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Talkin' Fishin' column: Early season fishing tips

Fishing season is quickly approaching: In fact, it's already here in many areas of the Midwest. There are a lot of things an angler can do to increase the chances of getting bit this time of year. Following are some of those things.

Keep in mind that early in the season, when the water is cold, fish generally prefer a slow moving bait. A jig crawled across the bottom with frequent stops will often be what it takes to get a walleye to eat. A stand-up Fire-Ball jig tipped with a minnow is a good choice for this time of year. The stand-up design allows the minnow to stay in sight of the walleye when the jig is sitting still on the bottom.

A smaller bait is usually better in the spring also. Again, the Fire-ball jig with its short-shank hook allows the jig-minnow package to appear smaller. While a jig with a long-shank hook is good when soft baits are being employed, the long shank hook doesn't allow us to get the minnows mouth right up to the jig-head, so the total package is bigger than we want this time of year.

Because we're moving our baits slower this time of year, we want a lower visibility line. Fish can get a better look at slower moving baits, so if you think that line can spook the fish, you'll want to go with a line that's harder for the fish to see. Some anglers prefer four pound test line with jigs in clear water, but six pound test is usually a very good choice. Trilene Sensation is an outstanding jigging line, but if you want the ultimate in invisibility, go with Trilene 100 percent Fluorocarbon.

Panfish are very willing biters early in the year, but again, small, slow moving baits will be most productive. A small jig under a slip-bobber is a great way to catch early season panfish. Remember to set the bobber so the bait will be a little bit above the panfish. Many expert panfish anglers like jigs that are mostly black because there are lots of insect hatches going on this time of year, and most of those insects are black. It's the old match the hatch theory.

If you can, be willing to move to different bodies of water. In the spring, some lakes will warm faster than others. A shallow lake with stained water will warm faster than a deep lake with clear water. The fish in the warmer water will usually be more willing to bite, and we want to be around biting fish.

Last idea. Stay flexible. Unless you've got your heart set on catching a particular species of fish, consider chasing whatever fish species offers the best chances for getting bit. Some species will be more willing to bite than others this time of year. Maybe the walleyes have just got done spawning and aren't real hungry. The odds are good that pike or crappies or bass will be willing to eat your bait. It's a lot more fun to catch a few pike than not catch any walleyes.

(For more fish-catching information, visit