Bob Jensen: Adjust your approach and catch fish all summer

Bob Jensen, Fishing the Midwest
Special to the Ames Tribune

We’ve entered the summer season when the fishing can be good, or it can be tough. If it’s tough, it generally doesn’t need to be. There are some adjustments we can make to catch more fish.

Many of us have a tendency to fish memories. Earlier in the year, maybe a week ago or a month ago, we were catching walleyes on jigs in shallow water. Or we were catching crappies near logs along shorelines or around docks. Or we were casting spinnerbaits for largemouth bass in the rushes.

But if we continue to use those techniques or fish the same areas, the action probably won’t be as good. At least not on a consistent basis. It’s not because the fish aren’t biting, because they probably are — just not in the area that was productive a short time ago. We need to adapt. We need to look for the walleyes and crappies and bass in different places. And we probably need to use different baits.

Weather can be a factor. I remember a year or two ago when some friends and I were in northern Minnesota fishing for largemouth bass. A severe weather front had gone through. Air temperatures dropped 20 degrees overnight, the skies were clear and the bass didn’t want to eat. However, northern pike were very willing to smash our spinnerbaits. They weren’t real big pike, but they were fun to catch.

Summit Township resident Mark Graziano, 58, caught this huge northern pike at Marina Lake in Presque Isle on May 17. The pike measured 42 inches and weighed about 21 pounds. He released the fish after posing for  this photo.

When weather conditions change, if we want to be successful, we need to switch species or switch techniques, or maybe even switch to a different body of water. Oftentimes, river fish won’t be as affected by weather conditions as lake fish.

When fishing conditions are good, meaning the weather has been stable for a few days, a faster presentation will often be productive. A faster presentation enables an angler to cover water quickly, so you can show your bait to more fish. Summer fish are often hungry, so the more fish you show your bait to, the more bites you’ll usually get.

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Baitfish populations are high in the summer, so the predators have lots of choices of what to eat. Some anglers go with the “match-the-hatch” idea, which emphasizes using baits that resemble the baitfish that are abundant. Sometimes that’s a good idea.

However, there are a good number of anglers who like to show the fish something completely different. It’s kind of like people. When we eat cheeseburgers for several days, eventually a piece of pizza looks pretty good. A walleye that’s been eating perch for the past few weeks might prefer something that looks completely different. Sometimes a bait that looks very unnatural in a particular lake or river can be very productive.

In many bodies of water, a variety of fish will live in the deeper water in the summer. There will still be shallow fish, but the depths will hold the numbers of fish. Many anglers that are fishing deep water won’t even put a bait in the water until they see fish on their sonar.

Today’s sonar units draw an amazing picture of what’s below the surface of the water. They show baitfish, big fish, vegetation, whatever is down there will be revealed. We don’t always catch them on the first trip to the location, but we know they’re there, so we keep coming back during the day to see if we can make them bite, and usually, eventually a couple will open their mouth and take our bait.

Summer is a great time to be fishing. If you keep these ideas in mind, you’ll have an even better time because you’ll catch more fish.