There have been a variety of articles written that tackle the issue of fishing a new lake for the first time. Deciphering the methodology, you use to unlock the key to where fish may be located as it relates to all the puzzle pieces the lake is giving you. Well, one of the more overlooked aspects of fishing a body of water is the day to day puzzle of what mood the fish are in and how that relates to how you present your lures to stack your chances of enticing a strike. In any day to day fishing scenario, there are a number of factors that indicate what mood a fish may be in; everything from depth of water to the actual moon phase of the calendar. For the purpose of this read, let’s not dive into the science of solunar forces effecting the surface of the earth and simply talk about lure presentation to crack the mood of the fish we chase.
Every day we head out on the water, there are a few factors that we should consider when choosing the bait or lure we want to throw. These factors will have a direct effect on the mood of many fish species, in turn telling you how you could be presenting your baits to maximize your chances of hooking up. Some key factors in lure presentation are:
Water temperature of the lake.
Fish have comfort zones. Zones where they are happy. Where they are content and willing to feed. Look at it from a human perspective. On a scorching hot summer day, are you more likely to want to eat an entire Thanksgiving turkey dinner? Or a light fresh chicken Caesar salad? Most would choose the salad. Fish are the same way. Take Northern Pike, their comfort zone is anywhere between the 65 and 70-degree mark. Anything warmer than that, and they move to seek their comfort zone. In cooler temperatures, they will venture shallower (shallow bays warm up first) and in the summer, they will seek deeper depths where the water is perfect.
This factor in the mood of fish might be the most fluid, it’s the factor that changes frequently, whereas temperature generally takes time to fluctuate. Barometric pressure will affect fish as weather patterns change. Low pressure, say during a storm event will generally turn fish negative (lower feeding activity) where the same can be said for extreme high pressure. (lower feeding activity) Changing pressure, the time between weather events, seems to put fish in a positive mood where feeding can be very active.
Those factors, temperature and barometric pressure, may be the two most important clues in your lure presentation on a day to day basis. So, how does this dictate how you present your lures? Great question. First and foremost, it helps to be in a high percentage area where you can confidently throw baits. Areas where you’ve caught fish in the past or areas whose structure indicates a higher percentage of fish location is the best place to start (see Fishing A New Lake for more on this). You can then consider bait presentation and the “HOW” to get the fish to eat.
Power fishing. Power fishing is defined simply as fishing fast. Choosing baits that make a lot of commotion, push a lot of water, are quickly retrieved or create a lot of vibration, will most likely result in a strike if the fish are in a positive mood. Baits such as spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, topwater baits, swimbaits or topraiders are good examples. Powerfishing will draw out the most aggressive fish in the system. These fish are generally apt to attack during pressure changes and when they are in their optimal temperature range. But those conditions aren’t always presented to us as anglers. So, when things turn negative, how do you adapt?
Slow things down or fish “finesse”. Finesse fishing can be achieved simply by slowing down your crank rate on power fishing baits or changing your bait style to a slower designed finesse system. Slowing down your retrieve 1) allows the baits to run deeper in the water column and 2) puts the bait in the fish’s strike zone longer. This will allow fish to consider a strike, or if the metabolism of the fish is negative, move at its preferred pace to eat. Lures to consider in the finesse category could be any suspending bait, such as suspending jerkbaits, plugs or a dropshot technique. Finesse tubes or worms and Texas rigged soft plastics are also a great bet to name a few. Baits that can be paused and still retain their intended purpose, ie remain in the strike zone are ideal.
Taking a minute to understand your surrounding area, the conditions that the water body is offering and a basic understanding of the habits of the fish you’re targeting. Experimentation is the key.