Strike Zones: The Most Misunderstood Facet Of Freshwater Fishing?

Whether for walleyes, bass or panfish, modern anglers must place their live bait or lure in the strike zone

After our lure or live-bait presentation, strike zones may be the most important facet of successful fishing. Yet we rarely talk about them! We need to understand strike zones before we fish any water body on any given day.

Simply put, a strike zone is the distance that fish will travel to feed. That distance will vary by the season, month on the calendar, water temperature, as well as fishing pressure and weather conditions.

Probably 90 percent of the time when fishing, we’re encountering neutral or negative fish. Only 5- to 10 percent of our time on the water will we be fortunate enough to have access to aggressive fish. In my experience, negative or neutral fish have a reduced strike zone.

Now do you understand where the phrase “must have hit that walleye on the head with my bait” comes from? Bottom line: we have to be precise in our presentation. Now, an aggressive bass might move 2- to 3 feet even in a neutral mood. And sometimes fish will strike purely on a reflex action. Other factors, such as the bait we choose, influence this distance. When I’m on the water, however, I figure I need to get my bait within a foot of a fish to get within that strike zone.

How do we master this skill? First, we need to become better anglers so we can be more precise. That means getting out on the water and fishing! For instance, you need to make more than one cast to a given area. Fish will change position based on a number of factors. With fishing pressure, many times fish will move deeper, so we need to make every cast count.

As anglers, we too often ignore strike zones. “Climb the ladder,” so to speak, by working aggressive baits first into areas that you believe fish are holding. With an aggressive, deliberate approach, we can put our lures within 12 inches of a fish’s nose.

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