The adjustments you should make to your spring fishing tactics

With the ice having disappeared and the temperatures getting warmer by the day, it appears to be time for open-water fishing to begin. In addition to line selection, which I talked about last week, it’s time to make a couple of simple adjustments to your spring fishing tactics.

I never use leaders unless I am specifically fishing for big pike or muskies. These are two fish with sharp teeth that can easily bite through a fishing line. Even though their teeth are big and sharp, these fish are usually pretty lethargic in the spring and don’t snap lines or bite through them until the water gets a little warmer.

Put your leaders away for a while. By the way, I prefer steel leaders over anything else, when I need to use a leader. A steel leader tied to your line with a bass or walleye lure on the line will only makes the lure’s action disappear.

Use leaders only for toothy fish. For those of you who have experienced the opposite, please remember that there are always examples that will prove me wrong, but you’ll get more bites using no leader on your line.

Next up is the use of bobbers. When I mention bobbers, I’ll bet you think of those red-and-white plastic floating circles that you clip to your fishing line. Everyone has at least one of these in their tackle box. Throw those away.

Using the red-and-white bobbers will only cause you to get fewer bites than using a modern-day fishing float. A modern float, commonly called a Thill float, is something that your line gets threaded through. You just attach the minimal amount of weight to the line so that it stands up straight in the water. This is called being neutrally buoyant.

When a fish decides to take your bait, the bobber will either go down or will just lay down flat on the surface of the water and float. We never realize that sometimes a fish bites a bait and swims sideways or toward the surface. The float never dives down, and we miss an awful lot of bites because of that. The balsa floats tell us a lot more about what the fish are doing than what the old-style bobbers do for us.

The beauty of the balsa float is its ability to be set at different depths immediately. A bobber stop is tied to your line at the depth you want your float to run to. When you want to change the depth, you just slide the bobber stop to the desired location.

The old-style red-and-white bobbers clipped onto your line could cause damage or breakage. You can only fish to a depth as long as your rod because you can only reel in as far as that length. With balsa floats you can set your depth to 20, 30 feet or more.

They are the ultimate fishing tool to be used in times like this. It is the time of year to go out and catch a mess of perch, bluegills, crappie and more. Use long rods, light line, minimal weight, small live bait and a rig tied with tiny balsa floats. I’m telling you that this combo will be a winner for you.

Fish in shallow water where you see new weed growth coming up. The north side of a lake or a pond will tend to produce first. Sharpen your fillet knife and get ready for some tasty meals.

• Daily Herald Outdoors columnist Steve Sarley can be reached at

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