Some of the most frustrating days on the water are day when you cant seem to figure the fish out. Some days its a result of trying to force a bite on a pattern you want to fish, other days you just flat out cant figure the bite out.
I recently had one of these days this last weekend, I have had one two many of these days lately and have been spending a lot of time thinking back on them. I am a firm believer that you can learn more from your bad days on the water than your good ones. What I mean by this is that if you can think back through your day and make adjustments a lot of times you can go back and get them pretty good.
My favorite topwater search baits: a couple Punkers and a Snack Size Trout.
I have a love/hate relationship with spring time fish, there is that deep set desire to stay shallow and look for bed fish. The topwater bite is usually started to turn on under perfect conditions.This can change on a day to day basis depending on weather and temps. Fish are also spooky while in the shallow now clearing waters as well.
So here is where I usually start, sort of on the edge. I'll fish topwater paralleling the shore to start. This will do two things: allow you to cast in front of the boat with your search bait while checking areas for bed fish. Two things will either come of this: you will locate bed fish while every once in a while catching a fish or two, or not find jack shit and get a big frustrating follower every once in a while.
This is the first point at which if you are smart enough you can make an on the water adjustment.
Case in point: my last Saturday on the water. A lot of people like myself see those big fish and stick with the top water all day. This is what happened to me, at the end of the day I had one fish in the boat and about 10 fish stories of blow ups
I don't take this lightly, and have spent all week thinking about this and other days similar things have happened. Granted I am usually one of the first people I know every year to get them on top water. This is because I am as stubborn as a mule.
Here are a few approaches to this situation that have worked for me in the past.
First: back the fuck off. This fish are either spooky or just not on that bite yet.
Second: my next approach is to next try a big jerk bait. A lot of these fish that came up on that top water are either bed fish that swam off their beds to look at the bait, or just shallow spooky cruisers. These are both hard fish to catch. By backing way off the shoreline and presenting them with a smaller subsurface bait such as a Lucky Craft 128 or fluke, a lot of these fish may bite a bit more readily.
Another approach would be a Carolina rigged baits such as a lizard, a swimbait, or a lightly weighted creature bait. All those baits can cover large areas by fan casting spots that you may have already seen fish in. The biggest problem before was probably that they could see you as well.
Third: I may try for staging areas such as points or shore lines leading to these traps. I call them "traps" because there is a real psychology to seeing fish that keeps you shallow even if they are not biting. I cover a lot more water at this point using baits such as a DD22 in deeper water. A lot of these fish are gonna be easier to catch on a reaction bite. This is a great bait for reservoirs. On water such as Clear Lake or the Delta the points you may be covering most likely will have structure on them such as reeds or trees. I would try a flippin' these fish or running a weedless swimbait or jig in these areas.
DD22 a deeper water search bait
When the shit hits the fan.
Last resort here people, the bite still sucks what the fuck is next? I hate to admit it but some of my best fish this time of year have come on either a my bubba drop shot worm rig or a Senco.
Fish are going to be very structure oriented as they move in and out of areas so target the same stuff as last mentioned with these baits.
Drop it all and go home, or go deep
A football head jig and a heavy 10" Baitsmith
Screw these damn shallow fish anyway - it's deep water time. Keep moving out onto the main lake or more towards main points.
Unfortunately, at this point you're pretty much starting over. This can do one of two things: bring you new hope, or make you sit down and sadly eat lunch while wallowing in self pity. I do this and more.
This is also when I pull out a whole new arsenal. This will usually include an six to ten inch swimbait and a jig. I slow my approach a lot, paying attention to my graphs. I am going to be video game fishing from here on out. These are either gonna be pre-spawn fish or chewing post-spawners back out in the safety of their deep water haunts.
Eventually your gonna find them by going though a similar scenario, the best thing you can do this time of year is to stay open minded. The fish can be here one day, gone the next, just keep in mind they are probably not far away you just need the patience to track them down. Or you can be like me 90% of the time and just be the first guy to have that epic day on topwater following a month of near misses.