Fishing Slow? Tough Bite? Time to Scout!

fishing slow tough bite time to scout

You don’t want to look in my fishing journal.

The last several pages include me. Rambling. Being mad. Being discouraged. Making excuses. Whining.

temper tantrum fishing stories gif
Why are the fish offshore?!


It’s taken me a few days to process this. As an angler that fishes from the bank most of the time, I’m perplexed. We know that it’s not uncommon for largemouth bass to move offshore in the summer months. However, this year… they have been missing for an extended period of time.

I’m talking from late July to mid-September… with a few lucky days mixed in; the bass decided to come in close enough for me to reach them with a long cast.

I keep thinking it will turn around, they’ll come in close, along the rip-rap shorelines I love to crank…but so far… no such luck.

The smallmouth bass have all but left my creeks as well! Water has been very low, and when it does rain it blows everything out so bad that by the time it settles back down to where I can fish it – they’re just… not there.

A few days ago I decided it was time to bring ‘Ol Jonnie Boy out of the garage…

3 Tips for Locating More Largemouth Bass
3 Tips for Locating More Largemouth Bass
“Perhaps this is more of a commentary on me, not ‘ol Jon. We haven’t talked at all this year. Haven’t fished together. I’ve been lazy. Just don’t want to haul his rear down the road I guess. Grease his trailer. Maybe that’s the point, really. Been all this talk about developing a drive to improve, but my own laziness has caused me to regress as a fisherman. Now though… now I think I need his help…”

He’s been in there all year. Not because I don’t want to fish from him, but because with every trip, we need to make decisions about how we plan to maximize our limited time on the water. For the last few years, bank fishing has been… well… awesome.

AJ Hauser 4lb Largemouth Bass
When fatbasses like this are hitting baits hucked from shore… why bother putting a boat in the water?

This is the first time that conditions have changed enough to really put me in a bind.

To date, fishing offshore in Illinois and marking bass deep was something I did for fun.

To mix it up a bit.

Now… now it’s a necessity.

Time to Scout New Lakes and Find Fish

When things change and stop going your way – it’s the perfect time to go explore a location you’re not very familiar with.

Just make sure your expectations are realistic.

You might catch a 5-pounder… but… chances are you won’t. That’s not a big deal though if your goal is to find fish, explore a body of water to better understand it, learn a bit more about the baitfish, bottom composition and available cover.

You know, stuff that bass care about.

If this is your aim, you will come away smarter, better equipped to dissect that body of water the next time you visit, and have much better luck locating and catching some fish.

Creek Fishing Illinois Smallmouth Kayak
Yak Attack

There are some deep borrow pit lakes about an hour from here, and I know there are big largemouth bass in there. I’ve seen them. Moving out from little feeder creeks, dropping deep – well underneath my boat. This lake has been avoided this year, because I can’t fish it from shore and the drive is substantial… but with the shore bite completely turned off everywhere else, perhaps this is the promised land?

I’ll start exploring it tomorrow morning – with realistic expectations.

Scouting Presentations for Largemouth Bass

The jon boat will come out next week. Still need to get the new electronics installed. I’ll share a couple of tricks I plan to employ when I’m with ‘Ol Jonnie… but tomorrow, it’s going to be a yak attack. This means we’ll be limited to 1 pole, and a small bag with simple presentations – much like fishing a creek.



Here’s the plan:

I’ll start to explore close to shore and about 15 feet out with a Pop ‘n Drop. See if I can call any bass up, or if they’re tucked in close for some reason. I’ll use one of these two combinations – not sure which one yet:

Livetarget Lures Popping Frog Popper
Livetarget Popping Frog
Price Check:
Tackle Direct | Amazon
Gamakatsu Finesse Wide Gap Hooks Light Wire
Gamakatsu Finesse Wide
Price Check:
Tackle Direct | Amazon
Rapala Skitter Pop
Rapala Skitter Pop
Price Check:
Tackle Direct | Amazon
Berkley Fusion19 Weedless Wacky Hooks
Fusion19 Weedless Wackys
Price Check:
Tackle Direct | Amazon

This will allow me to pull a small stickbait behind a popper. Probably a 4″ Strike King Ocho, which has been a top producer for me the last few years. (That’s why it’s in my Top 4 Stickbaits for Largemouth Bass.) I’ll hit it with some Dr. Juice Bass Attractant, and I have been playing around with the idea of adding some small floats next to my popper so it can carry more weight – if this works (and it isn’t another Pop ‘n Drop Failure) I’ll be able to pull a Zoom Zlinky around… which would be awesome! My line? No question, fluorocarbon is the way to go. This lake is deep and clear.

It’s going to be challenging.

Strike King Ocho Stickbait
Strike King Ocho Stickbait
Price Check:
Tackle Direct | Amazon
Zoom Zlinky Stickbait
Zoom Zlinky Stickbait
Price Check:
dr juice bass attractant scent
Dr. Juice Bass Attractant
Price Check:
seaguar invizx fluorocarbon
Seaguar Invizx Fluorocarbon
Price Check:
Tackle Direct | Amazon

After this, depending on what happens, we’ll go deep. The shoreline is steep, and this is an old pit – I’m thinking some variation of shaky head with a worm will bring up the rear… but I haven’t decided which one yet.

What is your favorite shaky head plastic?

What do you think?

This afternoon - after work - I'll dedicate some time to getting ready.

Instead of sticking with what I know - with what isn't working - we'll pivot.

We'll make better use of our limited time.

We'll scout.

Learn more about a body of water that requires more of an investment to fish.

It's going to take some extra effort and additional windshield time... but we will find bass. I can feel it. So yeah... it'll be tough, but... if it was easy... everyone would do it.

They ain't.

We should.

Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.

The Minimalist Fisherman Father Son Bonding Better Anglers Better Men

Thank You For Your Support

Your support directly funds the creation of weekly articles and videos that promote the development of better anglers and better men. Our country (and our kids) need both. Please share this site, and consider a monthly, weekly, or one-time donation. You are helping us make a difference!

TMF Small White Logo

Featured Videos:

pop n drop creek fishing in chocolate milk
Pop 'n Drop Creek Fishing in Chocolate Milk

Stars & Bars Fishing is a video log dedicated to catching fish with the techniques we write about. All Episodes >

featured video donkey tails mule jigs
In-Depth Review: Donkey Tails & Mule Jigs

The Minimalist Fisherman channel focuses on bait reviews, strategies & projects. See More Fishing Videos>

the minimalist fisherman email sign up cover background fire camp river


Join us as we continue to work on becoming better anglers - and better men.

TMF Small White Logo

Worth Checking Out: