tools, visit our Expand Your Fishing Knowledge blog post, where we break down both free and paid fishing resources.