Do you know what’s going on at the end of your line? I mean, do you really know what your lure is doing? Do you know what it just hit? Was it a rock? A log? A fish? Do you even feel your lure? It must seem like these questions are silly, but most anglers can’t answer them correctly. After the third or fourth cast, some anglers slip into the repetitive mode or worse yet they don’t know how the lure is supposed to feel.
The way to cure this is simple, work at it. But do the work in a practical sense. I don’t think that casting a lure in a swimming pool improves an angler’s ability. I think it is a great place to tune a crankbait or align a spinnerbait, but it’s not the place to learn what a lure feels like or see what a bait can do. That has do be done in the environment where it will be used to get the proper experience.
Every place in the country has a lake that is extremely clear and that’s what we want for this to work. It’s probably a lake with a reputation for being a tough place to catch fish, but for what we are discussing the clearer the better. Take a day or maybe two and fish that pond. Don’t go with expectations of catching fish, because these two days are dedicated to learning about the tools in your tackle box. I would recommend tying on a crankbait, a worm, and jigs to start with as these are most likely the three baits you always have tied on when you are fishing. I’d also be set up with polarized sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat so that I maximize my ability to see what is below the surface of the pond. Start by cruising the bank, what can you see? Is the bottom sandy or gravel or chunk rock. Make a note of what it is and back off so that you can cast to it. Start with your crankbait and reel your bait so that it contacts bottom during most of the retrieve. SEE and FEEL what the lure is doing, then close your eyes and visualize what the lure is doing while feeling the sensations it is transmitting to you through the rod. Feel how the vibrations change a bit as the lure contacts bottom and then kicks up and begins free swimming. Swim it so it swims and digs its way over a log or make it careen off of a stump, see how it feels. Run it into weeds so that you can feel it get mushy as it catches on a weed stem, pause it for a moment, then give it a strong rip and feel the vibration again as it rips through the weeds and begins to swim again.
This exercise is teaching you feel and showing you that you can run your bait into cover and that there are ways to get it through heavy cover, allowing you to fish that bait in place you didn’t think you could. Do the same with your plastic worm and your jig. Try this experiment; get near a dock and cast your jig to a piling, let it drop to the bottom and then go over to the piling and looking straight down see how far away from the bottom of the piling your jig is as it sits on the bottom. Next cast finish the cast and when the jig hits the water drop your rod tip and follow the jig to the bottom with the rod tip. See how much closer your jig is to the piling. You just learned that presentation doesn’t end when the bait hits the water; you still have to manipulate the rod to keep your lure near cover.
Play today, cast every lure you have at everything you see and experiment. Take a deep diving metal billed bait like a Mudbug, old metal lipped Bomber or a Storm hot’ n tot and throw it near the trunk of a blown down tree. When you reel it, the lure will dive about straight down. It will climb as the line pulls it up to a limb and the big lip will make it kick over the branch without hanging, crank it and it will dive straight down into the next gap. If it hangs up don’t pull, just give it slack and usually it will float up and back away from whatever it had caught on. It’s a deadly presentation, but how would you know that it could do that or how to make it work if you hadn’t taken these days to learn the lures.
Cast out your spinnerbait and see how far you retrieve it before both blades are spinning. Next cast give it a sharp tug early on and see how the blades engage faster. See which spinner baits can drop with only the blades rotating on the drop instead of the whole bait helicoptering when the retrieve stops. Now you know which spinnerbaits you can use with a stop and go or the kill it after five crank type of retrieve. Try that with a Stan Sloan short arm single spin and you will be amazed how you can make it flutter straight down while sending heavy vibrations through your rod. Add a big trailer and you can slow the drop speed even more. It’s great for fishing bluffs and stumps at night.
Cast your worm and drag it over different kinds of bottoms and get to know what they feel like. Then toss the worm out in deep water and see what it feels like. Try to determine what the bottom composition is in the deep water just from the feel. Do the same with a carolina rig. That big weight can telegraph a ton of important information about what’s down there. Try keeping you rod tip at about eye level on most retrieves, this position maximizes the feel. To high or too low and you lose feel. You can do that after you’ve learned how your lures are supposed to feel but for these two days, feel is what it’s all about. What I am trying to do here, is force you to be familiar with your tools. Learn what you can do with them. A carpenter knows his tools and what their limits are, so does a surgeon. Listen to high level pros talk about how the drop at 14’ had a bunch of stumps on it. They didn’t dive down there to see it; their lures told them what was down there. They’re telling you too. Are you listening?