Read these 10 When the Bite is Tough 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.
When walleyes aren't biting in deep water, try looking shallow. Turbid water, windswept shorelines and low-light conditions allow them to move up surprisingly close to shore. One walleye tournament was won by an angler who fished right along the edge of cattle that had waded out into the lake and muddied the water.
Though walleyes spend the majority of their time in the depths they can occasionally be taken on small crankbaits along shoreline cover. Walleyes can see better than preyfish under the cover of darkness or poor water conditions and will chase them right up onto the shoreline. Nearby weeds, rocks and woody cover that attract minnows will also bring in the walleyes.
Small jigs tipped with minnows and crankbaits will take shallow-feeding walleyes.
The "water wolf" generally needs little encourage to slash a bait. Razor-sharp teeth allow pike to eat fish measuring up to a third of their own length. But northerns aren't always this eager. Finessing a pike can be the only way you'll get one to bite on some days.
Hook a soft plastic shad body onto a heavy hook. The shad body looks a lot like the real thing and can fished along weed bed edges, under lily pads and in other prime pike territory. A slower than normal retrieve can attract pike who aren't even interested in eating. Maybe that's why they're called the "water wolf."
Largemouths are popular but often difficult to catch. These fish are eager biters during low-light periods when anglers are plying the lily pads, rocks and fallen trees are in shallow water.
But when the largemouth bite is tough, it's tough. Try plastic worms with a thin shank hook through the middle or near one end. Drop the worm into heavy weeds, submerged tree limbs and other heavy cover where uninterested bass typically lie. A gentle movement vertically or slow drag across weedtops and rocks can produce some outstanding action.
An underutilized method that works quite well is to use an old lure in a new way. Bob a shallow-running crankbait on the top like a helpless minnow or give your crankbait an unusual stop-and-go movement to imitate a skittish preyfish. Bass are more likely to fall for a tactic they've never seen over a bait that's commonly seen.
Colors matter in the underwater world. When fish are turned off and aren't interested in angler offerings, it's time to rely on natural colors and patterns in green, brown and silver. Your bait should look as lifelike as possible.
Leave your clown, red-and-white and flashy baits in the tacklebox. A natural-colored bait will present a realistic impression that fish are less likely to shy away from.
Some anglers swear by red. A red bait is hardly realistic and probably catches more fish due to the lure's action rather than its color.
Finesse fishing is the art of using scaled down baits with minimal action to entice fish when the bite is tough. Whether from cold fronts, temperature extremes or overabundant forage, fishing can slow down to where finesse baits are the only option.
The goal is to present a snack that is easily caught and killed. To most fish, a small plastic worm or grub is just the ticket.
Hook the bait onto a small hook and let it sink with minimal weight into woody cover, submerged vegetation or any cover that looks likely to hold fish. Use a thin line, light-action rod and reel and have lots of patience. Bait movement is no more than an occasional quiver or drift, the optimal condition for an uninterested fish. Use finesse tactics when more commonly used baits just aren't getting hit.
Crappie basics almost always involves finesse. When the bite is tough, crappie anglers are only getting started.
Tiny, glowing jigheads tipped with a minnow seem to present an impossible temptation to crappies. These fish will spook easily so retrieve the jig slowly and deliberately. Another way to catch crappies when the bite is tough is to use a plain fathead minnow under a bobber. Let the minnow run free within limits and try to keep it out of the cover where crappies can see it.
Carp don't get the respect they deserve. As a matter of fact, carp are fairly intelligent and may take some finesse to overcome their spooky nature.
When carp are choosy, try a doughball with cheese. Drop the bait near shoreline in several feet of water. Use an open-faced reel with the bail open so that when the fish picks up the bait it won't feel any pressure and drop the bait.
Muskies will make you mad. They respond only to artificial baits when they feel like it and leave anglers sore from the day's casting and frustrated at the lack of a fish.
Similar to northern pike, muskies take eating very seriously though they are far more selective than pike. Try a 5- to 6-inch shad body or grub on a half-ounce jighead to entice unwilling biters. The plastic body is supple and lifelike, giving muskies what they're looking for.
Channel cats are generally expected to take chicken livers, doughballs and stinkbaits without a complaint. This isn't so for larger individuals and anglers have to adjust in order to take them.
Try moving your bait every 10 to 15 minutes to help cats follow the scent in. By retrieving your bait about 10 yards every few minutes is a good to expose your bait. Catfish will search for food and be more likely to track and find it if its moving around a bit. A scent trail extends over a longer distance and interested channel cats can easily home in on the source.
Big bull bluegills can be a challenge. You'll find the little guys by dropping a worm under a bobber but unless the big boys are on the beds in the springtime, you'll have to go deep for them.
Bluegills are structure related in deep water though they'll roam to chase food. Zooplankton are microscopic organisms that even 10- to 11-inch fish will eat and are an important reason bluegills will move out into the open water.
Try small larval baits along deep weed edges when the bite is tough. Use a slip bobber and don't be afraid to go down as far as 15 or 20 feet during the hot summer afternoons. Big bluegills will be underneath their smaller counterparts and you'll have to fish below the little ones to get to them.