The Secret to Catching More Fish

The best way to start catching more fish is not to lose them due to equipment malfunction or operator error.

Start by keeping your reels lubricated and working smoothly. Don’t tighten your drags and leave them tight over the off-season. They could stick when you need them to work, which might cost you the fish of a lifetime. Make sure the drags are loose enough to let fish run once they are on the hook.

Know knots
Also, make sure your knots are good. Retie them for every outing so they don’t weaken. And learn a few good knots, like the improved clinch knot and the Palomar knot, which are about as close to 100 percent for the line test you are using as it gets. Bad or overlooked knots account for lots of lost fish, even among experienced anglers. You’d be surprised at how many anglers I’ve met over the years treat their knots as afterthoughts—if they think of them at all. And it’s even worse for closed-face reels. I used to tell people that just because the line is hidden, it doesn’t mean the reel makes more line inside. You have to check inside periodically to see if the line is getting low or bad, and re-spool.

Underwater, fish definitely have the advantage. They can head into weeds and cover and virtually disappear. All you can do is look at it from the top down. That’s why casting accuracy is essential. Hit those pockets, turns and holes. A cast that’s off by just a few inches can result in a fish not moving to take the bait. Drop it right on its head and you can get a reaction strike, even if the fish’s attitude is neutral. Catching two or three fish like that can be the difference between having an okay day and getting skunked.

Control the boat
In the same vein, boat control and effective use of the trolling motor are also key. As you discover where fish hang out, you’ll need to use your boat to approach them from the best direction to get a bite.

For instance, fishing weeds means you stay out from the beds and toss into the pockets. Keeping weeds between you and the fish means it can’t see you. All they see is the bait, which translates to more bites than if the fish had better visibility.

That’s also where trolling motor savvy comes in. The approach should handle the elements without seeming to be a herd of water buffalo charging into the fishing area. Slow, quiet and easy can put you in the right place with minimal disruption of the environment.

River savvy
A trolling motor also earns its keep in river fishing. To present a bait naturally in a river, throw upstream and retrieve with the current. You can also work up and drift back through an area a little after every cast, so you cover more area. That’s an old trick called “slippin’” that Dan Gapen has used for years.

Live bait fishing in rivers can be very effective by anchoring upstream from areas where the deeper water pushes up over a shallow riffle. This creates a slack area in the push where fish group up. I once caught 38 smallmouths on leeches from one such area by anchoring above the riffle. 

To learn more about cold weather bass fishing look for Tom’s full article in the April issue of MidWest Outdoors magazine, available the first full week of April at a newsstand near you, or by subscribing on our website.