fishing coralville reservoir with lowrance hds-8 with structure scanFishing is difficult enough even when things go our way. But many of us, me included, tend to make fishing mistakes that prevent us catching more fish than we otherwise would. Some of these common fishing mistakes that we make when fishing are done consciously, and others are done because of a lack of understanding or fishing knowledge.

Fishing is about educating yourself. Like anything, the more you know about a topic the better off you’ll be. With fishing, the more you understand your target fish species and their biology…where they prefer to make their habitat, primary food source, what their habits are, etc. the better fisherman you’ll be. But with everything, sometimes all the knowledge in the world doesn’t guarantee success. That’s when you have to try new things and do your best to not make these common fishing mistakes.

Fishing Mistake #1 – Not Planning Ahead and Doing Your Research

Regardless of whether you’re fishing in a lake or river, or any body of water for that matter, you need to do your research. You need to know what species of fish inhabit the water you’re fishing. You need to know what type of structure is available in the lake and you need to study your fishing maps to pinpoint prime fishing structure and locations on the lake.


You have to have a plan in advance of your fishing trip. One of the biggest mistakes fishermen make is just showing up to the water and winging it. Planning your fishing outing with three or four fishing locations in mind with certain techniques you plan to fish with is key to catching more fish. That way, when the first fishing location doesn’t work, you have options to quickly go to for plan B without wasting a bunch of time.

Fishing time is precious. If you’re reading this, you likely don’t fish for a living. We all want to spend more time fishing, but the reality is, we all have other responsibilities, and fishing is a leisure activity for most of us. We don’t have an unlimited amount of time out on the water, and we need to make the most of the fishing time we have. One of the biggest fishing mistakes that prevent fishermen from catching more fish is wasting time by not planning in advance of your fishing trip.

Fishing Mistake #2 – Using the Same Fishing Bait for Too Long

As fishermen, we’re stubborn. You know we’ve all said it, “just one more cast.” That one last cast turns into two, three, four and usually if you’re like me, many more than that before I finally pack it up. This is a fishing mistake that I make far too often. And many of us do this because we’re the eternal optimists and always believe that we’ll catch that fish on the next cast. Or maybe we make the mistake of sticking with the same fishing lure or jig for too long because we don’t want to take the time to tie on a new one. I make this mistake every time I go fishing.

You need to experiment with different fishing presentations and different colors and sizes of fishing bait. Fishing equipment is expensive, and we all don’t have the means to have an endless supply of fishing lures and fishing poles, but having at least two or three fishing poles set up differently to quickly switch between presentations will be important to catching more fish.

If you find the magic lure and you’re catching fish, ride that for as long as you can, but don’t make the mistake of getting too comfortable because the fish can turn off quickly. But quickly switching presentations on the same school of fish can turn them right back on because it’s something different that the fish aren’t used to seeing. Stay flexible and you’ll avoid the common mistake of fishing for too long using the same fishing lure or fishing presentation.

Fishing Mistake #3 – Staying in the Same Fishing Spot for Too Long


Just like the previous fishing mistake, staying in the same fishing spot for too long trying to get stubborn fish that have a case of lock jaw to bite is often a futile effort. Your time is going to be much better spent by moving from one fishing spot to the next in search of active fish. We’ve already established that our fishing time is precious, and we don’t have an endless supply. We need to make the most of our fishing opportunities.

What’s an even worse fishing mistake is when you combine mistake #2 and #3. Sitting in the same fishing spot using the same fishing lure when you’re not catching fish, is a recipe for ensuring you don’t catch any fish. If you insist on sticking with a certain fishing lure, do yourself a favor and move locations to a new fishing spot to switch it up a bit in search of active fish that are feeding.

The fishing spot may be a good one, but maybe the time of day isn’t quite right. You should move locations to try a different spot, and then maybe return to that location that you like later to try it again to see if the fish are feeding during that part of the day. Fishing is about trial and error. We will make mistakes, but it’s important that we learn from them, and keep trying something new. Listen to the fish, and they will tell you. Keep moving fishing locations to avoid wasting time and committing one of the most common fishing mistakes that fishermen tend to make.

Fishing Mistake #4 – Fishing Where There Are No Fish

I’m sure you’re saying, well duh, that sounds stupid. What I mean by this is to use your electronics to find fish on your locator before you begin fishing. If you’re fishing in a boat, or if you’re ice fishing with the ability to locate fish on your electronics, you should never begin fishing until you mark fish and are sure that you’re in an area where fish are present.

This isn’t possible for everyone, I realize, but even if you don’t have electronics, you do have access to lake maps in which you can study the contours and find the structure that’s accessible from shore, and most likely to hold fish. If you’re fishing a river, you need to find the slack water adjacent to the fast moving current. Look for the deeper holes on the outside bends of the river that have been dug out by the force of the water over the years. Fish in the areas that have the greatest probability of holding fish.

One of the biggest mistakes that fishermen make is fishing in a spot automatically because it has produced fish in the past. Every season is different, and fish are influenced heavily by the weather and time of day. You have to fish the current situation, and not based on what worked in the past. So avoid making the mistake of fishing before you’re confident that you’re presenting your lure to where fish are present. This will greatly increase your chances of catching more fish.

Fishing Mistake #5 – Fishing in “Safe” Areas, Danger’s Where the Fish Are

Fish are fighting for their lives every day. Depending on where they fall on the food chain in the body of water you’re fishing, they have to be careful of their surroundings. Fish need to eat and they need safety. These are the two things fish need the most. To find safety, fish relate to different structure in the lake or river. Structure can be anything from rocks, weeds, brush, sunken logs, flooded timber or any other kind of shelter they can find.

Because you’re a fisherman, you’ve certainly snagged your lure on some sort of structure before and broken your line. It’s no fun to get snagged and break your line, because it takes time to retie your line, but it’s also costs money to buy new lures. But danger’s where the fish are. You have to take a chance and fish near and around structure. You have to risk snagging your line in order to catch more fish. Like in life, if you don’t take some risks, you’ll never get better, and you’ll never learn.

If you don’t take some risks and fish your lure or jig near the rocky or wooded structure that the fish are hiding in, you’re not going to catch as many fish. Go ahead, and fish out in the flat calm waters and you’ll catch a fish here and there, but unless you fish the areas that you’re likely to get hung up on, you’ll never catch as many fish as you could if you did fish those areas.

Fish position themselves strategically to protect themselves and also to give them the advantage over the other fish or bait they’re preying upon. These locations are usually in areas that you’re more likely to get snagged in, and risk losing some fishing tackle. But you’re also going to catch more fish in these areas, because that’s where the fish are. Don’t make this mistake when you’re fishing, because if you take some risks and lose a few lures, you’ll also end up going home with more fish in your boat.

Fishing Mistake #6 – Using Fishing Tackle That’s Too Big

Big baits can mean big fish, but big hooks and heavy line can also give yourself away. Fish aren’t the smartest creatures, but they can see and can be suspicious of fishing line and fishing hooks that are too big for the type of fish you’re fishing for. Fishermen make the mistake of fishing tackle too big for their targeted fish that they end up spooking the fish.

If you’re fishing for crappie and bluegill and using live bait that’s presented slowly, you shouldn’t use fishing line larger than 4 lb test and hooks larger than a #6 or #4 at the largest. A general rule of thumb is that if you’re fishing a slow presentation, use the lightest and smallest tackle you can get away with. And as you speed the presentation up by fishing crankbaits or trolling rigs at a higher rate of speed, you can get away with larger fishing line and hooks because you’ll be triggering more active fish that are biting more out of reaction.

When I am fishing for walleye, I don’t use anything bigger than a #6 octopus hook on 6 lb diameter line. You should match your fishing tackle with the species of fish you’re fishing for. You won’t have the same fishing success by using the same size tackle for multiple species of fish. Match your tackle size to the type of presentation you’re fishing as well as the species of fish.

A mistake often made when fishing is automatically thinking that you need bigger size tackle to catch bigger fish. During spring time, you should use smaller lures and smaller baits, and increase in size throughout the summer and into the fall. Bigger isn’t always better, and if you err on the side of smaller fishing tackle, you’ll get more bites and catch more fish.

Fishing Mistake #7 – Making Excuses for Not Getting Out To Fish

The biggest mistake that you’ll make is sitting around the house and making excuses for not getting out on the water. There are numerous things that keep us from getting out on the water and fishing more than we do. If we only fished when the weather was ideal, or when it was most convenient, we’d hardly ever get out fishing. You need to make time to fish. I’ve been guilty of researching too much and spending too much time studying and trying to perfect my approach. Of course that is my personality, so that doesn’t surprise me. But no time is going to be better spent than being on the water and trying new things and learning from your mistakes.

Those of you that fish at every opportunity you get, I guarantee have learned more and caught more fish than those of you who are sitting on your thumbs.

Making mistakes fishing is going to happen. Trial and error is necessary in order to learn, but the more that fishermen can learn from their mistakes the more fish they’ll catch. The best way to learn is to get out on the water and wetting a line, because that is the only way you’ll catch more fish.

If you can reduce the mistakes listed here, you’ll catch more fish. Each of these common fishing mistakes are all interrelated in some way and by eliminating them, you’ll be a better fisherman.

Good Fishing!


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