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Into the Outdoors: Good decisions with lures can result in some good fishing

Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012 9:16 p.m. CDT

It seems like every time I drive down the road, someone is pulling a boat and heading to the water. Anglers are giddy with spring fever and dreams of bountiful catches. It is true that some of the best fishing of the year can be had in the next few weeks, but where does an angler even begin?

The right lure selection is important to unlocking the mysteries of the springtime. Fish will be bunched up in large groups as they move from deep water haunts to shallow areas to build nests and spawn. If you can locate these travel and staging areas, then your odds of having a great day are good. If you can’t find one of these places, then you will most likely spend a lot of time practicing your casting.

A couple of years ago my brother called me from his boat. He was fishing just after the ice had let out on his favorite lake in central Iowa. In fact, some bays on the south side of the lake still had ice on them. He had found a long underwater point that jutted deep into the main lake. He decided the best way to fish that deep was to use a Carolina Rig with a soft plastic lure attached. He was able to quickly and efficiently search that point. Soon he started to catch fish on nearly every cast from 20 to 30 feet of water.

His story is a perfect example of spring fishing. The fish that he had found were stacked up just waiting to take their turn moving up the slope of that point and into shallow water. Once they were in the warmer shallows they would spread out and continue the spawning process. The thing to remember is they used only one major travel route to move up and down from the depths.

There are two different lures that I like to use to find this “fish highway.” The first is a crankbait. There is a wide array of crankbait choices on the market today so you may be wondering which one to choose. It depends on the water that you will be fishing.

On some lakes, the deepest parts are only ten or twelve feet deep. On others, they drop well past 30 feet. Select a lure that will probe the deepest areas you want to search. Stick with natural colors since most of the lakes this time of year are clear. Choose a model that will dig into the bottom and create a ruckus. For example, if the bottom depth is 10 feet, choose a lure that will run 12-15 feet. This will help the lure maintain contact with the bottom and give you a good feel for what is happening.

If you need to fish a depth of greater than 15 feet, then a Carolina Rig is a great option. If you are not sure how to set this up, just do an Internet search and you will find numerous sites that show you how to tie this rig. It is real simple once you practice it once or twice. Attach you favorite soft plastic to the rig and you are ready to search just like you would with the crankbait.

As you fish either of these, a crankbait or a Carolina Rig, make sure that you are consciously searching for fish. In other words, don’t make repeated casts in the same place. Probe the structure you are fishing from multiple angles and at different depths until you get a bite.

Once you catch that first fish, try to repeat the cast at the same angle with the same presentation. There is a good chance that you will catch multiple fish from that one spot. My personal best is around 15 fish from one little area. If you are using a deep crankbait and the bite finally stops, switch over to a Carolina Rig. Odds are you will continue to catch fish again.

Certain species will congregate according to year class. In other words, fish will tend to hang around other fish about their same size and age. Smallmouth bass are especially notorious for this character trait. If you are lucky enough to get on a big bite, be prepared for one of the best fishing days you might have ever had.

Fishing is much more than random luck. Prepare yourself with a strategy and a plan. Choose the right tools for the job and try to learn something each time you head out. After a while you will find that you just happen to be “lucky” more often.

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