FISH CATCHING TRAVEL
As thunderstorms and rain continue to roll across South Texas into Louisiana I have been just hanging out. After a fairly successful trip to Coleto on Monday I am itching to get back on the water. So being bored I thought I would put down a few thoughts that have been bouncing around in my thick skull.
It’s The Little Things
Over the years I have noticed that it is often the little things that separates the good day from the great day. And the little things may turn around what was a bad day into a successful day. Those little things start when you hitch the boat on the truck, and end when you put it back on the trailer.
As a perfect example of how those little things can keep you from having a bad day before you even start is the morning when I did my usual walk around the boat before ever leaving the driveway. I noticed that the hub on one side looked just a little funny. So I grabbed the wheel and shook it, and low and behold I had a major bearing failure that was not apparent just sitting there, but was about to leave me on the side of the road. By taking that couple of seconds to do the walk around my fishing trip did not end up on the side of the road with a smoking bearing. And imagine my surprise when I found the nut on the big bolt that allows the trailer tongue to swing away was missing. Now that could have been ugly! That quick check before every trip can keep you from getting a taillight ticket, something blowing out of the boat, or a host of other issues. It only takes a second.
One things all real hardcore fishermen tend to do is cast ahead of the boat. Makes sense. But one thing that seems to happen is both guys are tossing forward, and often tons of really great shots are missed. Those are the good places that are angled opposite of the direction you are traveling. We want to make the perfect cast at that perfect cover in front of us, causing us to miss some really good places due to that forward looking tunnel vision. Fishing by myself I realized how often I am casting back to hit that one sweet spot that could only be reached after I passed it as I carefully work the bank. So next time you are fishing heavy cover be sure you are not passing up that great spot in an effort to hit the next one. Fishing is not a who makes the most casts wins contest, it is who makes the best cast. Like many days on the water, one more cast can make the day, just be sure it is the right cast.
Another little thing, which actually goes along with the little thing above, is boat positioning. Over the years I have been lucky enough to catch some really big fish, many on light line, and they often seem to come out of nowhere. Those are always titanic struggles like the giant black drum I caught on 8lb test this year. And no big fish taught me more about boat positioning than the tarpon. One thing I have learned is to use the trolling motor is keep the nose of the boat pointed at a big fish like a compass to north until the time is right. It always amuses me to see some of the bass pros jumping all over the boat, or guys running to the back of the boat and then back to the front when that big red or jack starts ripping off line. It is so much easier to fight a really big fish with the nose pointed directly at him. Not only does make it easier to fight a big fish by keeping you in good body position, it helps avert total disaster when the fish is getting closer to boat side. Hard for a big one to get under the boat, or wrap in the prop or trolling motor, if you keep him in front of you. Then when it is time for the net just lift his head and turn the boat and slide him in. It may seem like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time, but once you start using this technique more big fish will be in the boat instead of a one that got away story.
Often the big question I ask myself is what exactly was I doing when I got that last one to bite. What speed, how was I twitching it, did I stop and go, or was it just sitting there? It can be critical to present your bait how they want it not how you want it, and once the fish tell you how they want it keep it up. My buddy Bob Bodenhamer whipped my hind end on Bull Shoals one spring day because I was not really paying attention. We were side by side on the front deck of the boat paralleling the bank with crankbaits using the exact same bait. If memory serves my right it was somewhere in the area of 1 bass for Doug and 15 for Bob. That was the first time I realized how critical it can be to remember what you were doing and repeat it exactly, not close. We all love watching the turkeys, other boats as they wiz by, or a great sunset, which are all a part of being outdoors. Total concentration is tough, but it is another little thing that can make the difference between catching a few and a catching frenzy.
Color is one of those little things. Many a great catch come from a moment of inspiration. Are the crawdads in this lake those orange and green ones or those big ass red ones? Does the forage base include gizzard shad, bluegill, alewives, mullet or a host of other possibilities? The possibilities are endless, and using baits with the right color to mimic the specific forage is often the difference between a good day and a great day. Yea I know, we have all caught fish on crazy looking stuff, happens every day, and if it is working keep doing it. But day in and day out a little thought on your initial color choice can make a huge difference. And if one does not work and orderly working through color can make all the difference. When it comes down to it the old saying match the hatch is never a bad idea.
Line is an important piece of our fishing tackle. As I have spent more time wading, hoping to catch bigger fish on light lures, fluorocarbon line has become a staple in my trout fishing. It’s worth has been proven to me over the last year by the number of good trout I have seen appear out of nowhere, eating my plastic right in front of me. It is hard to determine whether I catch more big fish because there are more of them, or I am getting better at it, or what I believe, that the fluorocarbon line puts bigger trout on the end of my line. When wading crystal clear water in less than 2 foot it absolutely makes a difference. It keeps coming back to those little things that put more fish in the boat, and in this case, bigger trout.
And when it comes to line there is one little thing that is so easy and so neglected at times. But this is an easy one, check your line above the bait. No big deal, it only takes a second, and it not only can be, but often is, the difference between a good day and a terrible day. You might have caught a ton of fish and be having a great day, but when that big one breaks your line your day goes from great to the dumpster. Check regularly and re-tie often, it is a no brainer.
Hooks are the final link between you and that big fish. Part of being prepared is occasionally going through all your baits and checking them out one by one. Not only might you be surprised what you use, or don’t use, you just might be surprised at the condition of some of your hooks. It takes a little time to check them all, and replacing those that need it takes a while, but the important point is this – When you reach in the box and tie on a bait the hooks will be sharp and all there. One of the side affects of catching a bunch of fish on your favorite crankbait or topwater is bending or breaking off part of a treble taking fish off. Well made plugs are also finely balanced and the size of the hooks is part of that balance. Plus replacing hooks increases hook ups and changing one is a little thing, a little thing that just might keep that fattie on your line.
And speaking of organizing things, one of the little things that can really pay off is keeping the boat stuff organized so you can grab any of it without thinking. That would be nets, bogas, pliers, and anything else you use. Keeping tools in a consistent place, putting them back after using them, all contribute to efficiency. And that goes for lures too. It only takes a second to put stuff where it goes so when you have that big fish on and reach for the net it is not full of baits, or hung on another rod or two. Nothing like watching that 30″ trout swim off while you are trying to get the net unhooked from crap laying around in the boat. Plus the little thing like keeping organized keeps you from throwing that $15 bait that was hung in the net in the water while you are netting that big fish.
Something I have learned in the last year since Cocoons came aboard is how important multiple pairs of sunglasses in different lenses can be. A perfect example is how on cloudy days with off colored water the bronze seem to allow me to see more obstructions. And if it is really dark the yellow provide the contrast to see so much better. And the blue mirrors seem to be the ticket when the bay water is clear as a bell. So that little thing, the ability to see into the water no matter the conditions, or where you are, will put more fish in the boat, period. In the bay you can see that laid up red, or on the lake you see that piece of cover underwater that you might have missed which holds the biggest bass of the trip. It may be a little thing, but like everything we have talked about it all adds up.
These little things are really just parts of the whole, or the big thing. They add up, or should I say paying attention to them have the fish adding up. Being organized makes the day go much better, being unorganized is a recipe for disaster. Fishing is a series of decisions, big and small, that determine our success or lack there of. It is amazing how often we can be lulled into going through the motions, and sometimes that is all the trip we need. And this is not the be all, end all, list of the little things, it is simply good practice to fish more efficiently and effectively. Day in and day out our attention to detail, organization, and repetition will put more and bigger fish in the boat, end of story.
The observations above may seem a little disjointed or disconnected, but they are part of the whole that is fishing. I have been thinking about these for a while and wondering how to put them down in the proper context. But finally just putting these seemingly unrelated things down on paper made me realize that they are all interrelated and affect our success each and every day. One little thing is all it takes to make or break our day.
Since I got the GPS/graph back from Humminbird I am happy to report it is still functioning exactly as it should. It is so apparent it was not working properly out of the package. So while their initial customer service left something to be desired, they made it right. I only hope that they treat all their customers that way, not just those who can pencil a rant on their blog. Would I have gotten the same result with my complaint if I had not published a rant for my readers detailing what happened? I hope so.
As I finish this up a squall is directly over the house and it is thundering, lightning, and blowing up a storm. Looking on the radar it continues to be spotty, though it really does depend on where you are how sporty it is. No matter what I will be on the water somewhere tomorrow. It will just depend on whether it storms right on me, misses me, makes me quit, or makes me find a place to hide then back out again. It definitely be a put on your big boy pants day.
The fishing report from Falcon Lake has really picked up the last month. Unlike our last trip numbers are being caught, and after a couple of down years the big fish appear to be making a come back. Last weekend the winner of the San Antonio Bass Club tournament had almost 21lbs. Not bad, in fact great, when you consider they use a 3 fish limit. Anytime you have a legitimate shot at a 7lb average you have some serious bass fishing. If the weather holds, and the wind stays down, I will slip down there 3 days next week. Stay tuned.
My last comment is bring on hunting season. Do not get me wrong, I love a little duck or venison on the plate, but I like it even more when folks start trading the boat for the 4 wheeler. I love not waiting in line at Froggie’s, not having folks cut me off, and not parking the truck and trailer on the other side of the county. It also signals fall is on the way, bass are fattening up for the winter and the redfish ganging up is just around the corner. I can still see those guys from Austin yelling at us as they ran after that giant school of reds pushing water a foot high. And standing in a foot of water as schools of mullet streamed by with trout dashing in and out of them. I can not wait for fall. So keep stopping in and thanks for reading my stuff.
Good Luck and Tight Lines
And to the folks in Louisiana, we are all praying for you.