The Spot Off The Spot
By: Bob Bohland
I have always been a big proponent of finding your own spots to fish on a lake. The advantages of exploring new ground are numerous; including being able to fish unpressured fish, finding new secret spots, and having a little bit of privacy on the lake. There are, however, some occassions where it is beneficial to fish near the crowd. On many smaller lakes there really isnt any way to get around fishing near the crowd, and even on some of the bigger lakes there may only be a few small pieces of structure available that will hold fish. So when you cant get away from the crowd, use the crowd to your advantage.
The first step to take when you find yourself stuck near a crowd of “sheeple” (so named because they seem to enjoy herding up onto small areas on a lake), is to look at a good lakemap. Crowds generally setup over deep holes where inactive fish will suspend thinking that a lot of fish on their flasher means they are going to catch a lot of fish. The problem with this is that when you are stacked up with a large group of people, fish get wise to seeing the same lures presented the same way and often get turned off by the commotion caused by the sheeple above them.
The trick to catching fish near these groups is to use a bait that is totally different than what the other anglers are fishing. I generally upsize in these instances, but just going from a waxworm to a minnow is not enough. Grab a big aggressive search bait like the Lindy Darter, the flash from the holographic baitfish patterns will give the fish a totally different look than they are seeing from the masses drowning waxworms on small teardrop jigs. The internal rattles on the bait will also call the aggressive fish in from a distance, something a waxworm just can’t seem to do.
Often times these groups will be set up on basins that have very good mid-depth flats near them that often remain overlooked. When you can find one of these mid-depth flats that has a fair amount of green weeds it will hold a lot more active fish than the schools the crowds are parked over. The reason for this is two-fold. One, the fish will be pushed onto these flats by the commotion caused by the crowds; and two, the green weeds on these flats will hold baitfish and aquatic insects. When I talk about baitfish, I am not only talking about small minnows in the lake. Many anglers don’t seem to understand how much panfish, especially big crappies, will feed on young of the year bluegills and perch, so two of my favorite colors are the chartreuse perch and bluegill patterns of the Darter.
Another very effective way to fish crowds is to ‘edge” the group. Edging involves drilling holes around large groups of fisherman. It works because the commotion caused by the group, everything from generators to pickup trucks to people just out there to party will push the fish out from underneath the crowd. There really isnt a set distance for doing this and it can vary from 10 feet from the crowd to 100 yards, so don’t be afraid to drill a lot of holes. A good auger is a must, and it can often mean the difference between a bad day on the ice and actually finding active fish. The Strikemaster Solo is my first pick, it will outdrill anything else on the market and is light enough to make a day of drilling holes nothing but a minor affair. I often get a little overboard with mine because it makes drilling holes actually fun.
I like to consider groups of fish houses as another form of structure. If you use the crowds properly, you can look at a group and be able to tell which way the fish will move due to the commotion. Next time you head out on the ice don’t automatically shy away from the crowds, there can be some great fishing to be had in those areas.