by Bob Jensen
The other day while I was preparing some of my open water fishing gear for storage I did what I usually do while I’m performing that task: I think back on the year of open water fishing that has just passed. Thinking back always brings fond memories, and it also reminds me of things we did this year that helped us be more successful on the water. Every year we learn of new ways to catch more and bigger fish. As our fishing knowledge expands, we realize that there’s always more to learn. If you want to be an angler who is consistently successful at catching fish, you need to keep learning. Following are some of the things I learned this year.
Much of the learning process is modifying or tweaking the things we already know. Plastic baits on jigs have become a very important part of our efforts to catch not only bass, but also walleyes and panfish. The thinking used to be, when using plastic for walleyes or panfish, you had to set the hook as soon as you felt the strike: Those species of fish wouldn’t hang on to plastic very long. This year I started using Impulse plastic baits. Impulse baits are very, very soft, and they have some sort of ingredient that encourages fish to hang on to the bait longer. You still should set the hook as soon as you feel the fish or see your bobber go down, but if you’re snoozin’ a little when the fish hits, these new soft baits will increase the odds of the fish still having the bait in its mouth when you wake up.
As good as plastic baits are getting, live bait is still a fish catcher. When all else fails, it’s tough to beat a live minnow or leech or nightcrawler or bug of some sort. From shiners in Florida for bass, to leeches for walleyes in Canada, and worms or nightcrawlers for all species in between, live bait produces. We had an interesting experience in a Midwest lake a while back with live bait. We got shiner minnows from the same bait shop, but put them in two separate containers, one aerated, one not. The fish liked the aerated minnows more. This was in the heat of summer, and the aerated minnows just looked healthier and livelier, and it made a difference. The 1404 Min-O-Life container is an aerated unit that many, many of the most successful live bait anglers rely on.
Another thing I learned again this year happened in mid-June. I was with Chip Leer and John Peterson fishing for bass in northern Minnesota. Chip and J.P. are two of the best anglers around. We started out fishing on the deep edge of the reeds throwing spinnerbaits. Chip caught a nice almost three pounder on his first cast. That was the last one we caught for quite awhile. The fish should have been right where we were fishing and eating what we were throwing. They weren’t, so we tried different stuff, and nothing worked. Chip and J.P. decided to try an area that didn’t look very good, but they figured if the fish weren’t where we were fishing, they must be someplace else. They were right: That little backwater area with too-warm water and minimal cover was where the bass were. Never forget this rule: If you’re not catching fish doing what you’re doing, do something else. If you re-learn that one rule every year, you’ll be on your way to more fishing success.