Open water fishing is something I look for on every body of water I fish – except for current conditions in a river. The tricky part about open water fish is that even though they are fairly easy to mark, several things can complicate the bite.
First, the fish may be sitting in open water, just off structure, and are not aggressively eating. They may be just hanging out, waiting for a time to move up on structure and eat. To catch these fish you may have to pull it by tens or hundreds of fish to get one to swipe at the lure.
Second, even though it is easy to spot suspended fish, they often are not eating at the same level as they are swimming. The trick is to figure out the depth where they will bite at a lure. This will normally be somewhere above where they are holding so anglers need to run cranks or spinners at several levels – hoping to get the first bite to indicate what depth is the “eating zone”. Once depth is determined then, through experimentation, figure out what lure, what speed and what colors are the best.
Third, just because fish are in open water does not mean they are eating lures. They may be out there with a ton of bait fish and have more than enough to eat. This makes it hard to figure out a consistent – tournament usable strategy. Open water fish are also very susceptible to changing water conditions. Cooling water in particular will slow the bite down – enough that it may not be viable during a tournament.
If I do figure out an open water pattern – often I will fish it the whole tournament because most of the time these will be the tournament winning fish. If the bite is a little inconsistent then yes, I will use the open water to try to produce a big kicker fish after getting my limit.