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Entries in Better Bass Fishing (49)

Monday
Jan162017

Fishing's Fascinating History Documented in Book by Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson

If you like to fish and you enjoy reading about history, then The American Fisherman: How Our Nation's Anglers Founded, Fed, Financed, and Forever Shaped the U.S.A. is just the book for you. Written by Duck Dynasty's Willie Robertson and historian William Doyle and illustrated with 75 photos, it traces the significant, and often surprising, role that angling has played.

For example,  in "The Fisherman Who Created America," find out how fish, saved Washington's Continental Army at Valley Forge from starvation, although actual events might not be as dramatic a "fish story" as originally believed. The "Greatest Fishing Trip of All," meanwhile, was Lewis and Clark's trip up the Missouri River, in the wake of the Louisiana Purchase. An Army private from Massachusetts, Silas Goodrich, even was brought along as an angling expert.

"We don't know where he picked up these skills," Robertson and Doyle wrote, "but as soon as they hit the water, he was reeling in fish all over the place," including "the men's favorite, catfish, some as huge as 100 pounds."

In this book, you also can learn about "the fish that won the last battle of the Civil War," the whaling era, and the golden age of sportfishing. The latter possibly is the most fascinating, as it traces development of the sport, both salt and freshwater, from Ernest Hemingway to Kevin VanDam.

Female anglers are recognized too, as are U.S. Presidents who fished. A final chapter documents the remarkable healing power of fishing.

Appendixes provide interesting reading as well, including an article by former President George H.W. Bush and another entitled "Great Moments  in American Fishing."

Why We Fish and Better Bass Fishing, a couple of my books, provide nice complements to this historical perspective on fishing.

Friday
Oct142016

Don't Overlook Small Baits for Catching Big Bass

The Texas state record largemouth bass was caught by accident.

Chances are that you don't know the amazing story of that fish, which weighed 18.18 pounds and was caught in 1992.

I do. I talked to the angler who caught it and included his tale in my book, Better Bass Fishing, in a chapter about catching big bass with small baits.

St. Clair had been bass fishing on Lake Fork with two friends. They decided to stop and catch a few crappie for the table. St. Clair didn’t have light tackle with him, so he simply put 12-inches of 8-pound leader and a 1/0 gold Aberdeen hook onto his bass rod and reel, which was loaded with 14-pound line.

The strength of that line and the backbone of the rod played no small part in the battle that was about to occur.

“At first, I didn’t know what I had,” St. Clair told me. “But I never panicked. That’s what helped me get the fish in.

“I put pressure on it, and it started to move. Right away, I thought it might be a big catfish. But it didn’t act like a catfish.”

The fish ran three times, but stayed deep. “I took the time to wear her out,” St. Clair said. “Then I eased her toward the surface.

“When she came up, it was like an exploding buoy coming out of the water. We all were stunned. Then I screamed ‘Get the net!’ at my buddies.”

Once he had her in, St. Clair noted that the big bass “filled the bottom of the boat,” and he saw that the delicate wire hook was bent nearly into a circle. “Once more run and she would have been gone,” he said.

Since that memorable day, St. Clair has learned that his experience was not unique.

Secret: In other words, big bass will eat little baits, just as elephants will munch peanuts.

“I’ve run across numerous examples of others who were doing the same thing (crappie fishing) when they hooked something big,” he said. “A few got them in, and the fish were in the 13-pound range. Others couldn’t do it. I was lucky that I had tackle stout enough to handle the fish.”

Here’s another example of a big bass dining at the hors d’oeuvre tray instead of the buffet table: In April 2006, Randy Beaty Jr. used a 1/8-ounce Blakemore Roadrunner to catch a 15.68-pound bass at Florida’s Bienville Plantation.

And my personal favorite: I caught a 12-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass on a 3/8-ounce Cordell Spot, while fishing in Mexico’s Lake Guerrero. In case you’re not familiar with it, that lipless crankbait is a mere 3 inches long, seemingly hardly an appetizer for a big bass.

Why do big bass sometimes eat little baits?

Find the answer in Better Bass Fishing. The book has been out for a few years, but most of the information  does not go out of date because it's about bass behavior and intelligence, seasonal patterns, weather, etc. In other words, it's about the "big picture" of bass fishing.

Friday
Aug192016

Secrets That You Should Know About 'The Bite'--- Part 4

These are but a few of the secrets in "The Bite" from Better Bass Fishing: Secrets From the Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer. Also, here's a link to the book at Barnes & Noble

Secret: Bass don’t see artificial baits the same way that we do. That new shad-shaped crankbait that you bought might look so lifelike that you expect it to flop off the table. But what makes it lifelike--- and attractive--- to bass is how it moves through the water. Yes, a realistic appearance helps, but good action that imitates an injured or fleeing baitfish probably is more important. That’s why spinnerbaits, which don’t resemble any kind of living creature when motionless, are such effective bass catchers.

Secret: With soft plastics, however, sometimes action isn’t important at all. Rather the fish need time to approach and examine. On several occasions, I’ve spent a minute or two picking out a backlash and then found a bass on the end of my line. Others have told me of similar experiences. This tells me that, too often, we fish too quickly with soft plastics.

Secret: In fact, lure designer and tournament angler Troy Gibson recommends letting a soft plastic sit for 120 seconds after you cast it.

“I will find the fish by power fishing with spinnerbaits and crankbaits,” he says. “And sometimes this is all I need to fill the livewell.

“But when I come across an area that looks as if it will produce 3- to 5-pound fish, then I will slow down with a fluke or worm and be very patient. I will present my lure to a tree, bush, or creek channel and let the bait sit still for at least 120 seconds.

“The bass is just like an old cat that can not leave well enough alone and will pick up, move, eat, or play with the fluke or sinking worm. It can’t help itself, for that is its nature. Understanding that, along with patience, will make you a much better fisherman.

“By doing this, I am more likely to cull the first five fish with larger fish. To me, the smaller fish that I caught by power fishing are the locator fish for areas that are holding the larger fish.” 

 Secret: To obtain the most up-to-date information on bass biology and behavior, as well as new strategies for catching them, read Bassmaster Magazine and BASS Times. These are the most authoritative sources on bass fishing in the world. Many of today’s young pros say that they grew up reading Bassmaster and the knowledge they gained from the magazine was critical to their success. 

Check out all my books at Amazon.

Friday
Jul292016

Secrets That You Should Know About 'The Bite'--- Part 3

These are but a few of the secrets in "The Bite" from Better Bass Fishing: Secrets From the Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer. Here's a link to the book at Barnes & Noble. Also, Amazon carries it, but often is sold out. As of 7/29, it had two left in stock.

Secret: Many anglers believe that Florida strain largemouth bass are more difficult to catch than northern strain. If that’s true, it’s probably because most of the waters in the Florida strain’s natural range are shallow. That can make for some awesome fishing when conditions are right.

           But it also means you’ll get the cold shoulder when trying to catch them during or just after a cold front. Without deep-water refuges where they might be more inclined to bite, Florida bass often move in tight to protective shallow cover during cold weather and become very lethargic. Just about the only way to provoke a bite during such times is to drop a jig or soft plastic bait on the fish’s nose.

          Even in deeper waters of Texas, Louisiana, California, and other places where they have been introduced, Florida strain largemouths still tend to “shut off” more completely during cold weather than do their northern counterparts.

Secret: Sight is the most important sense for a bass in finding food. That’s why, when given a choice, it will move to clearer water to feed. And that’s why you should seek it out too, especially in fisheries where most of the water is stained or muddy.

          The late bass pro Ken Cook, a former fisheries biologist, has this to say about how bass see: “Underwater, a bass’ eye is far superior to the human eye, probably so much better that we can only imagine what its capabilities are. Some studies have indicated that bass can see up to 12 times as well in muddy water as the human eye can in the same conditions.”

Secret: But also check out muddy or stained water pouring into a lake, especially if it is warmer than the main body of water. The runoff contains insects, which attract forage fish and, they, in turn, attract bass.

Secret: Bass often will follow this discharge of warmer, stained water out into the lake, and you should too.

Secret: Sometimes, muddy water is just on the surface, with clear water below. For instance, that can happen when a smaller, rain-filled tributary empties into a larger stream. Sometimes you can catch bass that are using the surface mud as ambush cover.     

More "secrets" about the bite upcoming at Activist Angler.

Check out all my books at Amazon.

 

Monday
Jul252016

Bass or Carp, Which Species Is Smarter?

 

If you're an angler who believes that sometimes you get "outsmarted" by those wily ol' bass, I have some bad news for you.

Carp are even "smarter." That's right.  The bottom feeder disrespected by so many is no dummy.

"From my years of experience in observing bass in the laboratory, I would have to rank them around the middle of the intelligence range: definitely smarter than trout (at least hatchery trout) but dumber than carp (no insult intended — carp are smarter than you think!)," said Dr. Keith Jones, who has long studied fish behavior for Berkley.

*    *    *    *

"The common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are indeed among the smartest freshwater fishes, if not THE smartest," said another source. " They learn well for fish. They have the longest complex learning retention of all fishes tested."

Seriously, though, it's impossible to measure fish "intelligence" in any way comparable to the way that it is measured in humans. Rather, we watch how they behave in nature, and, more importantly, in laboratories and just their response to various stimuli.

As I reveal in Better Bass Fishing, you’re just outsmarting yourself if you try to “out-think” bass. Yes, bass are capable of learned behavior. But they definitely aren’t the “Einsteins” of the fish world. Carp and bluegill rank higher in laboratory tests. Most importantly, though, bass (and other fish species) don’t “think” and they aren’t “smart.”

Rather, bass are selective as to food, cover, and water, and, each spring, they are driven by the biological imperative to spawn.

Those anglers who are smart enough to recognize those needs and respond accordingly, are the ones who catch the most and largest bass.  They look for water and cover that they have learned is attractive to bass during each season of the year. They learn the migration routes that fish take to those locations. They observe what bass are feeding on and try to offer baits that are similar in appearance.

Although bass are not smart, they do seem to learn to avoid some baits. That why new baits--- and new colors, to a lesser degree--- seem to produce better than older styles. For a while. We saw it happen with buzzbaits in the 1980s and soft jerkbaits in the 1990s. Now, it's happening with swimbaits.

(Check out all my books here.)

*    *    *    *

And here's an interesting take from the World Fishing Network:

The IQ of fish varies greatly depending on the species. It varies even further depending on individuals within any given species. Anglers need to look at the species that they are targeting for known traits and advantages that could make them more difficult to catch.

Fish can learn to avoid specific lures and noises made by anglers. In order to continue to be successful, anglers need to try new lures and colors on a regular basis. An effort should also be made to fish new areas and to make as little noise as possible.

Fish intelligence is hereditary and they can be bred to be easier to catch. Anglers should care take when harvesting fish in order to avoid selectively breeding intelligence. Smaller fish, whether intelligent or not, haven't had the chance to learn to avoid lures. Therefore, they make a better choice for harvesting.

Whether you are catching fish or not, it is unlikely that they are outsmarting you. Their intelligence is very limited. You just need to work around what they may have learned.

Where do carp and bass rank in intelligence on a planet with more than 30,000 species of fish in our ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans? We'll likely never know that.

But some scientists suspect that the top of the class are of the marine variety.

"In general, cartilaginous fishes (sharks, skates, and rays) have higher brain-to-body mass ratios than bony fishes, as well as most cold-blooded vertebrates. And manta rays have the largest brain size of any cartilaginous fish, although we don't know why," reports one website.

"What we do know, though, is that they're very curious. They also somehow perceive humans as 'special.' Along with marine mammals, they are among the very few animals known to seek out human contact for reasons other than food. Some of them have even been known to let humans ride on them. Preliminary evidence even suggest that they could recognize themselves in mirrors, putting them in an extremely small group of animals."

And Thom Demas, curator of fishes at the Tennessee Aquarium shared this interesting observation on the same site:

"I don’t know that there is a clear answer to this question but here is a personal experience from my time working with fishes.  The common hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus, has proven over the years to be a very aware and observant fish. 

"I have kept many of them and while I have never looked into brain to body percentage for this animal, it clearly displays behavior that seems just a bit above that of many other fish I have worked with

"From observing my daily work (the hogfish was doing the observing) to following me around (moving in the tank to be nearest me--- presumably because of curiosity).  I know, you think it probably just wanted food and that’s what I thought. 

One day I fed the fish until it would no longer eat and then went back to my work.  I recall seeing that fish follow me around with a piece of food hanging from its mouth and more on the bottom of the tank being ignored; that convinced me there was more going on. 

I had one that would allow you to 'pet' it while on SCUBA in the water with it.  Many fish are evolved to display lots of complex behaviors or accomplish many things we could interpret as smart but the common hogfish will always be one of the smartest fish in my book!"