When talking to the best in fishing and those that seem to catch fish all the time, it comes down to two things: Technique/bait selection and mental toughness.
The latter is sometimes a hard one to put a finger on, but it no doubt can be more important that any cast or bait selection. Even with today’s electronics that do give anglers a leg up on old technology, they aren’t a magic pill. Stick-to-itiveness, determination and drive, plus the ability to observe the little things, can be equally important.
This holds true especially when fishing a new body of water where anglers may not know everything about depth, contours, vegetation and structure. Intuition and gut play a role, too, especially during those times when it’s a new lake.
No doubt the ability to place the bait in the best locations is first. If you can’t cast, those who can will “stomp a mud hole” in you. They will always catch more than you, so being a good caster is essential.
Finding out-of-the-way locations where other less talented anglers can't hit is a plus. Looking for undisturbed cobwebs or a snarl of cables and branches that look too hard to get a bait through can tell the angler if someone has hit it prior or if a fish might use it.
A favorite in the fall is undercut banks with grape vines or overhanging multiflora rose. It's an excellent location to pick up a fish or two since less experienced anglers will bypass them for fear of getting hung up. The old saying that “if you aren’t hung up you won’t catch as many fish” holds true, particularly in the fall.
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Casting includes pitching and flipping, too, and most of the great anglers are savvy with all three. Being about to recognize how much water is under vegetation or a log is a clue, too. Those logs laying on the dirt will be less likely to house a fish than those with even a few inches under them. The same is true with vegetation. Being thorough on each piece of cover versus only looking at the most obvious stump or blown down tree can pay dividends, too.
As a general rule, we all fish too fast. The great anglers fish with moderation and know what is the best speed and technique to use for the situation. No doubt covering water quickly does have its advantages, but too quickly can mean missed fish. This is true with bass, crappie and catfish, too.
Presentation is always a key element in success, too. “Cast lines,” or the angle of the cast, should be changed now and again as well. Too many times anglers will make 10 or so casts to a point without changing cast angles. Wind direction, position of the sun, structure and bait presence can all be variables determining what cast is best.
Most who have boats fish towards the shore, and those from the bank fish out. That should tell us something. Fall is a great time to not only look closely at depth, but also fishing out instead of in. A single bite can clue the angler in to what is most effective.
At no time during the year is matching the forage more important than in the fall. Shad in our area begin to bunch up and are 2-3 inches long from this year’s spawn now, and for the record they are all not silver or grey. It seems pinks or translucent combinations are great this time of year and moving baits always seem to be more effective when they're flipping and punching.
Oversized squarebill crankbaits, buzzbaits, spinnerbaits and topwater walking baits are all in their prime in the fall. Flukes and Caffeine Shad twitch baits are also go-to this time of year.
Recognizing what the bait is doing, where they are positioned in relation to creeks and pockets, and where they are in the water column is a differentiator now as well. My crappie fishing friends talk about subtle color differences and although I am not huge believer in secret colors, the right color for the water color does mean something. Slow presentation is the rule for most in the fall — small shakey heads and Ned rigs are equally effective.
Instead of spot fishing, look at the environmental factors in the fall first and don’t be afraid to move around a bit more now. Gamefish have the tendency to bunch up and are convenience feeders now as well. Changing air temperatures turns on a switch in their systems for them to feed a lot more, and catching a fish or two can give you a clue to stay and beat a spot up or move.
Noticing depth, cover, water temperature and wind direction will allow you to pattern fish on other parts of the lake. Being focused mentally to the variables can help turn a good day into a great one, and some gamefish like white bass and hybrid stripers seem to have the feedbag on bigtime as the water cools. They, too, can clue you into other species and many times it can be a mixed bag with saugeye, sauger, walleye and crappie mixed in.
Check fish caught, too, to give you clues like spit shad, crawfish pinchers or bluegills as the main forage.
The fall can be the best time for catching and remember to leave a few for others even when it’s crazy good. Enjoy the fall colors, a deer walking along the banks or a squirrel or two running around a tree. The air is fresh and clean and no time is better to be on the water.
Terry Brown is President of Wired2Fish.com, an industry leading, daily website and social media fishing centered community that provides information on products, industry newsmakers and fishing techniques. You can read more by going to www.Wired2Fish.com.