Posted by: Debbie Hanson
June 30, 2014

Debbie Hanson

5 Simple Reasons You Aren’t Catching Fish

Every angler has experienced at least one crummy day of fishing that they would rather just forget. As much as no one wants to admit it, most of us have come home (GASP!) skunked at one time or another. It happens. However, if your landing net actually has cobwebs in it or if you have absolutely no clue what “bass thumb” means, you should probably read on.


Here are five simple reasons you aren’t catching fish:

1.  You tend to stay in one spot even when you aren’t catching fish. There is no magic formula that dictates the precise length of time you should fish one particular spot before moving. However, if you’ve been in the same spot for a half hour to an hour without a single bite, it’s probably time to rethink your location. Take a look around. Are you fishing an area where there is structure? Are you fishing an area with current? Baitfish and other game fish prey will usually be found near structure or in areas with current.


2.  You aren’t monitoring the weather or tide conditions in advance. Weather and tide conditions can play a large part in your level of fishing success or frustration. Anglers often avoid fishing on “blue bird sky” weather days because these clear days usually follow a cold front and the fishing can be very challenging. Conversely, fish will often feed aggressively right before a drop in pressure or arriving front. When fishing saltwater (or freshwater tidal areas), it’s important that you check your local tide charts and plan to fish during times of a strong incoming or outgoing tide if possible.

3.  You over-think your fishing strategies. Any angler who has fished a competitive tournament has likely experienced the frustration of over-thinking his or her fishing strategy. If you start second-guessing yourself when it comes to tactics that have consistently worked well for you, you can end up spending your entire day switching baits, lures, tackle or spots without giving anything enough of a chance to work. There has to be a proper balance between this reason and reason number one above.

4.  You are either not using the right lures or fishing your lures too fast. Just because you caught a nice fish on a specific lure five years ago, doesn’t mean that you will keep catching fish on the same lure regardless of the conditions. Test different lures under a variety of conditions. When it comes to the speed of your retrieve, remember that during the summer months certain species (such as trout, smallmouth bass or largemouth bass) can become somewhat lazy as the water temperatures increase. This means that you will need to slow down your retrieve in order to make your lure an easier target.

5.  You aren’t tying strong enough knots or the right kinds of knots. If you are hooking up, but are losing fish before you can land them, it could be that the quality of your knots is to blame. Are your hooks, lures or leader lines coming off? Do you know how to tie a couple of good fishing lure, hook or rig knots? How about a couple of strong line-joining knots? Research and practice tying reliable knots so that you come home with a photo of your catch instead of telling a story about the big one that got away (and took your $10 lure along with it).

What other reasons have had you skunked instead of catching? Share your comments by logging into the Take Me Fishing Community.

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Debbie Hanson is an outdoor writer, blogger, and avid angler who has written articles on fishing and boating for publications such as USA Today Hunt & Fish and Game & Fish Magazine. She is a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Visit her personal blog at and follow her on Twitter at @shefishes2.            Find out about the rest of Take Me Fishing Blog Authors.

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6 responses to “5 Simple Reasons You Aren’t Catching Fish”

  1. A.P Ghosh says:

    I’m at a loss, Ive only been fishing for about 2 years now and love it so much but it’s getting very frustrating that I read so much and try to learn before I go out on my next bike ride down to a stream but I just can’t catch any decent sized fish I always come up with smallis and have yet to catch any type of trout. I don’t know if it’s the local waters are maybe too shallow or small to support any larger fish or trout or I’m just fishing in the wrong spots or knowing what to use, and when ? I have no idea wht else to do

  2. Ken says:

    Dealing with #4
    I always use minnows in my pond and am very successful with them. One night I wasn’t catching anything with the minnows. As I stood there not catching anything I was amazed by the sound of all of the frogs (it must have been froggy “date” night)- The sound was deafening and I had never heard it so loud. I took off my live bait and put on a plastic frog. I caught two bass right away with a lure that never seemed to work well for me in the past.-
    Give them what they want!

  3. It’s hard to stay in one spot when you’re not catching fish, but it’s good to stay put for a half hour to an hour like you said. Using the right lures make a huge difference, too! I was retrieving too fast when I was fishing last summer, and after I switched up my lure to something smaller and retrieved slower, I caught two fish within 15 minutes. Thanks for the advice :)

  4. robert little says:

    can not catch anything no matter where I go not sure if its the time I go or the bait I use

    • Robert Townswick says:

      Robert, It happens to all of us at some time. So one of my suggestions to you is, get used to enjoying the day on the lake. Enjoy watching the Osprey pick a fish off the surface. Enjoy watching the otter family that is swimming next to shore. Yeah, I know , I sound like an old man, which is what I am. But I’m serious about those tips. Learn to enjoy the quiet and time.
      Now lets put some fish in your boat. The next time out should be fairly early in the morning, you want to be fishing the East shore [shady]. You don’t need a depth finder but a good hydrographic map would help.
      Then you need to decide on a type of fishing you want to do. Do you like to cast for your time on the water or do you like to spend your time using live bait and having the bobber to indicate you have a fish on.
      If casting, then your going to be after Bass or Northern [mostly]. First of all go on line and do some reading on the fish. Learn what type of habitat they like, wether it be weeds or gravel or soft bottom. Learn what their
      main food sources are. Then try and match your lure to the food. Such as a jig or maybe a Beetle spin. Use
      lures that are recommended by the pros you read about on line.
      Robert, I have to go right now but I’ll get back to you. Bob T

    • Robert Townswick says:

      Well Robert,
      For better or worse I’m back. I didn’t tell you what to do with the map. Dependent on the fish your after, a shallow soft bottom flat with weeds will be a good shot for Northern. A steeper shore with a smaller area of weeds, some lilly pads, maybe an old tree fallen into the water, should be good for some Largemouth Bass. A hard gravel or small pebble bottom that has some crayfish for a food source, should
      be good for some Smallmouth Bass.
      Now if you want to use a bobber to help, pick up some minnows and try for some Crappies. Or if you want to start out like almost every other old man in the country did, go and dig some worms. Then hunt the Sunfish down. One of the very best days I had with my dad was a day we found some really big sunfish.
      We had light tackle and those Sunfish were stripping line off the reels. For an hour, we laughed and gave each other grief on who had the biggest fish. That honestly, was one of the best days of my life.
      And so the philosopher on the loose, is going now but I would like to leave one other thought. Find someone to share this time with. Whether it be a friend or one of your kids, as you grow older, these times will become much more special. Now go catch some fish. And don’t keep them all. Put the small ones back to grow up and maybe be caught next year. Caught by someone else trying to figure out this fantastic time on the water. Good luck Bob T

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