Fishing in heavy pressure conditions in your lake and river can be disheartening to many anglers. You wake up early, drive to the ramp and see a dozen trucks and trailers parked and the sun is barely up. This is a too common sight for many of us. Fishing pressure can be difficult to deal with, and yet as we’ll see this is not hopeless. For one it might mean that the bite is on and you’ll have a great day. Let’s find out what we can do in a high-pressure situation.
This is probably the first answer many fishermen would list if asked how to deal with fishing pressure. It’s a good option. When fish are wary, and won’t bite standard lures, it’s a good idea to downsize. The idea behind it is that smaller lure won’t give away their fakeness as easily as bigger or standard lures. Smaller baits also mean less disturbance and noise when they hit the water. It also implies a smaller line, less visible. It’s a smaller footprint on the fish environment.
Finesse is not just diminutive lures. It’s also a mindset, a presentation. Finesse presentation is like being polite and respectful, it’s the opposite of obnoxious power fishing. The goal is to draw the fish with a non-threatening presentation. The same bait can be used in power presentations and finesse presentations. The latter usually involves fewer movements, or slower.
For example, a drop shot rig can be cast and reeled in fairly quickly, with aggressive twitching of the lure. Or, it can be thrown past the target, gently brought in, and just left in place with minimal or no movement at all. That would be a finesse presentation.
Here’s a tough dilemma: the lake has a number of hot spots that consistently hold fish. They are also the most pressured. On the other hand, the lake has a whole area with very little habitat but very little pressure. Which one do you choose? There’s no clear cut answer to that riddle, let’s look at each:
If you go to the popular spot, you will need to set yourself apart from the crowd. Do something different. It can mean throwing from a different angle, for example, if a piece of cover is a short distance from the shore, most anglers will keep their boat in deep water and throw toward the cover. Why not get your boat right up against the bank and cast to the cover. In rivers, most people cast downstream, do the opposite.
If you decide to fish away from the crowd, you’ll have to sift through a lot of empty water. Look for micro-spots. From afar, the shore seems baren, no weedbeds, no points and pockets, no laydowns, nothing. But on closer inspection, you will often find little things. One rock, a little point, a couple of stems of grass, and so on. They will be spread out and underwhelming. But it can be all it takes to hold a big fish. So be ready to cover a lot of empty water with a fast lure and thoroughly fish those little gems.
If you think about it, it’s not so much that fish get accustomed to lures, it’s more that they become aware of your presence. And noise is usually what betrays you. If you are fishing from shore, learn to walk softly, and make sure your lure enters the water quietly. This is important for boaters as well.
But they are at a disadvantage as a boat can generate all manners of noise that will give away the angler’s presence. Set your trolling motor as low as possible. Better to keep it running very low than a stop and go. Make sure your prop is not bent or damaged, an unbalanced prop will create lots of extra vibrations. Don’t drop anything, check you don’t have a livewell pump running for no reason. Unless you really need it it’s a good idea to turn off your electronics.
Be very mindful of the noise produced by your every move, opening and closing compartment lids, deploying a trolling motor, rods bumping the gunnel, and so forth. As much as possible, do your rigging and prepping far from your fishing spot. When possible use the wind or current to drift in your area.
It might seem a bit of a contradiction with what we said earlier, but finesse is not always the ticket to success. Many times I’ve seen the opposite to be true actually. A deliberate “in your face” action can be a better response to fishing in a heavy pressure environment. The game is to get the bait right in the fish’s face unapologetically. This technique catches fish for bass tournament anglers time and time again. It works with pike and perch just as well.
It usually involves close quarter fishing, fast lures, and power presentation. So again, when the going is tough, don’t be subtle and cute, go heavy and to the point. Let’s take a classic lure and illustrate finesse vs power reaction presentation: the jig.
A finesse presentation would be a light round ball head jig with a thinned-out and cut-out skirt and a small trailer. It sinks slowly, is kept a little distance from heavy cover and by being non-intrusive it will “seduce” fish into coming out of cover and get it. Think of it as offering someone one chip with a smile, just one, who would turn this down?
A reaction bait would be a regular jig but just a little heavier than standard so it sinks quickly. And you would send it deep in the thickest piece of cover. It’s a lot like playing with a cat and a piece of string. If you just lay it there the cat will just ignore it. But if you throw it, and quickly pull it then throw again, the cat will start chasing it.
Fishing in heavy pressure lake is easier than it seems. A lot of it is a mental attitude, don’t let other anglers get into your mind. Just do what you do best but try thinking outside the box. And at the end of the day, you can see how you did versus other anglers by the number of caught fish!