Time to Start Planning For Open Water Fishing

March 3, 2015 by  

By Bob Jensen


In some areas of the Midwest, open water fishing is still several weeks away.  In other areas of the Midwest, especially rivers, anglers are on the water chasing walleyes, sauger, panfish, and whatever else.  Regardless of where you live, now is a good time to consider the following ideas as to how you can be more productive on the water during the upcoming open water fishing season.

The Number One way to insure more fishing success is to go fishing more often.  The more you go fishing, the more you’ll learn about fish and their habits, and that will make you a better angler.


Open water fishing season is getting closer. Plan now to get out even more. If you do, your chances for success will grow.

If you’re a walleye angler, consider using planer boards more.  Boards are often thought of as being an asset in states that allow multiple lines, but they’re also helpful in states that allow just one line.  For instance, in Minnesota only one line per angler is permitted, but we use planer boards there with great success.  On some lakes, such as Mille Lacs, we’ve used planer boards in conjunction with flat-lines and found that the boards out-produced the flat-lines by a substantial margin.  When the mayflies are hatching on Mille Lacs or any other lake, the walleyes follow them to the surface.

At times the walleyes will be within a few feet of the surface over deep water, and they’re spooky.  If we troll directly over them with flat-lines, they spook.  If we get our baits out to the side and away from the boat, we catch them.  It’s not unusual for boards to out-produce baits on flat-lines by a five to one ratio in this situation and a good number of other situations, and that’s too much of an advantage to ignore.  Off Shore in-line planer boards are the best ones out there.  They run true and are easy to use and to read.

Be sure to experiment more this year.  The best time to experiment is when what you’re doing isn’t working.  If something isn’t working, why stick with it?  Try a different color, size, speed, or technique until you discover what the fish want.

An equally good time to experiment is when the fish are really going.  Try a different color, size, speed, or technique to see if you can find something that appeals to even more fish or bigger fish.  This is also a good opportunity to develop confidence in a technique that you would like to learn more about.  Nothing gives confidence more than catching fish on a new lure or technique.

A jig tipped with a minnow is a great presentation much of the time, but this year try replacing that minnow with soft plastic.  The Impulse Baits have been seeing more time on my jigs and spinner rigs every year.  They’re so much more durable and versatile than live bait, and there are a good number of situations where they produce more fish.  The advantage of soft baits is that they come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and shapes, and that gives us a lot of options when it comes to giving fish what they want.

Pay more attention to your sonar.  As sonar technology continues to advance, it becomes easier to keep your bait in productive water.  It is easier to identify fish with modern sonar, so we can determine which areas are holding fish, and those areas are where we should concentrate our efforts.  I was introduced to Raymarine sonar last year and am so impressed with the job they do.  Raymarine has been huge in big water fishing for a long time, but the newest Raymarine units have features that will enable us to be more successful in our Midwest waters as well.  They draw a great picture of the underwater world, and best of all, they’re easy to use.

When you start your open water fishing season, keep these ideas in mind: You’ll catch more fish and enjoy your time on the water even more, and that’s why we go fishing.

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