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Frequently asked fishing questions

Fishing the Midwest

River expert Jim Hunt caught this Mississippi River walleye on a long, thin crankbait.

Since the 1980’s, I’ve done lots of fishing seminars at sport shows and for outdoor clubs and fishing tackle retailers. It’s been way over a year since I did my last fishing seminar. Gatherings like those got shut down in early 2020 and haven’t really started up again yet. I have fond memories of those seminars. First of all, it was just fun to hang out with people who liked to go fishing. However, these events were also good opportunities to share fishing information, and boy is there a lot of fishing information to share. Some of the things that we talked about at those gatherings maybe weren’t even fishing related, but they were fun and informative nonetheless. Wherever the gathering of anglers took place, many of the questions were the same. North or south, walleyes, bass, panfish, or whatever, there are a good number of similar questions that apply to almost all fishing situations. Following are some of the most frequently discussed topics pertaining to fishing that came up at those fishing events.

The question that I think came up the most was “How do I decide where in a body of water do I start fishing”? That’s an outstanding question, and in my mind the most important factor in fishing success. We can have the best equipment, and we can be fishing from a boat with the newest electronics and the fastest motor, but if we aren’t fishing where the fish are, we’re not going to catch’em. It truly is that simple: Before you catch’em, you’ve gotta find’em.

My response to this question is the same every time. Early in the year, when the fish are getting ready to spawn, are spawning, or have just finished spawning, they’ll usually be closer to shore than they will be later in the year. Not always, but almost always.

The rest of the year, after they’ve recovered from the spawning ritual, they’ll be wherever the food is. If they’re eating shad, they’ll be near shad. If they’re eating shiners, they’ll be where the shiners are. Find their food and you’ll find the fish.

The second most asked question relates to color: Do I have a favorite color, and does color matter? My response is that I believe that color is an important consideration much of the time, but it’s only one consideration. Lure shape, size, and speed are also equally important things to think about when selecting a bait.

I like smaller baits in the spring, larger baits in the summer and fall.

Longer, thinner baits seem to work better for longer, thinner fish like walleyes, pike and muskies. Shorter, fatter baits seem to appeal to largemouth bass better. Smallmouth bass like to eat crankbaits of any shape, but I know that I’ve caught more smallmouth on long, thin baits. Smallmouth bass just like to eat. I’ve caught many, many walleyes on short, fat baits, and lots of largemouth on long, thin baits. But if I was limited to one crankbait shape for walleyes it would be long and thin, something like a Lucky Shad. If I could only use one crankbait shape for largemouth bass it would be short and fat. A Pro Model XD shape is tough to beat.

In the spring, a slower presentation is usually better. In the summer you can go faster, and in the fall you can go faster than you would in the spring but usually not as fast as in the summer.

I used to get lots of other really good questions at these events, and many of the same questions still come up whenever anglers gather at the boat ramp or any other place where anglers gather. Some I can answer pretty confidently, some not as much. And that’s one of the many fun parts of fishing. Just when we think that we’ve got the fish figured out, they do something that we don’t expect.

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