Photo by Bill Lindner
Article by Dave Csanda
Here’s a little tip for your spring fishing that applies to nearly every species you might pursue: slide, glide and suspend!
Sounds a bit weird? Well, guess again.
One universal theme for cool-water spring conditions is to avoid presentations that feature dramatic vertical movements, such as heavier lures with fast-dropping descents. Instead, incorporate retrieves or tactics that either suspend lures or baits in place, or impart slow, horizontal, swimming or gliding movements to them.
Fact is, most species of fish don’t respond well at this time of year to baits that drop quickly to the bottom. Yet hover something before their eyes, and their interest levels rise. Swim it slowly past their noses, and they’re likely to follow. Race it past or below them, however, and they may not react in the slightest.
Obviously, suspending a small jig or baited hook below a bobber is a prime panfish tactic in spring. It’s about as subtle, simple and slow as you can go, giving fish time to examine and react to your bait.
For largemouth bass, try slow-rolling a spinnerbait through the shallows, bumping cover occasionally, but minimizing the dramatic pause-and-flutter that works so well later in the season. Steady as you go.
For big pike, slowly swim a wiggling crankbait through the shallows, perhaps allowing a buoyant lure to barely kiss or occasionally break the surface, creating a distinct “V” or wake atop the water. When a bigger wake targets, intercepts and inhales the smaller V, set the hook!
And don’t even get me started on flyfishing with streamers for pike! it’s oh-so-deadly, you’ll never believe it until you experience it for yourself.
For walleyes, use a fairly slow and modest, pause-and-hover retrieve with neutrally buoyant crankbaits like a subtle-wiggling Husky Jerk.
For smallies, try a slightly more aggressive set of twitches and pauses with an X-Rap, which inherently features a bit more side- to-side action. But again, don’t overdo it in spring. Save the savage, rapid twitches for the warmer water of summer, making your lure stand out amidst surrounding schools of plentiful baitfish.
In spring, cast and swim a lightweight, 1/16- to 1/8-ounce jig through the shallows for walleyes, gliding your jig across and occasionally kissing shallow rocks, rather than using the distinctive up/down motion that comes when using a heavier jig. Slide and glide, rather than rise and fall.
Obviously, there are exceptions. But if you err on the subtler side, at least to begin, you’re in the game. You can always pick up the pace and impart more dramatic vertical movements to your lures if slow and simple doesn’t produce.
Once the water warms into summer, however, be prepared to do just the opposite. Extreme speeds and directional changes produce savage strikes in warmer water. Even for walleyes.
But until then, keep things relatively small, subtle and simple…and slide, glide or suspend them for best results.