For best fishing results, be prepared

Anglers who have multiple rods rigged for action know they will be ready when they encounter the need to toss a different offering.

The challenge can be determining exactly what our options might include. The result is that sometimes our boat decks look more like tackle stores than fishing platforms.

My experience has been that readiness is essential as I work our region’s lakes for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Walleye, crappie and muskie anglers know, too, the value of being prepared when conditions change or patterns deteriorate.

But how does one choose? Which lures and set-ups will be most likely to produce and how many should we rig?

I use the rule of three. One is OK. Two is better. Three is perfect.

Sometimes I have four or five rods rigged with four or five different baits. But experience has demonstrated time and again that when I’m picking between so many lures as I work cover or structure, I’m not going to catch them very well.

My rule of three is pretty basic, but it covers all the bases. I have one rod for fish that will eat off the surface. The second rod is for pulling a bait for fish that will chase. The third – and often the most successful – is for bass that want the bait dropped in their faces.

The one-two-three attack plan provides tactical firepower without cluttering the deck of the boat or fueling indecision in my mind.

One rod with a surface lure is a great way to start the day. When the sun is low, bass and other species will be looking for easy pickings around shallow cover and structure. A lure that creates surface commotion gets their attention and looks real enough to entice feeding or reaction strikes.

For my surface-lure rod, I use a reel spooled with nylon monofilament or braided line instead of fluorocarbon. The simple reason is that mono and braid float, while fluorocarbon is heavier than water, which means it will sink. Floating lines keep topwater baits where they belong – on the surface.

The second rod is for lures that move horizontally through the water. They include spinnerbaits, crankbaits, bladed jigs and paddle-tail swimbaits.

That rod’s reel is filled with either fluorocarbon or mono, depending on the action I want that outfit’s lure to impart. If I want the bait to run just under the surface, I go with mono. When I want the bait to dig, I go with fluoro.

My third rod is for lures I’ll drop into heavy cover or drag along bottom structure. It’s for presenting Texas-rigged plastics and jigs in and around fallen treetops and laydown logs, stumps, willows, aquatic vegetation and boat docks.

For the vertical presentations, I spool fluorocarbon 90 percent of the time. If I want an extra-strong or zero-stretch line, I go with braid. I usually keep another rod ready to drop a lure into cover – we’ll call it rod 3b – with a heavier or lighter weight so I can adjust to wind or current.

The rule of three has worked for me over the long haul largely because it covers all the bases with enough options to allow me to adapt to the conditions and the mood of the fish. It also helps me avoid overcomplicating the game.

Keeping it simple more often than not means more fish by the end of the day.

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