Read these 10 Tuning Up Your Tactics Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Fishing tips and hundreds of other topics.
Tuning up your tactics won't matter if you're not fishing where the fish are.
Use a contour map to increase your odds of finding fish. Drop-offs, old creek channels or river beds, tapering points and other breaks and distinct habitat changes hold more fish than nondescript flats and open water.
Pinpoint the best-bet locations on a map before you ever leave home. You can avoid spending time on fish-less areas of the lake by doing a little homework ahead of time.
Most anglers use a steady retrieve when casting or trolling crankbaits. You can add a lot of zest to your bait by pumping it.
As you're reeling in the bait, gently pump the rod tip to improve your lure's action. The break in cadence and slight stop-and-go action is an effective trigger to a following predator. When the bait looks like it's trying to escape, the instinctive response of the predator is to strike.
Use the pumping motion as the lure approaches weedy cover, fallen trees and other fish-holding cover. Get ready for strikes as fish dart out of cover to slam the bait.
Instead of fishing a spinnerbait in the traditional way , try retrieving a Colorado blade spinnerbait rapidly and up high enough to break the surface of the water. This loud, aggressive tactic can draw savage strikes from muskies, pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass.
For added attraction, weave the bait back and forth in a walk-the-dog fashion on the retrieve. The blade splashing and gurgling along on the surface will trigger strikes.
Increase the distance of your casts from the shoreline with a light ocean rod and reel. Surf rods are more expensive than freshwater rods and may be from 7 to 11 feet long, or more, but if you want to get your bait out from shore as far as possible and don't have a boat, it's a tool worth having.
Designed for distance and heavier baits, a surf rod is the ideal choice for casting heavy baits for muskies and stripers from the shoreline.
Use a spreader or line with as many hooks attached as local laws allow. Hook a minnow through the lips on each hook and slowly troll them over a school of perch. Anglers using more than one minnow at a time can catch a perch on every hook when the fish are active.
Fish the entire water column for big cats.with a baited trotline. Tie one end to a tree or a stake on the bank and a weight on the other end of the line large enough to sink it. You'll be covering the bank from the water's surface all the way to the bottom.
Catfish will travel along the bank in the evening and into the night, following the scent of the baits. Having several hooks on the line at different depths makes finding the baits easier and covers fish whether they're shallow or deep.
Pike are aggressive feeders and will hit a soft-plastic shad body or large leech-imitating bait.
Use a jig in the one-half to three-quarters ounce size. Hook the soft plastic bait on and hop the lure along the edge of weed beds, tapering points or woody cover. You can also bang the jighead off rocks and wood to create the kind of commotion that attract these toothy predators.
Bring a supply of plastic baits with you. Northern pike will literally tear a bait up in short order.
Spoons take a variety of gamefish. Smaller spoons can take trout, walleyes and perch while larger spoons regularly tackle pike, muskies and big bass.
Make your spoon even more effective by replacing the treble hook with a large, single hook. Thread on a plastic worm, grub or lizard to add subtle motion and body mass to the presentation. Be careful not to overload the spoon with too much plastic as too large of a plastic trailer will cause the spoon to lose some of its fish-attracting wobble.
Hybrid stripers are notorious for chasing shad and other small fish. Most anglers target them with small crankbaits, in-line spinners and live minnows.
However, seemingly contrary to their active nature, chicken livers on the lake or river bottom can be very effective. Hook a liver and let it sit on the bottom for a while. If you don't get a strike, simply move it to another location.
Bass in heavily pressured waters have seen it all. Few lures produce new action that largemouths haven't seen before.
Try using a floating crankbait as a topwater bait. The manufacturer didn't design it to be used this way but the tactic can work wonders.
Cast the bait to likely looking cover and let it rest for a few seconds. Start tugging on the line, slowly bobbing it up and down as you slowly reel it in. Largemouths drawn to the topwater action tend to slam this bait. You can almost guarantee they've never seen anything like it and you can take bass that have been caught on other tactics.