The Dreaded Directions
A good set of directions, by this I mean lake maps, are probably the single most important item a person can carry in their boat. I cannot tell you how many bad days have been saved by this inexpensive tool. What is it with most people, including myself? We all seem to have this problem with reading the directions before we start to put something together. About halfway through the assembly process, we pick up the directions and all say the same thing “#%@#**#%&*#@.” How did I miss that piece? How much time could I have saved if I HAD ONLY READ THE DIRECTIONS? Fishing is no different than assembling a toy for your child or putting together the new weed whip you got for your birthday. Take a few minutes to read the directions or, in this case, a map of the body of water you plan to fish instead of fishing and then reading the directions. It will make locating aggressive fish a whole lot simpler than just shooting in the dark. Breaking down a lake by use of a map is not as difficult as it may seem. There are a few key pieces of information you will need before we can start this process.
1. Time of the year / Summer
2. Water clarity / 3 feet
3. Water temperature / 80 Degrees
4. Forage base / Shad
Wind direction / South 15 to 20 miles an hour
Now that we know the key pieces of information, let’s break down a lake using a dry erase marker to mark key areas on your map for reference. We have noted the time of the year is summer, which means we can rule out spawning and post spawn fish. So don’t go fish a spot you pounded in April when they were schooled up tight. Summer also means there can be several bites going on the same body of water, so you should approach the breakdown process with an open mind.
Water clarity is our next piece of information to plug in. Most predators are sight feeders, so even though deep structure is a great place to hunt aggressive fish in summer. If they can’t see it, they can’t eat it. Think shallow when fishing a lake where the water has been muddied up by storms, high winds, or excessive boat traffic. Yes, I said boat traffic. The summertime is prime time for lots of recreational boat traffic. I have seen points so muddy from the constant pounding from boat wakes you would have thought a corn field emptied there after a hard rain.
With water temperatures in the 80’s, our presentations can be aggressive. By aggressive presentations, I mean we can cover a lot of water quickly. Lures can be sped up because the fish have a higher metabolism rate which, in turn, means they will chase a bait further and attack it. One word of advice is to bring your boat up to trolling speed and check each bait by the side of the boat to make sure it is running true. If it is not, bring it back in and tune it. High water temperatures also mean we want to find areas adjacent to deep water where fish can retreat to be more comfortable.
The forage base is shad, so one of the first places I will look for fish will be on mud flats. The shad are there feeding on emerging insect larva and other crustaceans. Now I don’t have a degree in fisheries biology, so I cannot say what they are feeding on exactly, but I know when summer hits, the shad hit the mud flats. Another good spot to hit are main lake points and humps, especially the ones with deep water around them.
Winds of 15 to 20 mph will play a major role in choosing what flats and points to fish. Not only will it play a role on which ones to start on, but where to hit first. You have heard the old saying, “a spot on a spot.”
Now, let’s plug in all we have talked about to make our own set of directions. Let’s take our marker and mark all of the flats and points adjacent to deep water. Let’s say we have 12. Now erase all of the ones that will not be on the up-wind side of the lake, which means erase the ones that won’t have wind blowing across them. That narrows us down to 6 spots, 2 flats, 3 points, and a hump. Since the flats are large, our choice of techniques will be trolling crank baits on Off Shore Tackle planer boards at a pretty stout pace. Shad is our forage base, so we will tie on baits that resemble the shape of a shad, such as a Rebel Shad-R, Rapala Shad Raps, or the Bass Pro Shops Nitro Shad. The points and the hump are a little smaller, so my choice of techniques for them will be 3-ways, bottom bouncers, or lead core with crawler harnesses or floating crank baits. Water clarity is good, so the colors of choice will lean toward the natural colors, chrome, gray, silver, and white. Now color can make a great deal of difference, so keep trying different colors throughout the day until you find out what the fish want. If you try to tell the fish what color they want, you will lose every time.
Now you can hit the lake with a lot more confidence knowing you have done your homework and that one of these spots should hold fish. This will give you a hand up any time of the year on any body of water.
SO DON’T TRY TO PUT TOGETHER A PATTERN BY TRIAL AND ERROR, USE THE DIRECTIONS.
I will again be guiding ice out Muskies as soon as the ice leaves the lakes. If you want in my boat this spring, you better get on the list since dates are limited. I never know when the ice will leave, so send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone at 309-267-8309 to get on my list. As soon as I see the ice starting to leave the lakes, I will start calling from the list for available dates in the order I receive the calls or e-mails.
SEE ‘YA ON THE WATER!