Three Ideas for Open Water Fishing Success

March 4, 2014 by  

by Bob Jensen


It’s fifteen below zero outside, the wind is gusty, and the sidewalk needs to be shoveled.  What am I thinking about?  Open water fishing.  You know, that thing we do from a boat while wearing a tee-shirt and shorts and maybe sweating a little bit.  I am convinced that we will be casting or drifting or trolling sooner than we think.  Here are three things we can do to be more successful in our open water fishing this year.

As always, you’ve got to fish where the fish are.  Early in the year, they’ll be in or near their spawning areas.  Some fish will build nests and spawn in areas with a sand bottom, others prefer rubble, while a couple of species need weeds.  If you’re fishing before, during, or just after the spawn, you should fish near the fish’s spawning areas.

Open Water Fishing Ideas

Fish where the fish are and give them what they want to eat and you’ll get bit…some of the time.

The rest of the year, all fish do is eat.  If you find their food, you’ll find the predator fish.  Smallmouth bass like to eat crawdads, so if you want to catch smallmouth, you should fish where crawdads live.  In many lakes, walleyes like to eat perch, so you fish near the bottom where perch live.  In other bodies of water, walleyes like to eat bait fish that suspend, so you should fish higher off the bottom where those baitfish and walleyes will be.  This is an over-simplification of the “finding the fish” part of the puzzle, but it is critical to realize that for most of the year, predator fish will be near their food.  Watch your sonar closely to find the food and the fish.

Keep in mind that fish are more likely to move up to take a bait than they are to move down.  Most fish can see up better than they can see below them, so we want our bait above them.  If you’re trolling crankbaits, use a bait that will run a little above where you think the fish are.  A slip-bobber will enable you to set your bait at an exact level.  If you’re fishing walleyes in seven feet of water, set your bobber stop about six feet above your hook or jig.  This should put your bait right on the walleye’s nose.  Keep your lure above where you think the fish will be.

Last idea.  Give the fish what they want to eat.  Again, this sounds over-simplified, but it’s very important.  Just because the crappies were eating yellow jigs yesterday doesn’t mean they will today.  Fish change their lure preferences from day-to-day and from minute-to-minute.  If you were catching them on yellow jigs yesterday, but they won’t eat a yellow jig today, try another color.  Or put a live-bait below a slip-bobber down there.  Maybe try a jig with a different style of tail or a different body material.  Instead of a plastic body, try a hair jig.  If they’re not eating what you’re showing them, show them something else.

All of that makes fishing sound kind of simple, and it can be.  It can also be tough to figure out where the fish are and what they want to eat.  Keep trying and you’ll figure it out.  For now, I’ve got a sidewalk to shovel.

To see the newest episodes of Fishing the Midwest television, visit   Join us at


Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.