Monday, February 10, 2014

Not-So-Pro-Tip: Never Give Up After a Hit&Miss

Make sure to check out the Fish of 2014 Page to see how many fish I have caught, where, and on what lure!

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  I've said it many times already: I didn't catch nearly as many fish last year as I had in previous years. Nor did I catch as big of fish as I had in previous years, but last year was still a year of massive growth for me as an amateur angler. I had said in my 2013 New Year's Resolutions that a few of my goals included learning how to not get skunked and getting better with finesse fishing. I did well with both of those, but along the way I learned a few valuable lessons. Now, this won't be earth shattering info to most anyone, but maybe someone out there can be helped with what I am about to say.

Growing up, I fished with my granddad a lot. One of his sayings was "Never give up on a cast:" What he meant was, even if you don't place the lure or present it just how YOU thought it should be, doesn't mean the fish isn't there and doesn't like what it sees. As a child, I was always trying to make impossible casts under limbs and in other tight places. And why not? That's where the fish was! Right? Well, it didn't always go where I wanted it and many times I would haul water and cast again. And granddad would say "never give up on a cast. Play every cast."

Now, the tip that I am giving you today isn't about cast placement. That line has multiple meanings and I am going to tell you about one that has served me well this year.

As I have mentioned before, I dedicated a lot of time this year to throwing a shakey head. Normally after a miss, I would haul water and cast it back to either the original splash point or to where I thought the hit came from. Almost never would I get a follow on bite. But one day on Lake Tuscaloosa I was becoming very frustrated with hits that I was not connecting on. I was throwing the PowerTeam Lures Sick Stick, which has been a confidence bait, mostly because the fish love it (or hate it). They never seem to let go of it, but not this day. After one particular hit that I didn't hook up on, I dropped my hands to my side and took a sigh of desperation. When I lifted the rod tip up, I felt it quiver with a bite. I sank the hook and hauled aboard the fish.

That got me thinking. Was that luck or had I just learned something? We forget that when we get bites, chances are it wasn't because we placed it on the fishes head, but because it attracted the fishes attention who either bite it immediately, or more than likely followed it a few seconds before biting. So, when we make follow on casts, why would we cast back to where the fish HAD been? After all, we had caused the fish to either follow the bait away from where it had been and/or move the fish by trying to set the hook.

And after I thought about that, I thought about it a little deeper. When we miss a hook up, we just drag it away as fast as we can from the fish? What if the fish is committed to eating it? Obviously it was interested to bite once, and if it was willing to commit the time the first go round, it would probably be likely to be invested enough to stick with it and bite again. So, maybe after a miss, instead of hauling water and making a low probability cast to where we think the fish is, maybe we should just let the bait settle back.

So, from then on, when I missed a hit on the shakey head, I would just drop the rod tip, let the bait settle back down, and see who would come calling. Believe it or not, I would pick up a second bite about half the time. And, it makes sense. Just like we speculated a few minutes ago, these fish have time and effort devoted to eating your bait. Just because it got away once doesn't mean the fish will just give up. Quite the opposite, they are now devoted to eating that bait. It would serve us wisely to give them the opportunity rather than hauling water and speeding the bait away from them.

After I was able to train myself to do this, I started applying it to other techniques. I have found it absolutely deadly on topwater on anything from walk the dog baits to hollow frogs. Rather than jerking the bait back at you as hard as you can, reeling it all the way in and casting to the same blow up hole....just wait.

You have already learned to wait until the fish pulls back before you set the hook on topwater. So, if it doesn't pull back, just let it sit. Twitch it a few times. See what happens. I bet you will find that you have a lot more success at follow up hits this way than to send that frog skittering across the grass before you try and make a second cast. In the video, you will see me use the same rationale on the PTL Hammer Shad. I was twitching it, had a hit, but didn't set the hook. I reeled the line back in, but at the last second I noticed the fish swimming right along with it. I hit the breaks and the fish gobbled it!

In conclusion, your chances of getting a second hit on the first cast are much greater than a second hit on a second cast. On the first cast, you still have a lot of things going for you. You already have the fishes attention. You are already around the fish. And you probably have it ticked off. By reeling in the miss for another cast, you are eliminating nearly all of your advantages. So, after a miss, let the bait settle and see if the fish comes right back. I bet it will.