Spring Tactics for Calm Conditions: Fish Farther from the Boat


Fishermen can never be certain what nature will throw at them during spring outings. Raging winds and white-capped waves might challenge you or the lake could be flat calm with sunny skies overhead. In this article I will discuss fishing under mild conditions.

Glassy waters
When the lake is flat calm you might have to work a lure or live bait out farther from the boat to score. This is especially true in waters 10 feet deep or less. Newly emerging underwater vegetation can attract fish, but you can’t park right above them in shallow water without spooking them. You will have to keep some distance between you and the spot you want to work.

Slip float rigs for casting
One of my favorite calm-weather tactics is to run slip float rigs out 50 feet or more from the boat. I have a specific way of setting up for this kind of fishing, and it allows me to cast long distances without “whipping” my fishing rod too hard to get that distance.

Start by placing a stopper on the main line, and then run the line through a small plastic bead before running it through the stem of a slip float. Next, pass the line through a 1/4-ounce egg sinker and tie on a small barrel swivel. Remember that you will have to use a slip float large enough to suspend the egg sinker’s weight.

Tying the terminal rig
On the remaining free end of the barrel swivel, tie on an 18-inch leader of clear monofilament line and add a thin wire hook at the size suited to the size of fish you are looking for. For example, perch might require a size 6 or 8 hook, while walleyes might need a size 4 or 2.

The final touch
As a final step, I add a very small split shot sinker a few inches above the hook. The purpose of this tiny weight is to pull the hook and bait into position after the float hits the water. With a slip float rigged this way, you can easily cast your bait longer distances where fish have not been spooked by your boat and movements. Remember that you can also use larger egg sinkers as long as you also increase the size of the float so it stays up with the heavier sinkers.

Lures for longer distance
I have experience with a wide variety of lures for use on calmer days, but to be able to get some distance casting, I prefer an internally weighted lure with a compact body. One I have had good success with is the Bill Lewis Floating Rat-L-Trap. This lure has the rattles like sinking Rat-L-Traps, but it stays on the surface when resting and dives just a couple feet or less when retrieved. This is just right for shallow targets.

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I like to find some new, emerging weeds and to hold my boat off the deep edge of the vegetation. I fire out long casts to cover water and trigger fish that are roaming the weed flats in search of baitfish.

The combination
If you happen to find an isolated area where active fish seem to be holding, remember that you can fire out a slip float rig that will “work itself” while you are casting with a second rod. In other cases, one person can work the slip float while the other casts a lure. Let the fish show you which way they prefer.

The deep swimmer
At times your locator will show fish holding in deep water off weed flats. Often, these are schools of perch. A good way to find an active school is to fire out long casts with a compact and slightly heavier lure, like a size 3 Swedish Pimple lure.

You may know this lure as a great tool for ice fishing, but it also works well in open water. Use a single hook on this lure and tip it with a 2-inch piece of nightcrawler. You might also consider tipping the hook with scented, curly-tail- or minnow-shaped soft plastic baits.

Fire out a long cast and it will quickly sink to the bottom. Next, lightly snap the lure up from the lake floor so it moves along about 1 or 2 feet up from the bottom. While slowly reeling the lure in, lightly snap the rod tip so the Swedish Pimple flashes and darts along “swimming” like a minnow. I’ve taken perch, walleyes, smallmouth bass, white bass, crappies and many other species using this trick.

So, on calm days when you will probably have to get your lure or bait out farther away from the boat, try these tricks.