Subtle Can Mean the World
article by Kenny Covington
I remember a discussion I had with Arkansas fishing legend Larry Nixon many years ago. We were discussing how we tend to overcomplicate the sport of bass fishing and ways to overcome the human nature element of doing so. I made the comment that he was very good at making things seem quite simple even when others around him seemed to struggle.
He responded by saying, “Bass are not complicated creatures. We make them that way. I have always tried to take the things that I do best and use them as the cornerstone to my fishing success. It’s a lot of trial and error, but a mistake I see a lot of anglers make is they make drastic changes whenever only a small tweak may be necessary.” Those words still ring true all these years later.
Often times it is the subtle things we change that separates success from failure on the water. We like to talk about lure colors, but we seldom talk about presentation. We like to talk about basic cover, but you hardly ever hear someone talk about the bottom contour. Things like this will separate the good angler from a great one, or maybe even take a good fishing trip and change it to a memorable one.
Sometimes a tweak is all it takes.
One trip may find the fish loaded up on your favorite bank and catching them is easy. The second pass down the bank is productive, but the action definitely is changing. Have the fish moved? Have you caught them all? Chances are neither has happened, but that is usually the thought process of the angler.
Why not go through the area with a different presentation? If you were catching them on a spinnerbait, why not switch to a shallow crankbait? Or if you were catching fish on isolated grass patches with a topwater, why not try fishing inside the grass with a Texas rigged Zoom fluke?
In both situations I described, I didn’t mention anything about leaving the area. We need to try different approaches before leaving that sometimes can even be more productive than the original fish catching idea. Notice we aren’t going to be making a drastic change. We are still fishing the same stretches of water; we are just going about it a different way.
A bass that has seen numerous topwater presentations can still be caught by simply changing the action or the presentation of the bait. Once while fishing Cheniere Lake in West Monroe with Mark Booth, we were catching fish on Zoom Horny Toads, buzzing them past the cypress trees. After a few hours the fish suddenly stopped taking our fast retrieved offerings and started making halfhearted attempts to strike our lures. I told Mark that we needed to switch to a Devil’s Horse, because we would still get the same presentation on top. While the commotion of the lure was about the same, the presentation would be slower and easier for the fish to pinpoint. Immediately after making the switch, we started catching fish again. And we started getting a better quality bite as well.
Remember that a subtle change can be all that is needed. If the fish are biting a black/blue jig with a matching craw worm trailer and suddenly they stop biting it, switch to just a black/blue craw worm. You are using a completely different lure, and all you have done is scale down the size of your presentation. All you are trying to do is show the fish something different without varying too much from what has already proven to be productive.
You can change the right of fall of a Texas rigged lure simply by changing line sizes or line types. The rate of fall when using braid, monofilament or fluorocarbon isn’t the same. The same can be accomplished when trying to vary the depth of a crankbait, different lines will get you different depths. A jerkbait such as a Smithwick Rogue thrown on 12 pound monofilament will work more freely than similar jerkbait thrown on a 20 pound version. The examples of these types’ of subtle changes are endless.
As I have gotten older, I have strived to learn even more about this great sport. When I look back at all the innovations that have taken the bass fishing world by storm, it has occurred to me that very few of them are actually “new.” Most are ideas taken from a different fishing capacity and tweaked to make it a more effective tool for bass fishing.
I sure hope some of these ideas we have presented to you will help put more fish in your boat this spring. The water is warming up, and the days are getting longer. Please be careful on the water, and make sure you catch one for me! See you next month.