The changing weather patterns have had a major impact on fishing in our area. The long hot spells and heavy rains have caused a change in the normal seasonal patterns for almost all the different species of fish. I have been checking in with experts at most of our area lakes – from Lake Geneva and the Fox Chainto to the Cook County Forest Preserve lakes – and the reports are similar everywhere. The fish are biting, but not in the seasonal locations you would expect and not in any numbers. These conditions call for a change in tactics if you want to put fish on your line.

Traditionally at this time of year, the late summer peak, for bass you would probably be fishing with buzz baits and spinner baits. For the walleye, slow trolling bottom bouncers with single spinners and live bait would be your first choice. But not this year. Due to the higher water levels, all the runoff into the water, and the higher water temperatures, you will do better with a slow presentation that doesn’t require the fish to chase bait very far.

For virtually all species I find that when these conditions present themselves I tie on a drop shot rig. A drop shot rig is a pretty simple set up: a single hook (I like a 1/0 or 2/0 size) tied to your line about 12” to 18” from the bottom. At the end of the line attach a small weight (1/8 ounces should be enough, unless you’re fishing deeper, in which case it should be more like ¼ ounce). For bait I like a small 4” plastic worm hooked either in the end or in the middle (wacky style). Color choice will be dictated by the water clarity; in clearer water use more natural colors, in stained or dirty water brighter, florescent colors work better.

You should work this bait at the outside edge of the weeds (depending on the lake, that will be 8’ to 15’ feet down) and let the bait sit for a bit, then lift and reel in some line and let the weight settle again. This puts the bait right in front of the fish and even non-active fish will bite a meal sitting in front of them.

Give this a try next time you’re out.

Until next time…keep a tight line.