The Forgotten Subtle Dynamics of Our Favorite Waters

Daniel C. Nielsen   Wednesday, May 10, 2006 9:01 AM

Knowledge is power. No matter how many times you hear that phrase, it can?t be enough, especially when it comes to fishing. The more you know, the more you can adapt your presentations to fit the situation at hand and at the end of the day come home with more and bigger fish.

Sounds great doesn?t it? But how many fishermen take the time to visualize the structural elements that lie beyond our vision underwater, much less think about how our immediate environment impacts the underwater realm below? Odds are your average angler doesn?t take those factors into much consideration. But compare an everyday angler to a highly successful angler such as a pro and something interesting emerges.

You?ll notice that not only does the successful angler fish more often, but he takes into account little things most anglers take for granted or is oblivious to. Experience has taught him valuable lessons about how fish react to certain presentations throughout the year. But more importantly, he realizes that a fish?s needs change on a minute to minute basis. What little things does the successful angler notice that a lot of others don?t? There a number of things he has taken into consideration by the time he hits the water.

  1. Body of water type or classification to define general structural characteristics
  2. Water temperature as a basis for general fish location
  3. Possible forage bases the body of water holds.
  4. Weather over the past few days.

Those four keys form the main core of a successful angling strategy and knowledgeable anglers use them to their advantage to catch fish. However, there are a lot of more subtle dynamics an angler can pursue to enhance or strengthen his game plan on any given body of water. Each of these dynamics is in large part ignored by the vast majority of fisherman, when in fact, if the fisherman gave them a thought and used that tiny amount of knowledge, his catch rate would increase. These include, but are nor limited to:

  1. Water clarity
  2. Current availability and speed
  3. Wave action
  4. Sun position/time of day
  5. Wind factors
  6. Structural definition

Water clarity alone can give an angler a vast amount of information. Just by its clarity or lack thereof, an angler can make some relatively safe assumptions on lure or bait choices, basic retrieves, presentation size, color patterns, and vibration or sound options. The clearer the water, the general rule tends towards smaller more lifelike and realistic baits, depending on the species fished for. The dingier, the larger the lure, the more outrageous the colors can be and more vibration or sound it should have to attract fish.

Given the choice, I usually begin with natural patterns and colors and thoroughly work over an area once or twice before gradually making my ways to the brighter florescent colors.

Wave action too, constitutes a variable. Strong wave action can erode shores and cause mud breaklines. The stronger the wave action, the thicker the breakline. Find a breakline like this near key structural elements and you are in business. No time for subtlety. Bigger lures such as crankbaits, spinnerbaits with large blade and noise makers like rattletraps take honors here. Wave action also can influence light penetration. The more chop on the water, the less light that makes its way into the deeper portion of the water column. This can lead to some really spectacular fishing as fish react to the reduction in light intensity and go on the prowl. You?ll likely encounter fish moving shallower to take full advantage of this situation. Sun position based on the time of day is probably one of the more subtle dynamics I referred to. Just the simple passing of the sun through the sky during the day causes shadows to shift and fish react to this if they are using shadowy areas as ambush points. The closer to midafternoon it is, the closer to structural elements your casts have to be. While everybody knows that all fish have a strike window, that is a range that they?ll actively chase or take a lure, there is nothing better than removing all doubt with well placed strategic casts.

As the day wanes, your lure choices should be presented on the shadowed side if possible. You?ll be amazed at how many more fish you take just by practicing this. Docks, pilings,weedbeds and rip rap areas are all good areas to check this out for yourself. Wind factors. Wind makes waves, cuts light penetration and on lakes and reservoirs can make fish shift their position on structure. Wind moves food across and through the water column and the fish will make full use of this. Points, humps and submerged islands are prime examples of areas where you?ll commonly find this behavior. If faced with a windy situation, fish the structure on windy side of the water. You can eliminate a lot of unproductive water this way and concentrate on prime areas where the fish will be.

Structural definition. Unfamiliar phrase? It is basically a term I use to identify and define structural elements in the immediate area I am fishing. It is a combination of bottom firmness-hard or soft, and whatever other structure is available there. Rip rap, wood, weed beds, river channel, tributaries, shore slope, deep water etc. In whatever context they are found, there is a unique relationship they play upon one another. Soft bottoms predominately feature insect hatches at some point during the year. Different weeds grow on different factors of bottom hardness.

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