Sabine Lake: Don’t overlook the small stuff
For the first two hours the fishing was so ridiculously easy that I never made the first cast. I netted redfish, re-tied lines, replaced torn up jig bodies and occasionally had to move the boat a short distance on the troll motor. The lake was dead calm, we had a perfect outgoing tide, and every small flock of gulls was ratting out 25 to 32-inch redfish.
After shutting the lid of the fish box on a three man limit of reds, I treated myself to a bottle of water while my party continued to catch and release redfish and trout. It was pretty much every man for himself for a few minutes as I picked up shredded plastic tails and did a little housekeeping while leaving them to tie on their own heads and replace their own plastic tails.
The chaos eventually slowed down and we were forced to work at catching fish again. That kind of action will not only spoil you, but lead to bad habits that make you a more ineffective fisherman as well. When fish are blowing up all around you there are very few colors that won’t work, there is little need to thread another body on a jig head properly or, heaven forbid, stop to re-tie in the midst of the melee!
I fish almost every day and at least for me, the catching is not that easy ninety percent of the time. We still catch a lot of fish, but we have to work at it. There are so many factors that I have no control over that I cannot afford to ignore even the most insignificant ones and hope to catch fish with any consistency.
Obviously, you have some control over the tackle you use, but far too many fishermen trump even the best of tackle in their haste to get a lure in the water. The most critical link between fishermen and the fish is their line and all too often it gets the least attention until it is too late.
Most of my clients use my rods and reels, but when they bring their own we start each morning checking their line and tying knots.
The most expensive reel you can buy, casting or spinning, can be rendered ineffective by the amount and size of the line you wind on the spool. The two biggest mistakes are not matching the line to the reel’s listed capacities and over or under filling the spool. Under filling a reel, even with the correct size line is not the optimum solution to preventing backlashes.
Over filling a spool, most sporting goods stores are good about doing this, will more often than not leave you picking at backlashes while your friends are catching fish. Read the directions in your reel manual, match the line to the task, and practice casting before you ever go to the lake.
And while on the subject of line, my number one pet peeve is not occasionally stopping to re-tie throughout the day. Check the last foot or so of your line for abrasion on a regular basis and re-tie more frequently when the catching is good. You don’t need to know how to tie every knot in the book, but I recommend learning to tie a surgeon’s knot, a loop knot, and a Palomar. I attach every lure with a loop knot and attach mono leaders to braid with the surgeon’s knot.
When the fish are suicidal, you can thread a plastic body on your jig head backwards and still catch fish, but you can waste a lot of plastic and “catching time” when it’s tough by not taking the time to put your choice of bodies on a jig head correctly. Lure manufactures spend a great deal of money and time perfecting lures that dupe fish, but effectively delivering the bait to the fish is up to you.
Above all else, take the time to put the body on the hook so that the bait is aligned from the head to the tail. If it is twisted or threaded on incorrectly, it will not swim as intended and will twist your line to no end. While the weight of the jig is critical, you still need to match the hook size with the length of the plastic body. Pay attention to the length and sproat of the hook when purchasing heads of different weights.
I fish a lot of straight tail plastics as well as paddle tails depending on what the fish are feeding on and I do not believe that either of the two will serve you well all of the time. By straight tails I am talking about five inch plastics like the Assassin Shad or the TTF trout killers. The paddle tails I rely on are an inch shorter and I seldom use anything other than a Sea Shad or Flats Killer Minnow unless neither comes in a color that is particularly hot.
I am not locked into which side of the body I exit the hook with on the longer straight tail lures as long as I keep it perfectly straight to eliminate twist on the retrieve. On the other hand, I always take the time to thread the shorter paddle tail bodies on the jig head so that they swim with the tail down.
That might not matter much if you are just crawling it across the bottom, but it makes a huge difference any time you are swimming it and, at some point on every cast, you will be swimming it back. Swim Baits are the current rage and they all come pre-rigged with the tail pointing downward for maximum vibration. I have had too many clients thread their own plastic on with the tail up only to become a spectator while their buddies continued to catch fish. It does make a difference.
I hope the catching is easy for you next time out, but if it isn’t…don’t panic. Take care of the things you have control over and keep casting!