Recently I was speaking with a friend of mine and she asked one simple yet profound question: What do you do when the fish aren’t biting?

To be honest, the question caught me off guard because it’s something I don’t think about too often. However, we discussed it a little further and illuminated several ways to be productive when you’re battling boredom on the water.

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Nine times out of ten, when the fish aren’t biting, you need to make some lure changes. This, however, can mean altering your tactics any number of ways. Sometimes it’s as simple as varying your retrieval speed. Many are surprised at what a difference slowing down or speeding up the retrieve can make. Another way to add a little spice to the retrieve is to jerk the rod every now and then. Baits such as spinnerbaits or crankbaits will erratically shoot in differenr directions when this happens, and that sudden action appeals to fish.

Your lure itself plays an astronomical role in producing strikes. Sometimes all it takes a subtle change of color pattern to entice bites, while other times you may want to try a different size. With jigs and spinnerbaits, I’d also try adding a trailer if you find that the fish are looking, but not going that extra mile to strike. Then there are times when your lure—even your go-to lure—won’t attract fish at all, and then it’s time to change lures altogether.

Also Read our Spring Fishing Guide

Depending on the time of day and temperature, you may also need to relocate if the fish won’t bite. As the sun gets higher, the fish will move to deeper water and your honey hole will run empty. Those anglers with a boat can easily cruise around the lake, but anglers confined to the bank should check the shoreline for lily pads or other forms of cover where fish will situate.

If you’re using a bobber or catfishing, which means you’re letting the fish come to your bait, you can use the down time to run some spot maintenance on your tackle, or even rig another combo to have ready. Clean some of your gear and organize your equipment, also. It may not seem like a fun way to spend your time in between hook-ups, but why not use the time productively?

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Fish are tricky targets, and it can be frustratingly boring when they just won’t bite. Use what you know about fish behavior, external factors such as light and weather, and know what to look for on the water and you’ll be pulling in keepers in no time. If you’re bobber fishing, use the free time to take care of a few tackle-related tasks. It may not seem appealing at first, but let’s face it: a slow day on the water is still better than a fast day at work. 

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