Cover the Water

By Nick Simonson

When afforded the opportunity, accessing an entire lake, stretch of river, or impoundment provides the greatest clarity on where fish are, what they’re up to, and how they’re biting.  While sometimes we’re limited by time, access, and terrain; a boat or a fishing trail around many angling destinations opens things up, and when that is the case, covering the water with a variety of strategies can pay off with fast fishing and greater insight into the seasonal movements of fish. What follows are some water-covering techniques to get the most out of an outing and catch more fish once they are located.

Trolling Time

Late spring and early summer are ideal times to troll for fish, particularly walleyes, but the tactic can be applied to many species including pike and muskies.  Trolling is the simple act of setting a lure out behind the boat and letting it do its thing.  While trolling, make note of the depths at which fish are appearing on the sonar and of those places where the offering connects with active biters.  Whether utilizing a live-bait setup such as a slow-death rig or a standard crawler harness trolled a bit faster, or pulling spoons for pike or crankbaits for walleyes, trolling helps whittle down the depths at which fish seem to be most active and isolates those stretches where they are schooling.  From there, as will be addressed later, anglers can focus their presentation and convert fish faster instead of going back-and-forth.

A Big Fan

I’ve walked my share of springtime shorelines, picking up a sampling of wood ticks and the occasional spattering of poison ivy to start off summer.  Those are some of the seasonal risks that come with such an adventure, but the rewards have been some very memorable outings for both largemouth bass and walleyes.   From the reverse angle, I’ve completed a tour of many small waters fan casting the shallows from the bow of my puddle jumper.  Typically employing active and heavier offerings like jerk baits such as a Rapala Husky Jerk or X-Rap, fan casting involves pausing in a likely spot such as a shallow bay, a jutting point, or along a feeder creek delta, and covering the 240 degrees around the boat from left to right, and if the schedule allows, back over it one more time before moving on if nothing hits.

Fan casting allows for precise placement of lures, the ability to work them at varied speeds and cadences and to throw off long bombs that also help cover the water, ruling out less productive areas and finding where fish – particularly springtime bass – are holding.  Diving crankbaits can help get deeper in the water column and counting down offerings like spinnerbaits will locate both bronzebacks and largemouths that might be lurking in the depths.  Utilize the tactic too for staging spring crappies, pulling flashier spinner-style jigs like a Roadrunner or Beetle Spin.

Small jigs with spinners can help cover water for crappies, and can be slowed or switched out if they want something different. Simonson Photo.

Target Market

Whether via a few successful trolling passes, or the pick-up of a fish or two on a piece of structure or shift in depth nailed down from a fan casting session, it becomes easier to commit to a spot and find greater success.  Often, what attracts a couple walleyes, bass or crappies to an area likely brings in others that hold in the same place, or nearby.  Once contact is made, consider focusing on the spot-on-a-spot with a more direct offering such as a jig-and-minnow for walleyes, a slow-moving plastic for bass, or a tiny tube for crappies. By covering the water and homing in on the area holding fish, presentations can get more precise and hooksets become more frequent.

This spring as waters warm and fish get more active and start slipping into their summer feeding patterns, utilize the one-two punch of covering water quickly via trolling and fan casting to determine their location before focusing in on those areas where rapid advances make contact.  From there, narrow down the presentation, make it more precise and simply land more fish for a season of success.

Featured Photo: Cornered.  Fan casting baits which can be worked fast or slow, such as a jerkbait like this Rapala XRap, helps cover water and connect with bass. Simonson Photo.

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