When I am fishing for bass, walleye, or even crappie, I am constantly in search of developing the most effective fish-catching pattern. Creating a pattern can be explained in simple terms...one fishes until they figure out a bait, lure, or most effective presentation technique to optimally catch the most (or largest) fish during their given time frame.
A simple example would be you are taking your child bobber fishing for panfish on your local lake. You are at the shoreline and see a nice patch of lilypads in the water. You instruct your child to make a cast in that general direction. After about 15 minutes there are no bites. You realize that maybe the fish are not biting the minnows you brought along in the minnow bucket. You reach in your pocket and remove a container of mealworms, or grubs, and bait their hook. On the next cast, they catch a nice sunfish worth celebrating. After several casts and more fish caught, you come to the conclusion that the grubs were the ticket. Also, you realize that if that cast were only a few feet farther, you could catch sunfish the size of your hand. With or without knowing it, you just established a sunfish pattern that can be duplicated down the road at possibly another lake location.
The overall key to developing a pattern comes down to making observations while fishing. When I am in a bass tournament, establishing a pattern is critical, and often this pattern will change as the weather and time-of-day changes. In the morning, the fish may be striking topwater baits aggressively, but as the day goes on, I may need to switch to a 6" worm in watermelon color. Maybe I have the right lure tied on, but I am not working the lure as effectively as I could be. Instead of a straight cast and reel-in retrieve, I switch to a stop-and-go technique and catch my five fish.
Developing an effective pattern is fun. You are able to observe and use trial and error to determine the best possible way to catch fish. If you are ambitious, keep a fishing journal to record your observations and your catches. You will be amazed at how you will be able to repeat your patterns on various lakes under similar conditions.
The next time you are out, find that fish-catching pattern and put more fish in your boat in a shorter period of time.