Bubble gum, Senkos and Fishing
"I hope the fish are bitin'!" Every fisherman's had the same thought. He's worked hard all week and a fishing trip is planned for Saturday. A whole year has passed since the last trip and it's hard to stay focused knowing a fishing trip is just a few days away. Daydreaming about big ol' bass just comes naturally and Saturday just can't get here soon enough. The boat's loaded Friday night, the fishing gear is ready and the cooler's full of sandwiches and drinks. Saturday morning breaks clear and you are on the water. Then, for whatever reason, you can't catch fish with a stick of dynamite. It's frustrating beyond belief. To make matters worse, everyone you talk to is saying, "you should have been here yesterday, we tore them up!" Fishing's like that sometimes and it doesn't seem fair, particularly if you are 15 and went with grandpa expecting to bring back a mess of fillets for grandma to cook. Even if you are grandpa or a husband with three kids at the house and a lawn that needs mowing, it still doesn't seem fair. For that reason, I thought I'd share some thoughts about how to catch fish even if they're not in the mood. Of course, this is going to be about stream fishing. You've got a host of folks here writing about lake fishing, so I'll leave it up to them to help you with the same problem out on flat water. First, you've got to find the fish! Now that seems obvious; but, I've seen a lot of folks spend time fishing where not a fish can be found. I've done it myself. Just because there's water out there doesn't mean fish are everywhere. On streams, bass, walleye, google eye, green sunfish, suckers, and catfish are schooled together more times then not. Where you find one, you'll often find them all. If there is a place where fish are located most consistently on streams, it would be at the foot of shoals where fast-moving water comes into an eddy of water with depth. Even if fish are not biting, that's where they are. So, stay with them and go to work on what they want to eat. A little tidbit here for you to keep in mind is that one of the most consistent places for fish to school is in the last mile or two of a stream before it enters a lake or another stream. I think it has most to do with food and spawning. It's common knowledge that White Bass move up into streams to spawn early in the Spring. Less known is that the same is true for Largemouth, Smallmouth, Catfish and Walleye. If you've got a small boat and motor, then work your way up stream from the lake and "go beyond" what looks like the normal turn-around for the larger fishing boats. Yes, it may be a little extra work; but, it could mean the difference in catching and not catching fish. I catch a lot of fish every year a mile or two above the last boat and motor coming upstream from the lake. What do I do when the weather/water conditions are bad? Actually, staying home and mowing the lawn might be your best choice. Right after a hard rain or during a storm the conditions can be anything; but, safe. I never fish streams in flood condition, so, I'm not suggesting you should do otherwise. Another issue is that many times high pressure and bluebird skies follow a storm front that comes through the Ozarks. The water conditions may not have been flooded; but, based upon my experience, fish activity will be at it's lowest level for many hours following depending upon the rise of barometric pressure. Fish are on the bottom and often will not move to feed even for live bait. This is particularly true in the Spring; but, a rise in pressure is less adverse from July on through the Summer. On the other hand, though, fishing can be great on a "rainy day" even "a snowy day". I've been out there in these conditions and have found fishing to be outstanding. A classic example is Walleye fishing. A lousy day of weather in February is an OUTSTANDING day to try your hand at catching your best Walleye on a river. In mid-summer if the conditions have been "sunny and hot" for days and then surprisingly a mild, cloudy day shows up, then get out there..........conditions for fishing are perfect! One last point about weather, just because it's a 100 degrees in the shade doesn't mean fishing is lousy. On streams, that's EXACTLY when I want to be out there fishing. Most of my best bass that have been caught on streams has been in the hottest of mid-summer weather, right in the middle of the day! "Fish just won't bite what I'm casting and I've always done well on this lure!" It's generally true, if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten..........except when it applies to fishing! I love to fish a topwater bait because I love to catch a bass on top. The facts are though, there are days you might as well be bird watching. The conditions may change later in the day, of course; but, if you are on fish and they are not biting your lure then it's obvious, change tactics! Some times it's just a subtle difference. I'll share a good example. A couple of years ago I was guiding a couple of guys on an eastern Missouri Ozark stream and we found that a "Senko" was the go-to bait that day. This lure, if you are not familiar with subtle differences, would be termed by many as just another plastic worm. Actually, it's a fairly unique plastic worm because for one it is salt-impregnated, weighs a ton compared to other plastic worms and is an outstanding lure in some stream conditions. Anyway, we were doing well on them that day and all three of us were fishing it as we floated along. Both of these guys have nicknames, Butch and Bulldog. A few hours into our trip Butch and I noticed that Bulldog was out fishing us about 3 to 1. Naturally, Butch brought it up and I had to admit it. Confounding the situation was that he was fishing the same size lure, the same color and from all appearances not doing a thing any differently........until we got to the bottom of it. Butch couldn't stand it any longer and said, "let me take a look at your rigging". "That's it, you've got a toothpick stuck in your bullet weight!", Butch exclaims. Butch and I were also fishing a "Texas rig" with our Senkos and we were all using 3/8 ounce bullet weights. Essentially, Bulldog had attached the weight directly to the lure by snipping a piece of toothpick in the head of the bullet weight to keep it wedged against the lure. His Senko was getting to the stream bottom.........and to the fish more effectively. Shortly, we all had toothpicks attached and catching fish evened out. Don't give up, keep fishing. That's the best advice I can give to conclude. Some days are just better then others for fishing. Most encouraging is that some days can start out lousy, but end as the best day ever. So, get out there, make the effort to find fish, and then stick with it. Experiment and try something different. The first time I saw someone tie on a "bubble gum" colored lure to fish I couldn't help but make a comment and chuckle.........I now carry two or three different lures in Bubble Gum. What else can I say?