Wed04162014

Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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Subtle changes can make better results

Who would have ever thought that slowing down a retrieve on a small jig tipped with a curly tail grub would result in twice as many fish caught? I know that changing retrieve speed can help you catch more fish — but twice as many?
Last week I had to get some photos for a magazine article, and I ducked into Old Mill Park for an hour to get some shots. While there I carried my ultra-light spinning outfit with a few jigs in my pocket. The shad were running hard and hot and I wanted some roe. The first few casts resulted in nothing. I saw fish breaking and swirling, and I noticed one other guy catching some, so I knew they were willing. After 20 minutes of casting and taking only one buck shad I knew I had to change things up. On a random whim I cut my retrieve speed in half. Every two to three turns at half speed I put a twitch in the jig and WHAM! The second fish of the day was on. That big roe shad was hefted into the bucket and another cast was quickly made with the same results. Within minutes I had seven fish in the bucket and was either getting a hook up or a fish on nearly every cast. Just to prove to myself it was not a change in tide, sunlight or whatever, I sped up the retrieve keeping the twitch in it and was back to getting plenty of arm and hand exercise. Switching back to half speed earned an immediate strike. Interesting!

While filming some crappie for a future magazine story, I was casting minnows into a pond. Most were under floats at various depths. Ten days prior, my father had used the technique to outfish me. The only problem was that was 10 days prior and now I was not taking any fish other than one small throwback. I pulled the float off one of the lines and on the first cast I caught a fish. As you can guess, I switched my lines over to “no float” mode and had to actually put one rod away so I could keep up with the other two.
On another trip I fished previously good spots for crappie and bass and got very slow results. After a few fish I decided to move around and fish right on the bank. I was fishing within a few feet of where I had been fishing, but instead of in two to three feet of water I was fishing in 3-4 inches of water next to a weed mat all around the edge. Imagine my surprise when crappie after crappie came hauling out of the shallows from nowhere and inhaled my minnow! I took a few bass like that too!
Those subtle changes made a serious difference in my productivity on the water. What about the woods? Well, the same unwritten rule applies too. On Saturday I was attempting to get some nice turkey photos for a magazine. My youngest daughter was hoping to take her first bird, so she went along to help me kill two birds with one stone. We walked through a piece of property and made several calls with no results. The toms did not seem to be answering. Just as I turned to leave, I took out a homemade box call I carved from a walnut log and yelped with it a few times. Immediately, two gobblers fired up within a hundred yards. I switched back to the mouth call with no results. After hitting the old box call again we were rewarded with a double gobble. I suppose that is why a turkey hunter’s vest is covered in pockets? It does pay to have a half dozen different calls on hand when turkey hunting. Saturday was not the first time I have had to use a different call to get a gobbler to answer.
Subtle changes do make huge differences while in the woods or on the water. Line size or color, lure color, retrieve and even the color of your clothes (I wear drab clothes when sight fishing a clear water impoundment) can impact the way a fish may or may not bite.
While hunting, your camo choice, deer scent choice or stand placement can make or break you in terms of bringing home dinner.
The point is that fishing and hunting are called fishing and hunting and not gathering for a reason. You have to try different methods to be successful and you don’t simply go out and gather your fish or game. If it were that easy, I don’t think many people would enjoy our traditions as much. Think carefully when you tie on a lure, make a cast or pull on your hunting clothes. Study the terrain before putting up a stand or settling into a turkey ambush. Look over the water at cover and at your fish finder before you make that cast. Your decision may seriously impact your success!

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