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Catching Suspended Basin Fish

By Scott Stankowski - February 12, 2015
When it comes to fishing in a large basin like many of our flowages and reservoirs, electronics are a must. I spend a great deal of my time out on ole Lake Winnebago and she behaves in much the same way. I consider myself an above average fisherman in the open water on these bodies of water and can catch active fish on any given day. A variety of tactics always work from trolling the mud to jigging up shallow.
The hard water bite is a little bit more complicated than the summer for me. One thing that I have learned is that the fish retain some tendencies from the summer into the winter. One of these that I have noticed through my electronics is targeting the fish that are active and ready to feed.

Traditionally anglers that fish deeper water that is deep enough not to have weeds. Fishing involves using something like a mimic minnow or buckshot spoon often tagged with a bit of meat such as a minnow head or spikes and wax worms. The idea is to drop it down, and beat the bottom a bit to create a bit of a dust cloud enticing fish to thing that there is a feed going on. Anglers then slowly start to raise the bait up and jiggle it ever so softly holding out for a bite.

Many of these bottom dwelling fish are there because they are inactive and come to your bait out of curiosity. What we are hoping for is a reactionary bite. Often times you will hear people talk about raising the fish up off the bottom to somehow anger the fish into biting. Get a group of fish going and the bite can be fairly steady. Its an entry level tactic and works with great success.

The problem with this tactic is fisherman get a lot of ‘lookers’. Fish that will follow your bait on the screen sit there for a couple of minutes, frustrate the heck out of you and vanish.

When the bite just isn’t going your way in situations like this I like to switch the zone I am fishing in. When I am trolling in the summer time as many of us do we are targeting suspended fish. These suspended fish are active and on the feed. Typically we are fishing with baits ten feet down and targeting fish that are a couple of feet lower than that.

Active predatory fish love to strike from underneath. The same can be said in the winter. The active fish in the winter are often in the same area as they were in the summer, a couple of feet off of the bottom. They are actively seeking bait above them.

The key is to fish these areas and trust yourself. You will get fewer marks, but you will also get fewer lookers. The fish will appear on your screen and will hit rather quickly without you having to perform the same dance routine that you would have to do while fishing the bottom and more sluggish fish.

On a typical day I will try the bottom bite and if that does not work I will bring my bait up to ten feet and proceed to aggressively jig my lure. Fish will show up from anywhere from right at the jig to a couple of feet below and quickly come up. I slow my presentation down some but not as softly as if I were fishing the bottom. The fish typically hit the bait aggressively and you will know when you have one on.

If you are not paying attention or get into a conversation with your friends you may just miss the fish as they are actively swimming around. You will not typically find schools of these fish sticking around as they are swimming and seeking out bait. If you do mark a fish, I have found that you have a greater chance of getting it to bite.

Often times these fish are walleyes which we typically are targeting to begin with. Next time you are out try this tactic and put it in your arsenal of fishing. Often times you may find yourself the only one catching fish.

Author Scott Stankowski
Scott Stankowski
Scott Stankowski is the senior outdoor writer for and produces weekly articles, typically highlighting getting kids active in the outdoors. His family prides itself on living off of the land. Scott also takes the mantra into the classroom where he teaches environmental science at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln High School. Scott and his sons have won numerous titles in turkey and deer calling at the state level. Scott and his sons have a national outdoor television show titled Growin' Up Wild and can be found on Facebook.
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