Take a slower approach and don’t run away from your fish
Fishing too fast is a common problem that many anglers have, especially when the fish tend to gather up and school in big bunches. Saltwater anglers who chase schooling fish along with freshwater fishermen who also key in on flocks of birds over hungry groups of stripers, hybrids, and whites are perhaps the worst. The frenzied activity puts everyone on the boat in high gear often leaving the majority of the water column untouched. It’s a proven fact that smaller more aggressive fish will be the first to attack a bait so consequently the “speed fisherman” may never see what caliber of fish is really down under the surface. Savvy anglers will let a bait get down under the surface melee and are more often than not rewarded with better quality fish. Saltwater enthusiasts often find better speckled trout and redfish down under all the small trout hustling shrimp and shad near the surface. By allowing the smaller fish to hit the bait and not setting the hook anglers can get down past the smaller fish to where the big boys play. Some anglers will actually crawl their baits along the bottom with very little action and catch some of the best fish out there, it’s difficult to do but well worth the effort.
By taking the time to patiently work a school of fish with a slower retrieve and perhaps a little larger bait anglers can effectively cull out smaller fish. The smaller fish will peck at the larger baits while the better fish will usually strike them with a little more gusto. This slightly different approach proves itself out in some of the strangest ways. Think about how many times you have caught a fish while dragging bait and correcting a backlash, it makes you wonder. If we could see the baits we are fishing with underwater we would see how little of the actual area we are fishing, most of the time it’s less than 2 feet deep. Burning a lure at a high speed has it’s applications but it’s awful hard to argue with the success that the slower approach produces.
Speaking of slower approaches one that comes to mind is dropping anchor on drifts instead of dropping buoy markers. In years past we would make long drifts down Sabine Lake, catch some fish, and repeat the drift only to catch fish in basically the same area. It was fishing on an escalator; you just went round and round until the fish quit biting. One day while fishing on Calcasieu I got schooled on a better way to go about this process from a local fisherman. We were both fishing the same area only we were going about it differently. The local guy was sitting on anchor while I continued to make drift after drift on the same line. After about 3 passes I hear the local guy say to his buddy in the boat “that guy has a beautiful boat, it’s a shame he couldn’t afford an anchor”. After that encounter I decided to try fishing like the locals and it has paid big dividends. If you watch these guys they keep the anchor real handy, one or two bites in the same area and they ease the anchor overboard and fish the area thoroughly. Usually these patient fishermen wind up catching more fish while others who continue to drift just miss out on the action. I am sold on the technique because it works; we really use it in the spring down on the south end of Sabine.
Taking the slower approach one step farther by learning how to properly anchor in places where you may be in deeper water can be critical to success. One day many years ago Capt. Dickie Colburn and I were fishing a stretch of the Sabine River where we knew a herd of Redfish had been hanging around. For some reason we couldn’t find them until we adjusted our position on the anchor by letting out about 30 feet of line and slipping right into the perfect spot. Our adjustment put us into casting range but kept us off the big concentration of fish; any other set up would result in either spooking the fish or not getting bit and both of those options don’t sound good at all. By adjusting our position we were able to cast over a submerged point where the redfish were ganged up escaping the current. The extra rooms on our casts finally allowed the bait to reach the fish that we knew were there, we were just off the mark by a few feet. Sometimes that few feet can be the difference between a great day and a zero.
During the coming months your patience and abilities will be tested not only by other anglers but by the elements and the fish as well. A more controlled approach will pay huge dividends as the crowds descend on the bays this summer. It never fails this time of year, everybody hears about how good the fishing is and how easy it is to catch fish so the thundering herd collapses on the coast. Regular anglers know this is coming so they adjust accordingly and make due until the crowds cease. Remember there are plenty of fish out there for everyone so stay clam and patient because fishing is our sanctuary and the actions of someone else should never be allowed to ruin that. Enjoy the fishing and the weather and be sure to share the outdoors with someone who may not know just how wonderful it really is.