There’s nothing like a fresh start and the arrival of a fresh new fishing season affords an opportunity to review last year’s progress and resolve to improve hook-up ratios in the months ahead. With such ideas in mind, following are a few thoughts on fishing resolutions for the new season ahead. These are just conversation starters; ideas to get you thinking. Take some time to mull them over and then work up your own short list. As with more traditional New Year resolutions, be reasonable, set obtainable goals and keep the list short. Jot down a few ideas and place the list in your tackle box so you’ll come across it from time to time as the season advances. Make an effort to stick to your list and your fishing success is bound to improve.
GET OUT EARLY
It always amazes me how even experienced anglers consistently come late to the morning bite. Once the sun is high in the sky the action rarely matches that of first light. If you get out on the water at 7:00 a.m. during mid-summer, you’ve already missed your best chance to score. No matter where you fish, be it in freshwater or salt water, most species of game fish hit best within two hours of dawn. Arriving on the scene at the crack of noon is a sure way to miss the blitz. Once the sun gets above the tree lines you are fishing on borrowed time.
Make it a habit to pack your gear the night before your trip instead of the morning you’ll be heading out. That will give you enough time to rise, eat a decent breakfast, launch and get on the water without racing the sun. Packing the night before also allows you to be more deliberate and thorough, resulting in fewer items left behind.
CHALLENGE THE SNAGS
I’ve fished with many top-notch anglers over the years and one thing the best all have in common is an ability to cast into tight spots again and again without getting snagged. Expert anglers show no fear when
presented with fish feeding deep back in the stick-ups or alongside heavy structure like rotting docks, bridge abutments or rocky points. In fact, they seem to relish the challenge of placing lures in the smallest of breaks – and it’s amazing how they manage to haul fish out of these spots without busting them off.
Make it a point to attack the tangles this year. Skip that weedless jerk bait way back under the branches of an overhanging tree. Place a popper in a three-foot circle of clear water twenty yards into the weeds. Drop a stickbait at the back of a small indentation along a wall of threatening cattails or phragmites, or work a bucktail tight to the edge of a train trestle, bridge stanchion or rocky point – that’s where the big fish hide.
Budget some money to improve your casting because you’ll lose a lot of lures refining this skill. Buy four or five of your favorite patterns and figure that sacrificing them to the Snag God is part of the learning curve. Master this one skill – casting to tight places – and your catches of big fish will improve tremendously in the course of a season. Get to the point where you can place any lure in a five-gallon pail at thirty yards and you’re good enough to skip practice.
LOG EVERY TRIP
Do you keep a fishing log? Most anglers don’t, at least not a detailed one. If you are really serious about improving your fishing scores, log every trip. Record the date and time you fish, what you catch, which lures or baits are used, the temperature of the air and water, wind direction, barometric pressure, water clarity, water depth, and any other parameter that you think might factor into the day’s outcome.
Keeping an accurate log book can be really helpful in revealing trends. Log enough hours and you’ll find that some waters consistently produce best in the evening while others are morning hot spots. Some areas show their treasures only on a particular moon phase, tide, or even stage of the tide. There are bays and harbors that give up lunkers under clear skies and others where you’ll score best with the wind whipping hard from a certain direction. Some spots see spectacular action on approaching weather fronts or when the water is murky. There are places that produce wonderfully early in the season but grow barren as the summer progresses and others that turn on only after weeds begin to crowd the surface.
What size and type fly or lure works best for striped bass, bluefish, false albacore, largemouth bass, trout or even slab-sized bluegill in mid-June? Jot it down as it happens this season and you won’t have to rediscover the patterns next year.
Keeping a log saves time in the long run, and it helps concentrate your efforts on the most productive waters under a given set of circumstances. Give it a try for a full fishing season and you’ll be amazed at the insights that can be revealed.
WORK NEW LURES
Still using the same lures your Daddy used? Same hooks and rigs, too? There are new choices available, you know. Some of them might even work better than your traditional offerings.
There are a gazillion and three lures on the market today and most of them catch fish given the right circumstances. While it’s a good idea to stick with the tried-and-true on a regular basis, cutting in a few new faces now and then can help you learn new fishing methods, present the fish with something they haven’t seen before, and breathe some refreshing new life into your fishing routine.
Consider throwing a Z-Man Original ChatterBait Elite for bigmouths. Connecticut guide and bass pro Paul Mueller used that lure combined with a Reins Fat Rockvibe shad to finish second at the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic. In the process he broke the all-time record for the heaviest single-day, five-fish Bassmaster stringer with a remarkable 32 pounds, 3 ounces!
Have you tried a snafu rig yet for blackfish? Billy Taylor of Amityville used one baited with green crab last November to break the New York State blackfish record with a 22.52-pound brute. Kenneth Westerfeld of College Point, meanwhile, chose the same rig in January and came away with a pending I.G.F.A. world record bulldog caught in Maryland that tipped the scales at an amazing 28 pounds, 8 ounces!
Have you ever anchored for fluke? It’s a great way to work the edges of reefs and scattered structure where doormats are more than an occasional occurrence. Try this technique while substituting 5-inch Berkley Gulp! Swimming Minnows for traditional squid strips and the odds will tilt in your favor.
As you power into the new season, make it a point to experiment with some scented soft plastics or try a different-looking bucktail, crankbait, plug or popper. Work backwards through your tackle box occasionally, trying first the lures you think might be least productive. Every now and then you’ll stumble across something that really works or reconnect with an old favorite that somehow fell out of use. Such discoveries and reminders will ultimately lead you to the one simple and basic fishing resolution that should be renewed each and every year – keep it fun.