By: Josh Sheldon
Keep it simple…stupid! I am guilty of often violating this rule of fishing. It seems, the more I learn about fishing the worse I sometimes get. Fishing can be so basic and the isles of pretty crank baits and flashy smelly soft baits cloud our common sense. I see guys like Chad LaChance from “Fishfulthinker” working Gulp Minnows and all I want to do is run out and buy Gulp Minnows. I watch Keith Kavajecz on “The Next Bite” snap jigging a Moonshine Minnow on Green Bay and hauling in one monster eye after another and I place an order. Now I have 20 packages of Gulp Minnows, a box dedicated to Moonshine Minnows and my wife gets slippers for Christmas because I am a broke junkie.
All these things mentioned work and they catch a lot of fish. They also catch a lot of fishermen! Fishing is a huge ever evolving and changing industry. On this eve of “Icast” I am reminded of the timeless phrase, “Keep it simple stupid”! I am strictly talking presentations and bait selections. I don’t want to get into the debate about how someone’s 1991 Lund with no electronics catch’s more fish then the latest and greatest. Just like my last article “Bottom Bouncers 101”, I want to talk about basic and simple presentations.
Whenever we discuss presentations we have to start with what is in your hand. Rod and reel selections are so important and they can make all the difference between feeling those subtle bites and being able to cast that bait where you want it to go. With all that said I know we all fish on budgets and ordering the best St. Croix jigging rod is not always possible. So I will give you this rule of thumb to go by. Most 1500 series reels are the perfect size for jigging and live bait presentations. Most 2500 series reels are a good size for casting crank baits or blade baits and work well for hand held rods when trolling. The only difference between 1500 and 2500 is line capacity, size and weight. When picking a fishing rod you should consider 6 ft to 6 ½ ft medium light to medium action rods when fishing jigs and most live bait rigs. Make sure the rod has a soft fast tip and a stout back bone. This is not determined by the diameter of the base of the rod, but by how it feels when you hold it and give it a little shake. You can feel the stiffness just up from your hand by the reel mount and the tip is soft and moves easily. If you are going to cast crank baits or other hard baits you should consider a 7 ft or 7 ½ ft medium action rod that is designed for casting hard baits. The manufactures have taken all the guess work out of rod selection for you and most are categorized for use. Take a few minutes on Google while standing in the rod isle and read up on which rod does what. Fishing line is a matter of preference and all types and brands perform differently under different conditions. I like Berkley Fire Line and I use the bright colors on many of my rods so I can see the line. During most applications you should be using a uni-knot to tie a 3ft fluorocarbon leader onto the end of your Fire Line and directly to your presentation, making the color of the line a nonfactor to the fish. I like how incredibly sensitive the line is and how I can feel ever tic and move of my bait.
You have a rod and reel, a fresh spool of line and you are ready to make the next key selection…presentation. There is not any part of this article that is focused on fishing from a boat or shore. The equipment choice is solid for both. Some of the presentations are boat oriented, but most can be used from either on the water or from shore. Keep it simple. Extremely simple and effective almost always means more fish.
1. A plain non-painted 1/8 to ¼ ounce round lead jig head and a half a night crawler threaded down the end of the worm approximately a ¼ inch and left to hang straight off the hook. When this presentation is casted and dragged slowly across the bottom, several species of fish can’t resist this meaty slow and simple presentation.
2. A Lindy Rig! Your main line is threaded through a weight of some type that allows the line to pass through the weight with no resistance. A barrel swivel acts as the stop and a clear leader of varying lengths is tied from the swivel to your choice of presentations. A red wide gap worm hook is simple and deadly when using a live minnow, leaches and half a night crawler. You can be creative and put a small colored bead ahead of the hook to add color, or a small float to help keep the bait slightly off the bottom. You can use a floating jig head to add color and size to the presentation.
3. A simple 3 or 4 inch curly tail grub with a plain unpainted round jig head can be used in a variety of ways. This type of presentation can be used to cast shallow and when reeled back slowly like a crank bait, allows the jig to remain just above the bottom or submerging weed growth. This presentation can be used vertically directly below the boat and dragged slowly across the bottom as you move the boat along at 0.3 to 0.5 mph. As you drag the bait along it slowly creeps across the bottom skipping from one rock to another. If you need a little boost, you can tip the jig with a half a night crawler. Hook the crawler straight through the tip so the majority of the crawler hangs straight down off the hook.
4. A very simple light weight split shot attached to your line approximately 3 feet from your bait (or more) and a presentation like the ones mentioned above with Lindy Rigs. Simple, light weight and effective.
Keeping it simple has served me well for most of my life. Some days I feel like my endless tackle clouds my judgment on what to use and how to fish. Starting basic and working your way up from there to things like different colored jig heads or floats can be very effective ways of letting the fish tell you what they want. Most times you will discover you never change to a colored head or away from that simple hook, because you are catching too many fish. There is something to be said for soft hands and knowing exactly what you are feeling as your bait creeps across the bottom. If you are looking to become more consistent or just looking for that starting point, remember those three important words…KEEP IT SIMPLE! Keeping it simple will help you fish your next level.