By: Carrie Cates
Preparing for a day of fishing, a weekend trip or a tournament is one of the most exciting and challenging parts of the journey before you get on the water. A wise angler knows their tackle box will change from season to season and from one body of water to the next. Figuring out what to take and how much can become overwhelming very quickly. Stop and take a deep breath. Don’t overthink it!
First thing you need to do is research the body of water you are about to fish. This is what I consider to be the most important step in preparation. Search for any contour maps available. Paper maps seem to be a declining source of information but I always look to these as essential tools. In the event your fish finder fails, you don’t have one or you don’t have a signal on your cellphone, you can use the map to figure out where you are, the layout of the water and be able to dissect parts of the lake or river most likely to hold fish. Google Earth, Navionics and fishing apps will guide you to key points of interest such as structure, seasonal water level trends and bottom composition.
Next, take the knowledge you’ve gained and apply it to selecting lures that will be productive for that particular body of water. Are you fishing a deep clear lake, a muddy tidal river system or a backyard pond with emergent vegetation? Narrowing down and picking the lures that work best in whatever scenario you’re faced with will make things go easier for you. Experimenting with a lure that you have never tried or would not think to throw is fine but if it becomes an obstacle that keeps you from fishing at your best and ruins your time on the water; it’s best to leave it at home and go for the tried and true. Bring no more equipment than you can carry especially if you are hiking or kayaking to that area. The worst thing you can do is bog yourself down needlessly with gear you may never use. It’s a good thing to be a versatile fisherman but better to be a fisherman with the ability of understanding the area you’re fishing and having selected the right tools.
Sound is magnified in water. In places where the water clarity is greatly reduced, lures with rattles or blades or a larger profile are a good choice. Clear to lightly stained water requires more finesse. Smaller baits, natural forage-imitating lures and ones with subtle action work best. These are general guidelines. Adjustments can always be made once you get on the water and visualize what conditions you are dealing with. Pay close attention to weather forecasts before, during and after your trip. Weather conditions influence fish activity considerably. Knowing the weather trending in that area will help you figure out where the fish are congregating and in what section of the water column.
If you are just starting out with a small amount of tackle, bring what you have. When you begin figuring out what works where you are fishing, add a bit at a time. If you have a garage or storage unit full, you can begin customizing kits that work for specific lakes, rivers and ponds you frequently fish at. Those will be your best tackle boxes! There is no one size fits all in fishing.
Good luck and tight lines!