Fishing a moving target

Assuming I’m correct about fish movements, how do we take that information and use it to our advantage? The best way to answer that question is to look at a couple of common scenarios.

Let’s say you were on the lake last Saturday and you caught a ton of big ones at the end of a point about a quarter-mile from a big creek that winds into shallow water. It’s October. We can figure that in most parts of the country the water has cooled at least a few degrees in seven days. That means the forage has probably moved into the creek, or at least towards it.

Common sense says that our smallies are close by. They’re never far from their food source. We don’t have to hunt all over for them. We know to stay on the same bank and move towards the creek. It won’t take us long to find them.

If you were catching little ones for fun and want some more of that we know not to move too far from where we were last Saturday. We can look for forage in the immediate area. It’s unlikely that small smallmouth moved a quarter-mile into the creek.

We can follow the same thinking process if we have conditioned smallmouth. Maybe you have several days off work and plan to spend them fishing. You caught the daylights out of them all yesterday afternoon walking a Zara Spook. As time passed, however, the bites were harder and harder to come by, and the ones you did get were somewhat hesitant. Today you can’t buy a bite. You suspect that your fish have become conditioned to your favorite Spook.

Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind is to change lures. But what if that doesn’t work? Maybe a walking stick on top is the deal. That’s what they want. The problem is that you educated the fish yesterday and they haven’t forgotten their lessons. You need fresh fish.

Based on what we’ve been talking about you might want to go across the lake and look for a similar area. The fish are probably acting the same all over the lake but you need ones that haven’t seen a Spook since last spring. It doesn’t make sense to move up or down last week’s bank and still throw a Spook. We know it’s the same fish.

Now, I want to make one thing clear at this point. I’m talking in general terms here. Not all the fish on one bank are in one group, and they can’t be considered the same fish. Sometimes you’ll find new smallmouth bass by moving along on the same bank. They might be in loose groups or they might be loners.

How to tell the difference is as much art as it is science. Three things that I rely on to distinguish between groups are size, color and fisherman’s intuition. We’ll talk more about them in a later column.

Next time we’ll talk about how to marry forage movement with smallmouth movement.