There are a few simple things I have picked up over the years that have increased my fishing success exponentially, and can increase yours as well.
Walk Your Dog
Walking topwater baits draw big bites from all bass species. They draw both quality and quantity, and is possibly my favorite style of fishing. The only drawback to this style of lure is that bass strike them so viciously and aggressively that they often miss the bait entirely. The water explodes and you set the hook immediately - and wonder how that fish missed three sets of treble hooks. Most anglers can relate to this frustration.
Simple thing: Set the hook when you feel the fish loading up your rod rather than when you see the visual strike. I have a mantra that I follow, telling myself, “Wait for it, wait for it, wait for it…” that I subconsciously utter as I work the bait. Spotted bass and smallmouth are notorious for missing the bait five or six times before engulfing it. The key is to never break cadence until the fish has engulfed the bait, turned its head, and begun to make its way back to its lair. If you swing and miss it will spook the fish, and you will likely not get a second chance. By maintaining cadence, the fish will try harder to chase down the elusive prey until it finally captures your bait. I use 30lb braid exclusively, and I simply sweep into a nice, easy hook set and reel into the fish. Treble hooks are meant to be buried into the fish, not set into the roof of the mouth like a jig or worm hook.
The hook is arguably the most important part of your arsenal, and easily the most neglected aspect of your tackle. I had a profound realization of the importance of when I had a 30lb-class striped bass come unbuttoned at boat side. I had just replaced the hooks on my 6” Bull Shad with fresh Owner “ST-46” =fearsomely sharp hooks - and was incredulous that a striper had thrown my hook. Stripers almost never throw the hook because they engulf most baits so deeply. I then moved to a rock point and had a four to five-pound class spotted bass slam the swimbait, only to shake off at my fingertips. I reeled in the swimbait with disappointment, to discover that the treble hooks were completely dull. I had to dislodge my Bull Shad from several shallow rock shelves, and did not realize that this had completely trashed the hook points.
Simple thing: Check your hook points anytime you dislodge your lure from a snag. Use the thumbnail test by dragging the hook point across your nail. If it doesn’t bite and stick into the nail, then your hook points have been rolled over. I always carry a hook file with me in case my favorite lure loses its potency. Hold the file in your palm and rub the hook point back and forth to grind a new, triangular point. This may not have the same surgical sharpness as from the factory, but it will still stick your fish.
This seems terribly simple, but paying attention to your knots and line can save you some serious heartache down the road. First of all, learn to tie solid knots and become proficient at tying them. If you don’t tie a perfect knot, snip it off and do it again. Cut your lure off periodically and retie. This is especially important when you’re throwing heavy lures like the swim baits I throw. The weight of the lure stresses the knot and can cause a cast-off or break-off.
Simple thing: When your line happens to wrap around structure, get caught in a tree, or rubs across rocks, run it between your fingertips and feel for rough spots. [Your lips are even more sensitive than your fingertips – try both. IR] This is especially critical for fluorocarbon and braid. Don’t be afraid to strip off and cut away any line that has a rough spot on it.
Paying attention to these minor details can pay huge dividends in your fishing game. I have cost myself many big fish by failing to pay attention to these critical details. Put yourself ahead of the game and put more fish in the boat today by taking care of the simple things!