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Brad Laabs column: Best lake? Best time to fish? No easy answers

This week I will try to answer some questions that I get asked by customers frequently. It is amazing how many times the same questions come up from people with different background and walks of life, and different parts of the country.

One of the most-asked questions is: "Which is better fishing, the mornings or the evenings?" A great question with no simple one-word answer. Fishing success probably has more to do with weather and conditions rather than mornings or evenings. Did a cold front roll in overnight? Is it clear or cloudy? Do we have wind or calm? All these factors can make more of a difference than morning or evening.

With walleyes, the first couple hours in the morning may be better than the later morning and the last couple hours in the evening may be better than early evening due to the angle of the sun and the amount of light penetration.

Some locations on lakes can be good morning spots, and some can be good evening locations. Some feeding shelves may be good both early and late. So it is sometimes mornings, sometimes evenings, sometimes night, sometimes both morning and evenings, and sometimes neither!

Lakes have different personalities and develop reputations based on history. Some will have a reputation as a morning lake, some a day lake or "banker hour lake" (like Mille Lakes and Lake of the Woods), some an evening lake, and others a night lake (like Cormorant and Little McDonald locally). Get out and fish when you can and make the best of that time.

Another very common question is: "What is your favorite lake to fish?" I find this question extremely difficult to answer. My favorite lake(s) change from week to week, month to month, and sometimes from season to season depending on issues like forage base, boat traffic, strong or weak year classes (of specific species) of fish, weekday or weekend, time of the season, and other factors.

I have not met too many lakes I don't like—there are only a few in the 412 Lakes area. It is also hard to answer that question, as it is hard to know if we are talking about local lakes, lakes around the state, or lakes around the country I have been fortunate enough to fish. Just no simple answers.

I even have favorites when it comes to different techniques. If we are talking about pitching jigs or crankbaits—Pool 4. If we are talking rigging—Mille Lacs. When it comes to pulling spinners or cranks—Big/Little Bays DeNoc, Lake Winnebago. Vertical jigging—Rainy River in March/April/October. Rip jigging—Winni or Ottertail. See what I mean? Just no easy answer!

A newer regular question is: "Which is better, artificial or live bait?" I usually answer "Yes." As that is not an easy one to answer either. Learning to use both is the best bet, as sometimes artificial outperforms, and sometimes live bait rules the day. One of the important factors is fishing with confidence in what you are using.

Practicing with both helps build confidence in both. I am more of a live bait guy that has used artificials for many years in certain situations, and anglers from my generation are probably more of that mindset, until more confidence is gained with artificial bait. Some of the younger generation of anglers have been introduced early to the artificial scene and develop confidence, and are more likely to leave the dock for most trips with no live bait. I think having both gives the best options.

Another frequently asked question is: "When is the best time of year to fish?" My first response is "June and October." Then I pause and say "No, not really. The best time to get out is when it works for you and the people you want to fish with." The best way to answer your questions is to keep getting out and experiencing fishing and answer all your questions for yourself. There are just no easy answers when it comes to fishing!

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