I was talking to bass fisherman at one of our marinas the other day about some of the local fishing tournaments. I asked how he did last week and he disgustedly said, “I just can’t compete with these local guys. No matter what I catch they bring in something better.”
I will give him the fact that the veteran angler who has fished a lake three or four times a week, for twenty years, has an advantage over those who fish once every week or two, but just the fact of being on a lake is not everything by any means. Let’s take a look at some of the other factors that can influence an angler’s performance.
Experience for a successful fisherman is having learned the habits of the fish you are after, your ability to use the lures or bait, knowledge of water, weather, temperature, and phase of the moon. It reminds me of one of the sayings of my favorite, Mark Twain, when he said, “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from making bad decisions.” That fits fishing as well as life.
Have you ever seen a really experienced angler when he looks over a lake, be it familiar or new to him? First, if available, he will go over a map of the lake. Then he will head out and “read” the lake. To read a lake there is no deep dark secret, it is a matter of experience gained by training yourself to “look” and see what is going on. Look with your eyes, and register what you see. This is accomplished by interpreting what your eyes tell you about the movements of fish, birds, animals, and the plant life in the area.
A school of minnows stirring up the surface and jumping is a sign that most anglers recognize. What that commotion in the water means is there are larger fish stalking the school. If you “look” there is no doubt when larger fish start to hit a school at the surface. That is the time to get into the school with a lure, such as a silver spoon or a minnow.
When fishing for white bass or hybrids, on a lake, and you are near a point or hump, close to some deep water, watch for shad action. When you see them come by, you will also see the white’s and hybrids start to hit. That is when you can get into some real fishing action. Drop a silver spoon or minnow right into the middle of the school of bait fish and haul them in.
Once the action stops, watch the same general area. It is a pretty safe bet that in about a half hour the same thing may occur again. You see, shad are movers. They will circulate in schools around a lake. The game fish will hang back off of a point in the deeper water and as a school of shad come by they break in to action. Between schools of migrating shad, fish off of the point in the deeper water, near the bottom, where the whites and hybrids will be waiting. You can generate some action there too.
So you can see, unless an angler “looks” with eyes and his mind wide open for what is going on, he could easily miss the opportunity offered by the shad coming by, or the chance at the game fish deep off of the point between shad schools.
A consistently successful angler will be continually alert for the sliver flash of a minnow, a telltale swirl in a pocket of grass, or lily pads that move in an unnatural way as fish move through them disturbing their stems. He will be aware of the birds circling the water. Birds circling the water mean there is fish there, and an angler can hardly go wrong heading for the birds. A Kingfisher perched, looking into the water is worth watching. He is fishing. When he dives there is fish.
When fishing for black bass and are near the shallows keep alert for the minnows hugging the bank, there is probably a nice bass somewhere near, hunting. Drop a well-paced lure a little ways out from the shore, in line with the minnows. Chances are good a strike will come.
When we look at the water, what do we see? A medium in which to launch our boats, or are we looking at the condition of the water. To an experienced angler the condition of the water can tell many things. Is it clear, tainted, or down right muddy? Is the wind calm, causing a little ripple or extremely windy and making the water rough. Is it gusty or consistent? Each circumstance will mean a different approach to the fishing technique, lures, and area to fish.
So the next time you go after the cash prize at a tournament, or just go fishing for the sake of the sport, remember to work on and develop the ability to really “look” and see what’s going on, before charging ahead blindly to a favorite spot that may have at one time yield some good fishing. Concentrate on developing that all important, anglers eye, and the catches going forward are sure to increase.