Strike zones: The most misunderstood facet of freshwater fishing?
After our lure or live-bait presentation, strikes zones may be the most important facet of successful fishing. Yet we rarely talk about them! We need to understand strike zones before we fish any water body on any given day.
Simply put, a strike zone is the distance that fish will travel to feed. That distance will vary by the season, month on the calendar, water temperatures, as well as fishing pressure and weather conditions.
Probably 90 percent of the time while fishing, we’re encountering neutral or negative fish. Only 5 to 10 percent of our time on the water will we be fortunate enough to have access to aggressive fish. In my experience, negative or neutral fish have a reduced strike zone.
Now do you understand where the phrase “hit that walleye on the head with your bait” comes from? Bottom line, we have to be precise in our presentation.
Now, an aggressive bass might move 2 to 3 feet even in a neutral mood. And sometimes fish will strike purely on a reflex action. Other factors, like the bait we choose, influence this distance. But when I’m on the water, I figure I need to get my bait within a foot of a fish to get within that strike zone.
How do we master this skill? A couple ways. First, we need to become better anglers so we can be more precise. That means getting out on the water and fishing! For instance, you need to make more than one cast to a given area.
Fish will change position based on a number of factors. With fishing pressure, many times fish will move deeper, so we need to make every cast count.
As anglers, we too often ignore strike zones. “Climb the ladder” so to speak by working aggressive baits first into areas that you believe fish are holding. With an aggressive, deliberate approach, we can put our lures within 12 inches of a fish’s nose.