10 Tips for Better Fishing Success

By Nick Johnson

As fishermen there is a whole slew of things to consider in terms of fishing success. Things like gear, location, weather, presentations, just to name a few. At the end of the day the list could be a mile long and that’s a lot for one person to worry about when most of us ultimately are just looking to get outside, unwind and if we are lucky, catch a good bite.

Some of the tips I would like to discuss have nothing to do with actually catching fish. Preparedness goes a long way and I cannot tell you how many times I have been fishing when something goes awry and if I had just brought a few essential items my trip would not have been cut short. These aren’t going to be the end-all-be-all for great fishing success. More so a consideration to make the outing enjoyable and without worry.

1. Preparation
Preparation in my eyes is one of the most critical aspects especially when venturing out onto new water or taking a trip somewhere. When I take trips I like to make a check list days ahead of time to ensure I have everything I need. Things like a flashlight or spotlight, lake map, knife, pliers etc… Some of these items sound simple but there have been many times where I forget to bring something I used on a different outing that I left in a different bag or on my work bench.

Planning ahead doesn’t just mean having essential gear, it also means making sure the gear is in good shape. Each summer I generally take two big fishing trips whether that means the Iowa Great Lakes, Minnesota, or Canada and I like to sit down and go through the tackle, sharpen hooks, grease reels and check the condition of the line. This gives me confidence and peace of mind, knowing that I am prepared for the adventure.

Planning ahead can also be a little simpler such as getting stuff ready the day or night before you intend to fish, rather than last minute before you head out. This is usually when I leave something behind. Just this past summer I went to go catfishing at the river and left all my tackle at home because I was in a hurry. Look ahead at the weather too. Just knowing what Mother Nature feels like dishing out can dictate what clothes to wear, sunscreen to bring, and even a gauge on fish activity.

2. Change Your Line
I am a devout advocate of keeping good line on my reels, more specifically my reels with mono or fluorocarbon. Your line is the critical link between you and the fish and old or worn out line can make for a gamble with any aquatic beast. Monofilament line especially deteriorates rapidly with age and gets that famous slinky-like memory I’m sure most of you reading this have experienced.

You can get away with running the same braid on a reel for multiple seasons so long as you don’t let it sit in the sun often but I generally like to change out my mono at least once a summer. The more you fish and retie lures or get abrasions from rocks and wood the more often this will need to take place to keep a fresh spool.

I’ll never forget one time in Minnesota when I was about 14 years old. I was throwing a crankbait on a spinning rod with 8 lb mono and I had about one third of my spool left. Something crushed my bait which I am guessing was a decent pike and tore off. About the time my drag started to slow the fish my spool ran out and the fish was lost. Since then I vowed to spend the extra $10 for a new spool any time my line got low or old.

3. Weather
Weather is a big topic when it comes to fishing and it definitely weighs heavily on

fish behavior. Keep an eye on the forecast ahead of time and cater your approach to what the weather dishes out. This doesn’t just mean sun or rain, this also means pressure and temperature. Naturally fish behavior during a low pressure front will be a little more aggressive whereas during a high pressure front you may need to fish slower and in more finesse styles.

Some species during very hot weather may be more active during the morning or evening. Many species will move deeper. If you know the species you want to target, a simple Google search about that fish during the expected weather pattern can tell you a lot. For example: You could search “fishing walleyes during hot spring weather” and you will likely get some good info off the net to start with.

4. Local Reports
This is often a great way to gain insight on what is biting and sometimes even specific locations. Browsing forums like www.iowasportsman.com or calling local bait shops can reveal a lot of information. I find this very helpful when traveling to locations I have never fished or haven’t fished in a while. You can often expect to gather intel such as what the fish are biting on, what time of day, and what depths but don’t expect specific locations to be handed out at will. Part of the beauty of fishing is finding that hot bite on your own!

5. Switch Species
This is something I do quite a bit and you can turn a slow day on the water into a great day just by catering to a different species of fish. Sometimes this means targeting a less than favorable species but tight lines can be better than nothing. Many times when fishing catfish in the river I’ll bring a can of corn or box of worms to switch over to carp and suckers if the catfishing is slow. Other times when fishing for crappie or walleye I will transition to bass and bluegill during periods of the day when their feeding behavior slows down. Be agile and willing to switch things up especially when taking kids.

6. Use the Internet
With our growing age of technology it becomes easier and easier for fisherman to gain knowledge of their target species without wetting a line. I spend a lot of time watching videos on YouTube from some of my favorite shows around the Midwest and browsing fishing reports. I also like to look at the Iowa DNR website and check out their fish surveys and reports from new bodies of water I want to fish. The internet lets you explore weather patterns, examine lake maps, and find a wealth of knowledge.

7. Have Good Eyewear
Not only will a good pair of sunglasses protect your eyes from UV light and bright sun, they also aid you in fishing especially when sight fishing. It’s rare that I ever go fishing without polarized glasses. The polarization helps cut the glare on the water surface enabling you to see into the water or watch your line with greater ease. I find this very helpful when fishing clear water in lakes and streams and being able to watch your lure along with a fish’s strike. They also help to locate submerged structure and things like bluegill spawning beds or patches of aquatic vegetation.

8. Keep Safety In Mind
Fishing is not a dangerous sport per se but there are always dangers associated with it just like anything else we do. A hook impaled somewhere, a bee sting, tooth rash from a walleye or pike, sunburn, drowning and many more. This ties into preparation and bringing a few extra items with you, especially if bringing kids can be very important. Make sure a loved one or friend knows where you intend to fish before you head out in case the unthinkable happens.

Carrying bandaids and antiseptic ointment in your tackle box is easy. Always have sunscreen available. If you are boating make sure there are enough life jackets and a throw pillow available and keep the little ones in a life jacket. Keep a chunk of heavy mono or braid wrapped up in case you need to pull a deeply imbedded hook out backwards. These are all simple things that can be overlooked and make a huge difference when the wrong things occur.

9. Utilize Electronics
Whether you are ice fishing or fishing from a boat, having good electronics like sonar units and flashers can make a world of difference in fishing success. They all come at a price but the advancements in fishing electronics nowadays not only make finding fish easier, they make it more fun! I don’t personally own a boat at the moment so I don’t have electronics for open water but a few of my friends do and we use them often. Even in rivers for locating mid channel submerged trees or depth breaks. My friend Jarred has a Humminbird side imager on his river boat and we use it a lot when chasing flatheads to find river pinch points and rocky cobble in deeper water not visible on the surface.

10. Don’t Give Up Easily
It’s easy for some of us to give up when the fishing becomes slow. I have found that sticking it out unless the weather determines otherwise can reward the patient angler. Muskie anglers know this well as the fish of 1,000 casts isn’t something that just happens on a frequent basis. Fishing is still fishing and depending on weather, fish mood, water condition and time of year the fishing might be slower than we hope for. Keep a patient attitude and don’t be afraid to try new things. Try a different species maybe, fish deeper or shallower, fish slower, fish faster and more erratic. Cruise around for a while with the sonar on and try to find a school of fish. Load up and hit a new lake, pond or river.

Keeping the topics discussed in mind will most certainly aid in a more enjoyable time on the water. There are many other things that contribute to fishing success but these are a few that I hold in high regard when hitting the water. Good luck this season!