Our Outdoors: The 90/10 Rule


This weed edge walleye was foraging on small panfish and minnows at mid-summer.

There’s a well established rule that ninety percent of the fish in a given body of water will occupy about ten percent of that area at any time. While the select portion of a lake or river where fish choose to hang out in will change based on season and conditions, knowing how to identify likely haunts is a sure way to find better fishing and more success, especially in late summer.

Teacup in a Trough

Another old adage on fish location comes from the Deep South, where an avid angler watched a couple bass he had caught relate to the edge of a large metal farm trough he was holding them in as they continuously swam around the oval.  Out of curiosity, the angler set a small cup in the center of the tub and the bass immediately stopped swimming in circles and began relating to the tiny piece of structure with the bigger of the pair holding right against it, and the smaller, less-dominant fish adjacent to its partner in the holding tank.  The key lesson coming out of the experiment is that fish will relate to the smallest piece of structure when nothing else is present in an area.  A rock pile or even a rogue boulder on a large flat can be the proverbial teacup for roaming summer fish like walleye, bass or crappies.  Finding these structures using sonar, or by making contact with them while trolling an otherwise featureless area will help anglers locate that prized ten percent of the water where fish are holding right now.

Take the Bait

Late summer spawning success also attracts game fish of all stripes.  Yearling perch, bluegills, and a new crop of minnows are abundant by this point in the season and predators are keying in on their locations.  Rearing areas like well-established weedlines, where these smaller fish can hide, draw predators in to patrol the edge. Additionally, schooling baitfish like shad, smelt and shiners in open water are a magnet for nomadic fish like walleyes and bass that follow the food source around as fall approaches, in order to pack on the pounds to make it through winter.   Inside bends, turns and pockets relating to nearby deep water give places for predators to corral the bait against the green wall and start a feeding frenzy.  Working the edges of weeds and the edges of bait balls that can be several feet in diameter can help anglers find those ten-percenters.

In the Wind

As previously mentioned, sometimes that ten percent area can change from day to day, or week to week based on weather and predominant wind patterns.  Those balls of baitfish and turbid water can draw predators in, especially walleyes.  Where there is a mixing of water across a windswept point, making things harder to see for prey, predators will be on the prowl.  As microorganisms are stirred up in the aquatic dust, minnows and small panfish follow their buffet, creating a bigger one for walleyes, pike and bass.  Wind also drives open-water populations of bait and pins them up against reefs, shelves, inside turns and shorelines, providing a place for big fish to feed with relative ease when escape routes are cut off on one or more sides for their prey.  If the wind has been blowing in the same direction for more than a day or two, those shorelines and windward sides of reefs and other forms of structure are worth exploring to find more fish.

The ninety-ten rule is as close to gospel as fishing tips get.  And while the bounds of the rule may change from season to season – pre-spawn, spawn, post-spawn, summer, and fall patterns being noticeable shifts – the factors remain the same.  Especially in mid-summer, identifying and paying attention to structural elements, where the food sources are at this time of year, and what recent wind and weather patterns have been will help anglers close in on the top-producing portions of any water…in our outdoors

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s