Everyone has a tough day on the water from time to time, and anyone that says they don't are lying! It's just part of the game we love and is something that honestly makes a true angler even hungrier for understanding and success. The key is limiting how often the tough frustrating days happen and there are definitely ways to do just that. While time on the water and an understanding of fish behaviors are very important there is one simple tip that can help you succeed on a daily basis.
Always keeping an open mind is extremely important. On any given day there are more ways to catch a bass than you can count. Having a progression of techniques that you have confidence in will help you be able to flow through the day. If your original plan doesn't work just move on to the next throughout the day until you start to get some sign of life by the means of catching a fish or getting a bite. Utilizing a wide variety of techniques or patterns from shallow to deep throughout the day definitely increases your odds of succeeding. Now in order to do this effectively you need to have confidence in all of these different techniques which does take some experience.
Here is what a typical days progression looks like for me in the month of August/September.
1) I always like to start shallow with topwater baits, spinner baits, or shallow diving crankbaits around shoreline cover such as rock banks, rip rap, and seawalls. Often you can get some quality bites doing this but the window of opportunity is limited meaning you need to adjust quickly if the shallow reaction bites just don't happen. If the pattern is working however I will continue the shallow approach until the fish activity tells me otherwise. Typically this bite will die as soon as the sun hits the water but you can prolong the action by targeting shady banks later in the morning.
2) If the topwater didn't work I like to immediately hit some off shore structure. Key offshore structure for me in the early morning period would be the top of humps and as well as long mid depth points and mid depth brush piles. These are often key early morning feeding areas where bass that live deep go to feed at night and on in to the morning. If the offshore bite is on I will continue hitting as many deep places as possible following the fish deeper as the sun gets higher in the sky. Fish will often transition from the 10 to 12 feet range to the 15 to 20 feet range as the day progresses.
3) My next option I like to try is fishing docks. Saying that you are fishing docks is very broad for the reason that docks can be found from 1ft deep to 30ft deep, at times in the back of a pocket, in a major creek, or on the main river channel. In August and September I like to flip soft plastics as well as skip finesse baits under docks that are in mid depth and close to some sort of a channel. Having a dock near a channel means there will be current on that dock at some time throughout the day whether it is a creek channel or a river channel.
4) Finally I like to finish off my day with more deep water fishing on offshore structure. Current and sunlight is key for deep water success. The brighter the sun the more fish will hold on deep structure and the more current there is the more active they will be. This is your last attempt at using your electronics in order to find fish and salvage the day. I have had many days saved by finding an active school right when I least expect it that loads my livewells with healthy fish.
Overall you need to stay confident and just keep adjusting and rolling with the punches. I have learned over the years to keep an open mind and adjust often and I believe it will bring more fishing success to you as well.
I'll see you on the water!!!