Success on the water comes in a lot of shapes & forms and will be different for everyone. We define success as being able to target and successfully catch the desired species every-time you go out on the water. To be able to do this anglers need to know the target fish species seasonal movements, know their body of water, and use their time on the water effectively. This becomes even more applicable as you fish larger and larger bodies of water as the fish can and do move so much.
In our opinion the most important step anglers need to take in order to do all of the above is gain comfort in fishing offshore. In ponds and small lakes anglers are typically fishing shorelines or very close to them. The bodies of water aren't that complex, are bowl shaped, and simply by moving offshore a few more feet deeper water is reached anywhere you are. As the body of water gets bigger and more complex the size of flats and distance from shore to dropoffs increase! The fishable water increases exponentially. In order to stay successful anglers need to become confident in fishing what they can't see as well as understanding where the prime locations are.
Let's show some diagrams to help illustrate this point. In the first image below we are looking at a small lake or pond. The entire shoreline can easily be fished in a day and no matter where you are in this body of water depth becomes deeper as you move further from shore. This means fish need to move a short distance to move to deeper or shallower waters as they need.
In a more complex and larger body of water there is no way to fish the entire shoreline in a day. On top of this not all shorelines are the same. Some drop straight off to extremely deep water, some are extremely shallow, and some are in between. There also becomes a lot of shallow water offshore that can be fished and dropoffs to deep water are away from the bank. If all you do is fish the shoreline you may never come into contact with where fish are and as a result catch fewer fish. Now this doesn't just apply to dropoffs but also flats! If there is a large area of shallow water away from shore the weeds, rock, or other cover may extend well away from the shore onto the flat so by fishing the shoreline only you are missing out on 90% of the cover that could be holding fish! Our adventures on Georgian Bay rarely involve fishing shorelines. Most of the areas are so big at the same depth and have same cover that one or two casts may go to shore but the rest need to be from a full cast length or more to shore in order to cover it fully.
The thing with becoming comfortable fishing offshore is that it is difficult.
At first it feels silly, like there is no reason for fish to be out there, or that you are wasting your time casting to nothing but this all changes as soon as you catch that first fish and build some confidence! There are other ways to help feel more confident in your tactics before that first fish hits the boat and to remain successful. The first is electronics. Electronics help you understand what you can't see. Sonar, Side Imaging, 360 and Live can all tell you what is beneath your boat. From depth to cover, bait and even fish, electronics help confirm the area has high potential and builds your confidence. Most importantly electronics equipped with map cards and GPS allow you to see where you are fishing, where the dropoffs should be, and mark where you caught fish with waypoints. This allows you to return time and time again to the exact same spot with no effort to relocate it. Often as soon as you get on the fish you will be blown away while unhooking and spend a lot fo time to get back on it.
If you do not have access to electronics there are other ways to locate these spots. Consider the shoreline to see if should be steep or shallow. What is out of the water usually carries into the water! After this you can use your baits to feel what is going on around you. If your bait barely drops when you cast away from the bank it is likely there is extended section of shallow water to explore. After locating a spot that holds fish anglers can use marker buoys or triangulation of reference points along shoreline to remember the spot. This is a lot more work but you will often be rewarded by targeting fish that nobody else is!
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