With decades of paddling canoes and kayaks comes the experiences that offer insight to what works in the confines of the water craft and also in the watery highways that carry use to adventure, fun and fishing. Learning the most efficient strokes to propel the “boat” is part of it but for the paddling angler fooling the fish is close to the top of the list. Learning about your quarry is the key. What they like /dislike? What do they eat, where do they hideout? How are they affected by the influences of nature? All of these come into play.
Focus on Feeding
If you focus on feeding you can position yourself for consistent success. In short, “they have to eat.” In a great part fish feeding habits are dictated by several key factors.
- At the top of the list is water temperature. Digestion of any species is accelerated by warmer water temperatures. For many fish temperatures below 50 degrees minimizes activity and lessens the “need to feed.” Slower digestion sends them into a “I couldn’t eat another thing” mode.
- Opportunistic predators game fish when presented with an easy meal find it difficult to resist. Proximity of the food source and the appearance are important. Does the “victim” look injured, moving slowly or is it within easy striking distance. All these add up to a gulp and gone.
- In the fall baitfish school up and bring out the wolf pack mentality in fish especially the bass family. Schools of bass will push schools of bait to edges, the surface and gorge themselves on as many as they can swallow.
- Spawning time for fish comes in three parts, pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn. Pre-spawn means they stock up for the exhausting ritual about to happen. During the spawn fish DO NOT eat. They will go about building nests, depositing and fertilizing eggs and guarding the nest. Finally after the spawn most fish move a shade deeper and rest and then go into full feeding mode to build their strength back up to an acceptable level.
Fish Travel Patterns
My recommendation is to look at the physical capabilities of the fish you are casting toward. Crappie are schoolers, travel and live in large numbers, find one you’ll likely find several. This phenomenon creates competition for food and again can lead to multiple catches form the same area and also establish a pattern of lure and presentation. Once you learn to pattern fish the real (also reel) fun begins.
Bluegill similar travel in groups. Bass, especially big ones, can be loners but smaller bass school with the idea of working together like a wolf pack to efficiently surround and attack shad and other bait fish. Add walleye, trout, musky and others to the conversation and quickly you’ll see the each of these predatory fish depends largely on the sense of sight to feed and flee danger. Catfish signal their intention sporting small eyes but a super sense of smell and taste. Others that are satisfied to feed predominately from the bottom such as carp use sight and smell locate food sources.
Choosing a Lure
This leads you to the theory that “eye appeal” is important to those species that are sight feeders. Artificial lures that mimic the size, shape and color of natural forage are effective for consistently catching game fish in almost any part of the world and in fresh or salt water.
Additionally, appealing to the sense of sound utilizing rattling baits, or upsizing your offerings can also help seal the deal for otherwise uninterested fish. Jigs, plastic worms and soft plastic swim baits all qualify as good choices to consistently fool fish. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are also good choices for almost any water type and geographic location.
Unique to these and the most effective artificial lures are the ability to present them both vertically and horizontally, this is a quality that many of their natural food sources are equipped with. All artificial lures possess triggering and attracting qualities, both of these are dependent on primarily seeing the lure. Vibration plays a role for fish with a lateral line, namely snook and bass to name a few.
Food sources like shad, skipjack herring and live worms (night crawlers) that emit a smell are more desirable to all the members of the catfish family and a few of their other fresh and salty cousins.
Almost always the most important factor is “catching” the attention of the fish through visual clues to fool them into taking the bait. I guess you could say “the decision is in the eye(s) of the beholder.