My dad, brothers and I grew up fishing. However, the vast majority of our fishing has been set it and forget it fishing for catfish, mostly at night.

My dad and father-in-law are in town for Thanksgiving, and so today I decided to take them on a fishing trip. We rented a pontoon, and drove up and down a nearby river fishing for the better part of 7 hours.

We caught one fish. We had maybe three bites total.

Is this normal? Here are the specifics of what we tried:

  • We're located in central Florida
  • Mostly trying to not just "set it and forget it" but rather attempt to catch something more active (e.g., bass)
  • We used live minnows, night crawlers, synthetic grubs, and a couple spinner lures.
  • The majority of the fishing was with live minnows (my dad) and a spinner lure (me)
  • We would drift along the bank, which would transition from trees to lillypads, and back. Large sections of lillys at a time.
  • My dad would cast near as he could to the bank, and start a slow draw
  • I would cast my spinner about 20 ft. into the lillys, and "hop" it over them
  • We would try each spot for about 30-60 minutes before moving on

I'm not sure how to fish with a spinner lure. Maybe that was my problem? I would "hop" it over the lillys, and then I guess just maintain a steady 'not slow but slow enough' draw until it was back to the boat.

We caught one fish all day. On a rod that we'd cast and set aside while working on something else. A catfish.

Keep doing what you're good at I guess? :)

Any advice? Any more details I can provide to help with giving me advice?

Main thing I guess is, we did have fun. And we plan on doing it again, soon. But, I'd rather actually catch some fish next time, if possible.

  • Yep, that's pretty much standard for me. Even when we've hired guides, same thing except they know when to give up and try a different spot. We usually end up trying 4 or 5 spots before we're really successful. Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 14:38
  • This might sound obvious, but maybe there were no fish in the spots you fished at the time you fished there. Look into portable (deeper pro) or boat based fish finders. Maybe even use a camera if possible. That way, you'll know if your tools & tricks are responsible for your failure. Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 5:04

3 Answers 3


Sounds fairly normal for a not so great day. That's why it's called 'Fishing' and not 'Catching'!

Size and color choice for lures has a lot to do with success as well. The traditional wisdom is that you must choose a color based on the stain of the water. If the water is very clear then the lure should be very close to the natural prey/food choices (shad or minnow colors) for that body of water, and of average size. If the water has a heavy stain then you must choose a brighter color (chartreuse/yellow/orange) and/or a bigger lure. If the water is really heavily stain you may want to consider something with additional sound or scent attractants.

As expected YMMV. The important thing is that you had a good time with friends and family!

  • Yes I've been fishing where we decided to switch the species of fish we were targeting because it was too easy to catch our initial target fish. So we start fishing for bass and end the day fishing for trout. I've also gone to the same spot and not had a single real bite all day.
    – Erik
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 17:20

Catching fish depends on so many variables that it is hard to pinpoint what went wrong. Depending on weather, time of the day, and season, fish are located at different parts of the water body and at different depths. Changes in water temperature and atmospheric pressure affect how fish and other aquatic life forms behave, and it all connects: aquatic insect activity attracts minnows and insectivore fish, which in turns attracts fish which prey on minnows, and so on. likewise, current strength and water volume also determines if fish hold near the banks or close to the main current.

This means that, apart from advice on lure patterns and bait (which you got from the other answers), you may also want to think about location. By that I mean the part of the water body and of the water column that you fish. This all depends on the water conditions and weather. For example, fast runoff water in spring makes fish gather at banks and slower parts of the river where they don't need to fight the current. Likewise, colder weather makes them hold close to the bottom, almost immobile. You should be able to adjust this by using heavier lures or waiting for them to sink before retrieving them, and also by selecting where to cast. It can be quite complicated because you need to learn to read the current and identify features at the bottom, something that I am still learning myself.

Off course, this all depends on the species, and I can't help you with exact advice if the quarry is bass (there are no bass where I fish).


Short answer: yes, unfortunately very normal. I've been fishing all over the western U.S. since I was a kid, lakes, rivers, streams and even the occasional surf fishing on the ocean. Some days are good, other days not, and there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. Here's an example. Some years back, I took my boat for the first time to the Flaming Gorge in Utah. I took the boat out from the boat dock, went around a bend in the shore to a small cover, and parked there. I was still very close to the dock and hadn't ventured out to the open water of the lake. I proceeded to fish and within four hours had landed dozens of beautiful sized trout and smallmouth bass. I thought, oh my god I have found the best fishing spot ever! I went home after only four hours because I already had my limit. Well, I returned two weeks later, went to the same spot, but this time I only caught a couple trout and a couple smallmouths. So I ventured out into the lakes, tried different spots, but had only marginal success. I went back again a month later, went back to the same cove: nothing. Not even a bite. I went around to different spots in the lake: nothing. I spent all day and didn't have a single bite. Why? I don't know. That's just how fish are. Who knows why.

  • Try using a camera and/or fish finder to check if fish are present at your fishing spot. That way, you can be sure that the fish are actually present, but are just not biting for unknown reasons. Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 5:05
  • it was the best fishing I ever had in my life. I think I just got lucky that day and happened to be at the spot where all the fish were. Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 22:43

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