Different Can Make the Difference
On being different...
This article is not about some recent adventure I've been on, and it is not about some specific technique to add to your arsenal of tactics or a new hotspot. But it is just as important as any of those and probably even more so. No, this is more about mental development. It is about getting out of practiced routines, or expanding out into variations within those routines. Developing the proper frame of mind can make all the difference. I know it helped me more than I can relate. Keeping an open mind is essential and experimentation is vital to successful esox angling. What worked yesterday may not, and most likely will not work today. Conditions may call for something entirely different, or it may be something subtle. Different lures, different locations, or even just different retrieves. It all boils down to being open to something different.
It is always a good strategy for two anglers in a boat to cast different lures, at least until a definite pattern is established. By the same token, if you observe a boat going through an area that you know to be productive, try to see what they are using. Once they are finished in the area, it never hurts to play follow up with something different on your line. Let me give you an example of this.
Mary and I were on a river in the far north that we knew well and we were coming up on one of my favorite spots. As we got closer, I could see two guys were there casting so we motored to another spot fairly close by. While we were fishing this alternate area, I kept my eye on the guys that were casting in my favored spot. Both were casting spoons and were catching a few fish, but no big ones were sighted. I watched those guys for an hour and a half and never did see them change from spoons or land a big fish. As soon as I saw them packing up gear and getting ready to leave, I started our motor. And as soon as they moved out, we moved in. Mary, armed with an inline spinner, and I with a spinnerbait, landed two pike over 20 pounds in about 15 minutes. The guys in the other boat had only motored a short distance away and were watching us and saw all of this happen. I could hear the frustration in their boat as one guy was yelling at the other one, "I told you we shouldn't leave. They were just getting ready to bite!" Timing wasn't the problem though. Those guys got stuck on using one type of lure instead of experimenting around. We simply showed the pike something different, and it made all the difference we needed.
It doesn't always have to be a different lure type either. Sometimes all it takes is a change in color. Some of the top esox anglers in the world only own about 20 or 25 different lures, but they have every color offered for each one and even some custom painted ones. Plus, they have several of each stashed away for back up purposes. Or it might be the vibration a certain lure gives off. In the case of crankbaits, it could be that one day a crank with a tight wobble will be the key, while the next day one with a wider wobble will produce more. Spinners and spinnerbaits are another good example. The differences in blade sizes and shapes will dictate what vibrations it will give off. And in all cases, it may change several times during a single day. If it ain't happening, it's time to do something different, even if it's just a little different.
Or it could be that a different retrieval technique will be all that is needed to trigger those toothy denizens of the deep. And some guys, myself included, will make modifications to a lure to make it act a bit differently.
The whole idea here is just using something different, although it still may require experimentation on your part. Let's say you're in an area you know holds big fish and you make a pass through with a spinnerbait with no success. On the next pass, you are armed with a crankbait, but still nothing bites. Next pass is made chucking a spoon with the same results. Nothing. So what now? Leave and try another spot? Well, consider this. All three of those lures can be considered as aggressive presentations. Why not try something more on the subtle side like a jig and lizard, or a soft plastic jerkbait or even a gliding jerkbait? Something that moves slower. Something completely different. And to expand on this let me relate another experience I had. I was in the Northwest Territories and was having a great day catching big pike on a Bomber Magnum Long A in the back of a bay. The next day I returned to the same bay thinking I would continue using the Bomber, but they wouldn't touch it. I saw some big pike follow so I knew they hadn't moved out of the bay and they were still interested in the crank but what was it going to take to get them to commit? Everything seemed to be the same. The weather hadn't changed any so I tried to mentally think the situation through. Same weather, same bay, same rattling Bomber….Ah ha! I got out a Bomber that I had modified so that it didn't rattle and immediately started catching them again. So, as you can see, it doesn't always have to be a big change to turn them on. There is a saying that if you fish the way you've always fished, the results will be the same as they've always been. Very profound in my way of thinking. Different tactics produce different results in many cases. And many times the difference may be a small one.
Last year I was thinking about what I could use to make some of my presentations different and came up with the idea of adding scent to things I hadn't used it on in the past. I've used Berkeley Power Grubs as trailers on spoons and spinnerbaits for years with good success, but there were times when I preferred a skirted single hook on my spoons and times when I wanted to keep a smaller profile with the spinnerbaits. The logical conclusion was to combine the two. I bought a few bags of huge Power Grubs and use them to age my skirted hooks, jigs and spinnerbaits in. The results have been very positive.
Different areas apply too. Buck Perry, one of the early educators on structure fishing used to say, "They will either be in the shallows, in the deepest water in the area, or somewhere in between." Some might laugh at how simple that sounds, but think about it. This was just Mr. Perry's way of stating the need of trying different areas. If you're not getting bit where you are fishing, try somewhere different.
I'll always have my tried and true lures. The ones that have withstood the test of time and have risen to the top. And I'll always be using them. At the same time, I will be tweaking them occasionally, looking for that something just a little different. Sure, anything new catches my eye as much as they do anyone else's and I'm game to try some of it, too. As long as it is different.
If you are not getting the results you want or expect, break the same ole, same ole mold. Too many folks get stuck in that rut. Open your mind a bit. Experiment and try different offerings, areas and presentations. It could make all the difference.