How many times have you fished the same rig or jig all day? How often have you used your favorite presentation instead of experimenting with one less practiced or preferred? Have you ever felt lost on the water, unable to choose a proper approach?
Guilty on all counts? Through preference, sheer laziness, or lack of understanding or direction, we avoid making choices, or make the wrong calls. Versatility can be a double-edged sword -- the luxury to be able to make choices, but with choices, it becomes necessary to make them.
Among the armada of versatile anglers float many who have difficulty selecting which tactics to apply. They have all the recommended gear, but can't put the maze of options into practice. The difference between tools and skills is that tools can be bought, but experience is needed to develop the skills to use them.
BASIC GAME PLAN
Establishing successful fishing patterns is a process, walleyes, bass, baitfish, etc., whatever your choice may be. Each time you fish, you run through a system of decisions: choosing a general area of a lake-river-reservoir, selecting appropriate seasonal habitat, determining how fish relate to it, choosing likely presentations and boat control based on fish position and mood, and then fine-tuning a presentation or switching presentations to maximize your catch. It's not leaving the dock with something tied on the end of your line and predetermining that you'll use that something all day, even if it was successful in the past. The smarter you react, the more fish you'll catch.
Different presentations have inherent blends of characteristics. Some cover water quickly, while others strain small spots where fish concentrate along edges or within distinct spots. Some extract fish from cover; others excel in open water. Tactics for triggering strikes typically incorporate higher speeds, while those used to entice bites from fussy fish often call for livebait presented at a slow crawl.
Some presentations are limited in scope, applying strictly to certain speed ranges and small areas: slip bobbers fished in and around cover at minimal speed, for example. Others require a minimum amount of speed to make lures work properly, like trolled spinners or crankbaits. Still others work at a wide range of speeds, such as jigs, which excel at everything from motionless, to subtle hopping, to snapjigging.
Prerig several rods with systems appropriate to the lake, river or reservoir you plan to fish. We suggest one precision-finesse system, one coverage system, and perhaps a third with characteristics of each. Then fish several likely areas to judge fish response. Once you determine that a certain presentation is working, begin fine-tuning it with modifications in sight (profile, color, flash, action), sound (vibration), or scent (livebait); or try refinements in the system itself, like switching to lighter line, smaller hooks, adding weight to achieve better depth or control, or speeding up or slowing down your coverage. But don't place too much faith in little things like color pattern or scent until you have the basic system in place. Appropriate systems catch fish; after that, refinements catch more and bigger fish.