I have done quite a few seminars over the last few years for sponsors as well as for Freak Finder Fishing and I always get some great questions during seminars and afterwards during Q&A. A lot of questions I get from anglers I think are derived from misconceptions or mistakes that either people have learned, been told, or have been misguided on. The following are just in my own personal opinions from my time spent fishing and from interactions I have had with other anglers.
You can only catch cold-water bass by slowing down.
This is one that I hear quite a bit. A lot of people think that cold-water bass can only be caught be crawling something along the bottom or using a slow moving bait like a jerkbait or a dropshot. I have caught more cold-water bass on moving, reaction, and flashy baits than I have on any dropshot or natural slow moving presentation. Yes, cold-water bass are sluggish and will not be feeding all day as they do in the summertime when their metabolism is at its peak, but a bass will still hit a reaction bait in cold water.
Cold water, in this scenario that I am describing above is between 40-50 degrees. Don’t get me wrong I will have the staples for a slow presentation tied on at this time of year like a suspending jerkbait and a drop shot tied on at this time of year; a Zero Shot (1-3’ leader) but I will always have a blade bait, crankbait, and spinnerbait tied on as well.
Writing off “Retread” Fish.
Whether you are a tournament bass fisherman or not, everyone who fishes for bass on larger bodies of water knows about tournament fishing. The most common mistake I see is people avoiding fishing release areas for major tournaments. Release areas are near weigh-in ramps for tournaments. Large populations of fish will be dropped here after tournament weigh-in. This is a great place to fish if there has recently been a tournament on the lake you are fishing.
A lot of people think that these “retread” fish are not worth fishing for but, it is an opportunity to put fish in the boat and potentially quality fish. They may be a bit harder to catch as these fish probably had been caught within the last few days but you could get on a quick pile of fish in a hurry by maximizing this area to your benefit.
You need wind to catch smallmouth.
I’ve heard this one on TV and I have been asked this question by many people when talking about smallmouth fishing at seminars. Does wind help smallmouth fishing? Yes, absolutely it does. That doesn’t mean that you have to dread high pressure bluebird days with no wind when you are looking for smallmouth however. As long as you have sun it is OK not to have wind. With the wind the smallmouth will be less selective with what they will chase and bite, with no wind you just need to be more cognizant of color selection, size, and retrieve.
When you have sun and no wind those smallmouth will be pinned down to the bottom of tight to structure. Think of that sun and no wind combination as a magnet to hold the smallmouth tight to whatever they are on. When this happens it is a great time to throw a Carolina rig, jig, or tube. When you bump into something stop your bait; usually a smallmouth will come and investigate it. Smallmouth need the “lights on” as they feed better when sunlight is present. Keep the moving baits in the box when there isn’t a breath of wind and change your approach.
Black and Blue is only a color to use in cold water.
Much like our wind scenario above, there is a common misconception out there that black and blue should only make an appearance in cold water. Absolutely black and blue is a killer color combination to use in spring in cold water to mimic crayfish that boast similar color schemes. If you are only using this color combo in cold water though you are missing out. I have caught plenty of fish in the summertime and early fall on a black jig, black and blue rubber worm, or black and blue craw. The reason I have confidence in this color all year long is because it stands out from what everyone else is throwing. People will migrate to a watermelon, green pumpkin, or subtle variations of the two during the summer time. If you aren’t getting bit on these; a great color to change to is black and blue. Sometimes I will even fish a green pumpkin jig with a black and blue trailer. Sometimes going against the grain from what everyone else is doing will help put more fish in the boat. Especially on high pressure lakes.
One scent is better than the next.
Fisherman and soft plastic bait companies go nuts over scents. There is coffee scent, shad, crayfish, eel, etc. Scent is something that I have not put a lot of faith in and have never really felt like I have lost out on a bite or key fish as a result of it. I think the most important thing about scent regardless of the “smell of your choice” is to mask the human scent on your baits. Much like deer hunting you want to mask the human element of you being in nature. That’s why I stay away from bug spray, sunscreen, etc. I think that scent is important to mask human elements but every scent in soft plastics will do that for you.
Coldwater is a different scenario though. I will add scent for cold-water applications because I think that in certain situations when your bait is staying in the strike zone for extended periods of time and the fish are taking an extra-long look at your bait that scent will help you get more of those fish to bite.
Investing in a “technique specific” rod/reel is a waste of money.
This is probably the number one question I get asked when I am doing demos or seminars. Does that technique specific rod really make a difference? Isn’t it just a way for the tackle industry to make more money? Do you really need ALL of those rods in the boat? Yes, No, and YES. If you don’t think that having a specific setup for your rod and reel tailored to a certain technique helps you as a fisherman, you haven’t been buying the right equipment. This is not a tactic by rod and reel companies to take more money from anglers; they make enough already. This is a “must” for fisherman. If you are just starting out you can easily buy one setup and be successful; I always suggest a 7’ Medium or Medium Heavy to people. That is not what I am talking about or who I am referring to. If you want to get serious into bass fishing and really learn and excel at a specific technique you need the right tools for the job.
The taper of the rod tip, the power of the backbone, the way that the reel seat and handle is designed all play a critical role in the presentation and more importantly the ability to successfully hook and land a bass. You need a fast tip low power rod for dropshotting to detect subtle bites and to fight a fish as they are making a charge to the surface from deep water. A delayed/moderate taper on a long crankbait rod is crucial for allowing the fish to take the hooks on your crankbait and to not pull the hooks free when setting the hook. The long rod will help make a longer cast and keep the crankbait at its designed running depth that much longer; thus spending more time in the strike zone.
When it comes to your equipment, whether it’s the rod, reel, or line; it is all about maximizing your ability to be successful. If you give a golfer a “starter set” of golf clubs: A Driver, 3 iron, 7 iron, 9 iron, and putter; they will make some shots. To get fully dialed in to his/her game and to make the golf ball do what the golfer wants it to do they have specific clubs for specific scenarios. Fishing is no different. If you want your fishing game to continue to grow and be successful you need to invest in equipment tailored to the techniques you want to fish.
Topwater baits can only be successful at morning and dusk.
I love this one. I see so many people put topwater away after the morning bite has subsided. I also see people only throw topwater in summertime. I’ve caught bass with ice in the guides of my rods on a Zara Spook in the late fall and I have caught plenty of bass coming up from deeper water in the middle of the day on topwater as well. You don’t have to only throw a topwater in those conditions or when baitfish are busting the surface. Any time the fish are actively feeding and the conditions lend itself useful for fishing a topwater, I will throw one.
I have surprised many co-anglers during tournaments by throwing a topwater mid-day and feeling the puzzled looks coming from the back of the boat. Those usually quickly turn to questions of, “hey do you have any more of those that I can throw?” It’s not often, especially in larger bodies of water to get the wind to cooperate and allow you to effectively fish a topwater in the middle of day. When it does, you need to take advantage of it.
“Matching the Hatch.”
This is a term that is used quite a bit in the fishing industry. I’m sure at certain times of year and on certain lakes it is truly important and words you have to live by. With that being said, I have lost count on how many fish I have caught on big, bright, chartreuse spinnerbaits. There is something about chartreuse, especially for smallmouth that really engage them to feed. There is NOTHING in nature that looks like chartreuse, period. Sure at certain times of the year bluegill will have a little flash of yellow on their tail or fins but I have not yet encountered one fish or prey that is like a big neon school bus coming through the water.
Much like going against the grain with my black and blue seasonal color approach above, sometimes it is the least natural looking thing you can throw that will generate that next bite for you. Don’t be afraid to mix and match colors as well. Your white swim jig doesn’t always need a white trailer; try chartreuse. Your green pumpkin football jig looks good with a black and blue craw on it as well; trust me.
Don’t be afraid to go “old school”
People associate lures and techniques that have been around for years to be “over-fished” and that bass will no longer chase these offerings. I have a few old school staples that never go out of my boat. I love swimming a grub in cold water, I still throw an Uncle Josh pork on my jig at certain times of the year, a spinnerbait still puts fish in the boat, and when the bite is tough an in-line spinner is hard to beat.
Don’t be afraid to go back in time because like everything else in life, everything has a cycle. I grew up reading about some of the techniques I mentioned above in magazines and those have since been replaced by new techniques, lures, and alternatives.
Big baits = Bigger Fish
A lot of people think that you have to throw a larger profile bait to get larger than average fish to bite. I know a lot of guys that will go try to get a bigger kicker fish and will tie on a big 1 oz. jig or a 10” worm. There is a big swimbait crowd out there right now that throw big trout or rat style swimbaits to try to catch their next personal best. That’s all fine and good but that isn’t for everybody, myself included. I have caught plenty of hefty largemouth and smallmouth bass on baits that aren’t bigger than 1/8 oz. Hair jigs, tubes, 4” worms, and small dropshot baits all have produced 4-5 lb and larger class fish for me.