Jensen column: With spring fishing challenges, keep your options open for early-season success

Bob Jensen, Fishing the Midwest
Special to the Ames Tribune

The early part of the open-water fishing season can bring catching challenges.

There are influences beyond an angler’s control that make the catching part of fishing a little more difficult sometimes.

Changing weather in the early season certainly affects the catching. One day it can be 70 degrees while the next day it’s snowing. Those conditions don’t make fish hungry. Different species of fish spawning at different times can also slow the bite a bit.

However, there are some things that an angler can do to improve the catching. Following are partial details of three early-season fishing trips of which I’ve been a part of. By keeping our options open, my boat partners and I were able to convert difficult fishing days into very good ones.

We were fishing Rainy Lake on the Minnesota-Ontario, Canada, border. It was shortly after the walleye opener. We wanted to catch walleyes, but reports indicated that walleye fishing had been tough.

Most of them were being caught in bays near where they had spawned or were still spawning. A jig/minnow combination is a productive way to catch walleyes early in the year, so that is how we started with not much success.

We backtrolled shallow drop-offs near the spawning areas with live-bait rigs. Again, nothing. We then trolled the same areas with crankbaits. We thought that if we covered enough water we could surely find some biters. We were wrong.

As a last idea, we started casting suspending jerkbaits, KVD-style baits, to rocky points at the mouths of the spawning bays. Still no walleyes, but boy did the northern pike like these baits. Most of them were 6- to 10-pounders with a couple of 12-pounders thrown in. Our lack of walleye success turned into a memorable northern pike day.

Another early-season walleye attempt occurred on opening day for walleyes in Wisconsin. The walleyes again didn’t want to get caught, and we just wanted to catch something.

After exhausting all our walleye efforts, we saw a large stand of rushes in a nearby bay and decided to investigate. With some slip-bobbers and small Mr. Crappie-style Tubes underneath, we caught a bunch of nice crappies. They weren’t really big ones, but they were nice ones. A change to our fishing plans resulted in a good crappie catch instead of a no walleye catch.

One time Mike Frisch and I were fishing largemouth bass near Alexandria, Minnesota, shortly after the state’s bass opener. In the Alexandria area sometimes, the biggest challenge to catching bass is deciding on which lake to start. The area is home to dozens of outstanding lakes.

We made our choice and started working a shallow bay in search of a bite. We caught some, but the action wasn’t as fast as we expected it to be. We continued to cast spinnerbaits, buzz-baits, weedless jigs, topwater baits and plastics to the shoreline. We cast to the shoreline because that’s where the bass usually are at this time of year.

In a couple of hours of fishing, we had little to show for our efforts. For some reason, one of us cast a weightless Shim-E-Stick-type plastic toward the middle of the bay. Almost immediately there was a bass in the boat.

Another cast toward the middle of the bay and another bass. This continued for the rest of the day. For some reason, the bass had pulled off their shoreline locations and relocated in slightly deeper water for a brief time. The next week they had almost completely vacated that bay.

On your next early season fishing trip, if the fish aren’t eating what you’re using, or if they’re not where you’re fishing, try something else or somewhere else. Actually, that’s good advice whenever you go fishing.

To see new and old episodes of “Fishing the Midwest” television, fishing articles and fishing videos, go to www.fishingthemidwest.com.