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Brad Laabs: Fish like chasing fast bait; Make your presentation match

As water temperatures start to warm, our lake and river systems continue to increase the availability of food for the game fish we pursue. We have recently experienced the new young of the year perch hatch, and some lakes have already started (and stopped, and they will start again!) bug hatches of various kinds. We will see an explosion of available baitfish with the hatch of sunfish and crappies. This changes the location and habits of fish you are chasing. Figure out and find the food source, and you can find your fish.

It is extremely helpful to “match the hatch.” If your fish are feeding on two inch perch minnows, fishing for them with five inch minnows may catch you a fish or two, but matching the size might help you catch many more. In this example, sometimes the type of minnow isn’t as important as matching the size.

The other consideration other than location with the transition to our warm water period, is changing some of the techniques that may help pry fish from the lake. Game fish will be in the habit now of needing to chase down some of the baitfish coming into the system. Many anglers will change to covering more water and moving with faster presentations. Some of these will include casting, trolling, or jigging crank baits; casting high action plastic baits such as paddle tails and twister tails; throwing spinner baits, jigging spoons, and weight forward spinners; and trolling spinners tipped with baits such as leeches, crawlers, minnows or plastics.

Bottom bouncers have long been popular for being able to get baits deep, move fast and carry a variety of payloads. They can have a leader that can have a spinner harness, hook and bait, floating jig head or a crank bait. Bottom bouncers have their place, but are not the only way to carry the cargo you want to pull around the lake. They also have some limitations, such as in current situations or snaggy areas of deadfall wood or heavy weeds.

Another alternative to the bottom bouncer is switching to the extremely flexible and adaptable “three-way rig.” A three way rig consists of a three-way swivel that will attach to your main line, with the other loops attaching to the leader line (that can have a spinner, crank, hook, or floating jig head at the business end), and a dropper line that can be any length you desire to have and whatever weight is needed for depth and speed control. It is always a good idea to have the “dropper line” be of lighter weight line so if you do get hung up on rocks or stumps, you can pull it free and just replace the drop line. By attaching crank bait clips to both ends of the dropper, lengths and weights can be changed quickly.

Another adaptation is to use two barrel swivels instead of a three-way swivel. The advantage with this variation is you can make a sliding three-way so the line can be dropped to finicky biters. Slide one barrel swivel onto the main line and tie on the other swivel, put the dropper line on the barrel swivel that can slide up and down the line, and attach your leader line to the barrel swivel you attached to the main line.

These rigs fish great in rivers with current, and work extremely well when working snag filled structure. With three-way rigs, you have many options to customize your approach to fit the situation you are fishing. They can even be used in a vertical presentation as a variation to the “drop shot” presentation popularized by tournament bass professionals (who stole the old river walleye “miller rig” technique and re-adapted it).

Almost all presentations have the same goal — put the presentation in the feeding zone to give it a chance to be attacked or eaten. Find ‘em, feed ‘em, catch ‘em and either eat ‘em or release ‘em! Sounds so easy doesn’t it? The reality is you can only give it your best shot every day you get out. Some days are catching days and some days are fishing days. Enjoy them all.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)