Basin Fish Bonanza

with Jeremy Smith

 

Basin Fish

Basin Fish Bonanza

Right now, in the heart of basin-fishing season, muskies, walleyes, pike and more follow food out over open water. In many cases, fish are nowhere near a structural element.

In most cases, probing the basin bite is not my first inclination. I love fishing structure and cover, pounding cast after cast to fishy-looking targets. But in this modern age when we have good depthfinders, digital lake maps, and other gear, it makes no sense to keep doing what’s not working.

Water, Water Everywhere

Miles of water to search. And being out there over 40, 60, 100 feet of water, possible places for fish to hide seem endless. Here’s one proven system for locating fish. 

• Confine your search to 15 feet and shallower. Run lures no deeper than 15 feet, and concentrate on 7 feet and shallower early and late in the day.

• Focus on places where bottom composition transitions from hard to soft. If you work that edge of transition, your odds go up. Practice with your depthfinder to get good at identifying hard vs. soft bottom. Mainly it takes reading your owner’s manual or watching YouTube videos. Generally, harder bottom returns a stronger sonar signal and shows up “wider and brighter” than softer bottom.

Fish that hold in the upper 15 feet, even over 100 feet of water, will often be concentrated along that zone of transition that’s occurring on the bottom far below them. That’s because tiny plants and animals, phytoplankton and zooplankton, are more numerous over softer bottom than hard. Fish find their prey (which is feeding on tiny forms of life) and stay as long as the food holds out.

Basin fish

Timing can be Important for Basin Fish

Zooplankton make daily vertical migrations driven by light levels. As late afternoon gives way to evening and dark, these tiny animals rise until they’re at the surface. At times other insects are hatching or dying on the surface as well, creating a web of life “up top” in the evening and after dark.

Basin fish can bite any time of day, but evening is prime time. You can easily fish below the fish, so keep your lures shallow!

Lures and Presentation

A system that works really well: one longline off the back, then as many planer board lines as the law allows. One or two per angler in most states.

Put the longline back 150 feet. You can pump and twitch this bait.

Stack more than one planer board on the same side if you can. Put about 30 to 50 feet of line out then attach the board. My favorite lures for this are #18 floating Rapalas and Super Shad Raps.

Pay attention to where you get bites, and how fast you were going. Duplicate what’s working. Mark key spots on your GPS. Everything is out there, and many basin fish are really big.

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