If the fish are shallow we're going to get the bait away from the boat. If we're running a live-bait rig we don't present it vertically, but run it out 50 or 60 feet behind the boat. If we're jigging we're going to cast the lure to get it out away from the boat.
If the fish are deep we can take a more vertical approach and use heavier sinkers or jigs. Sonars become a very important factor when chasing deep fish because now you can easily spot the fish and the forage and target those areas.
If the fish are spread out, we will incorporate techniques that allow us to cover more water and target fish that are here and there. We might use a heavy bottom bouncer and spinner setup or troll crankbaits.
If the fish are concentrated on deep structure a vertical jigging approach is the best option, or consider a live-bait rig with a heavy sinker positioned right under the boat. Boat control is going to become a factor when targeting concentrated fish. If it's too windy to maintain position with your gas or electric motors then you will have to anchor. When anchoring then another option becomes available, and that is incorporating a slip-bobber.
If the fish are negative then finesse techniques are the direction we go. The slip-bobber we just mentioned is an excellent technique for negative fish. You can position the boat, make it stationary with anchors and dangle a bait in front of the fish until one gets hungry and commits.
Live-bait rigs are a great finesse presentation. Once again you can hang a bait in front of the fish. With the rig you can move slowly and work around and through a spot. You have a little more mobility than you would with the anchor and bobber technique.
If the fish are scattered and negative the bottom bouncer is an excellent choice. Instead of adding a spinner use a plain hook and a leech or nightcrawler. The extra weight of the bottom bouncer lets you move around at a faster clip and keep the bait near the bottom where the fish are.
Feeding fish allow you to become more aggressive in your approach, with bigger blades on the bottom bouncer/spinner rigs. Instead of using live bait tip, your jig or nightcrawler harness with a plastic grub body or an auger-tail worm. Trolling or casting crankbaits works great when the fish are biting.
Troll if the fish are scattered, and cast if you want to strain an area. Once you have answered the initial questions and have discovered which techniques to incorporate into the program then it's time to fine-tune the approach. When jigging you can experiment with color and size. Try a stand-up head instead of a ball-style jighead. Use a bucktail or hair jig instead of one with a rubber body.
When live-bait rigging the snell length is worth experimenting with. On waters that have pressured walleyes or real clear water extend the length of the snell to six or eight feet. When fish are tight to bottom and concentrated then run a shorter snell.
With crankbaits you can really fine-tune your presentation. There are so many body styles, actions, colors, and sizes of crankbaits that your options become endless. Remember a few rules of thumb and start there.
Dirty water, shiny lures. Use real silver-plated lures to ensure flash and don't be afraid to step up a size to create a bigger target.
In clear water match the hatch. If the fish are foraging on shiners use a silver body/black back. If it's a perch forage base use a firetiger pattern.
Make sure your crankbait is diving deep enough. A mistake a lot of anglers make is not getting the bait into the fish. Know where that bait is running and make sure the fish are seeing it.
There is always a reason we choose a particular presentation. It's not because we just like fishing a jig or a rig or a crankbait. The reason we pick a presentation is because that's what's going to catch fish under the conditions we're presented with.
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