How To

Small Details, Bigger Catches

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Jim Hunt knows that paying attention to small details will help an angler catch more fish.

Jim Hunt knows that paying attention to small details will help an angler catch more fish.

Fishing in the fall can be good. Really good. Really, really good. And, if you pay attention to detail, you can be even more successful at this time of year. As I think back on some of my fall fishing trips, I remember how we caught a lot more fish because we tweaked our presentations just a little for greater fishing success. Following are some examples of how adjusting our presentation just a little enabled us to catch more fish.

It was late October a few years ago. We were fishing near Lansing, Iowa on the Mississippi River. My fishing partners were Jim Hunt and Terry Fitzpatrick. Both work at the Cabela’s store in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin and are expert anglers.

A very strong windstorm had just gone through, with the wind turning the water to a chocolate milk color in the main channel and many of the backwaters.

The first thing we did was locate a backwater area that had been protected from the wind. The water in that area was a little clearer. It was still cloudy, just not as cloudy as the rest of the area.

We were throwing crankbaits. Jim and Terry were throwing short, fat crankbaits. That shape is very appealing to largemouth bass.

I was throwing a longer, thinner crankbait, kind of a shad shape. That shape, I believe, appeals to a wider variety of fish species. Since there were walleyes and smallmouth bass in the area, I thought I could perhaps get some of them to eat the bait. I was wrong.

Jim and Terry were catching fish consistently. Since I wasn’t getting bit, I decided to switch baits. I went to a larger bait of the same style, and on my first cast caught a nice bass. I started catching bass just as fast as my boat partners. Here’s why.

Remember, the water was cloudy. The smaller bait ran down three or four feet on the cast, while the larger one ran down about six feet on the cast. The bigger bait was bumping the bottom. It was running into rocks and disrupting the bottom. It was making noise, which made it easier for the fish to find. In cloudy water, you want a bait to make noise so the fish can find it easier. It’s a small detail, but an important one.

Also, it was easier for the fish to see the larger size just because it was larger. Another small detail.

We also noticed that some bass had the entire bait in their mouth, others were just hanging onto the back hook. After a few fish, it became apparent that the bass were inhaling the baits that were brighter in color, and just nipping at the baits that weren’t so bright. They could see the bright baits better, so they ate them more aggressively. Bright baits are often better in stained water, while more natural-colored baits are better in clear water. Another small detail that will put fish in the boat.

Too much of the time we attribute fishing success to a “magic” bait—but sometimes there is a bait that’s special. But if you pay more attention to the small details when you’re fishing, I guarantee you’re going to catch more fish.

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Image courtesy Bob Jensen

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