We live in a fast world. With computer technology, instant information apps, GPS—we are always on the go and in a hurry. When it comes to fishing, sometimes we just need to slow down and ease up. Power fishing and covering water at high speeds does not always equal bass in the boat. Two common mistakes anglers make are trying to fish where the fish are not and fishing too fast where they are.
Locating largemouth bass is a skill many anglers have learned quite well. We have electronics that tell us about the underwater environment so that finding them becomes easier. We know that fish will be adjacent to moving water, places where wind or current brings them a food supply. Using that moving water to our advantage, we can put our baits in position—offering a “menu” to the fish. Frequently anglers find the fish and then throw the tackle box at them. Being too quick often ruins the chances for making successful catches.
Slowing down or letting the bass “read” the menu can be the key to a fantastic day on the water. We are conditioned to fish way too fast. While a snappy retrieve or bait burned back to the boat seems to do the job, most of the time it’s the slow, sure angler that loads the boat. Our natural bait presentations do this. Think about a worm under a bobber or a dead minnow on the bottom. The subtle motion of the bait in the current or the scent in the water brings bass close for a look. The fish inspects the offering, registers it as a fine meal and then takes the bait. But what about taking this process to an artificial lure and being successful? This where some anglers have trouble making the transition.
Many lures are advertised so that speed is the key. TV shows have anglers pulling, twitching and yanking lures back to the boat with all type of fancy retrieves. While this may be loads of fun and entertaining, it might not be the surest way to get fish on the end of the line. Slow down that retrieve and then slow down some more. Fish live in a complicated, dynamic environment that requires lots of energy to stay alive. When it comes to feeding, they need it to be as easy as possible, so the meal is of greatest value. A lure ripped past them might get them aggravated, but it does not guarantee that they will strike it. However, a lure slowly moved through their space, appears to be an easy meal with great rewards.
Let’s look at a few lures an angler might put on his “menu.” A floating minnow lure is fairly common in today’s tackle box. They dive on the retrieve and wiggle on the way in to attract the fish. However, if reeled too fast, they are a streak in the water fish might sense, but it goes by so quick that they might not have time to react. Slowing down allows the lure to appear to be a more natural part of the underwater world. Also, the lure will be able to move in the manner it was designed: a slow, enticing wobble back to the angler. The fish will have time to examine the offering, then strike, as opposed to ignoring a difficult meal rushing by. By slowing down, the angler has a better chance of attracting the fish.
How about a topwater lure? This is something offered at the edge of the bass world. They need extra time to read the menu here and make a decision to hit the bait. As a general rule for topwater baits, throw it out to the desired spot, then let it sit until the rings in the water from the impact move away at least six feet. In fact, there are times you just let it sit until all signs of it hitting the water are gone. It’s just sitting there, not moving at all from any action by the angler. Some of the best topwater strikes anglers have are when they have some sort of issue with their reel after the cast. They sit there, picking out a backlash or tangle, all the while the topwater lure just waits, unmoving on the surface. Then, when the problem is fixed, they turn the reel handle to bring the lure back and—at the first sign of movement—it gets crushed by a hungry bass. The reason this happens is that the fish is attracted by the lure splash down. The long pause and, finally, movement triggers the strike.
Soft plastics are in almost every angler arsenal. They range from worms to lizards and everything in between. Slow fishing those baits can be very productive and successful when everything else has failed. A classic example, but often overlooked, is the soft shrimp. Virtually all game fish feed on shrimp. Shrimp glide through the water column from place to place, carried easily by currents and water flow. Casting them out and then retrieving very slowly, the angler will mimic the natural appearance of an easy meal for the fish. Fish expect shrimp to just idle along and will be attracted to a meal that requires very little energy to capture.
Spinner baits are a favorite of many fishermen. They are fun to use and can catch fish just about anywhere. Slowing them down can produce some impressive results. Slow rolling in deep water is a time honored way to catch fish. A heavy spinner bait is allowed to drop through the water column and then reeled very slowly back to the boat. The lure is fished in the manner of a deep running crank bait. Even in shallow water, spinner baits worked slowly can be a great option. The lure is cast out and then the rod tip is raised to start the blades turning. Retrieving the bait is done using the rod in combination with the reel to bring the lure back, almost at a hover. In clear water, the lure is sight guided around and over shallow cover—a presentation bass find irresistible.
Deep running crank baits are another candidate for slow fishing. Worked along the bottom, banging into rocks and other structures, they appear to be an easy meal in trouble. It’s not just a straight line retrieve that works. Try working the lure like a weighted soft plastic. Cast out, then reel the bait to the desired depth. Instead of just reeling it in, use the rod to work the lure along the bottom, then reel in the slack. The floating versions of deep water cranks can also be used as super slow subsurface offering by casting them out and letting the rings settle. Then, ever so slowly, work the lure back—only allowing it to dive a very short distance before letting it pop back to the surface. To the fish, it appears to be a struggling bait fish trying to dive, then failing and floating back up. Bass key in on this struggle and head for an easy meal.
There is no special gear required to fish slow. Anglers can use the tackle they already have and be very successful. In fact, many who try this type of approach find themselves breaking out old equipment used by parents and grandparents and getting it back on the water. No wonder the old geezers caught so many fish—they fished slow. It’s a matter of taking time to work the lures slowly and covering all the fish-able water. The fishing experience becomes relaxing. The angler learns more about his home waters, taking the time to get to know them and discover their subtle features: that deep depression right off a small island overlooked for years, an old creek channel, a cut next to a grassy bank or rock pile. These are the places that hold fish and sometimes are very small, but full of our quarry and making them more challenging to catch. Slow presentations allow the angler to work these areas effectively and completely.
There are times to fish fast but, more often, it’s the slow fisherman that ends up going home with dinner or some great photos to share. Take the time to take the time. Slow down your presentation. Give Mr. Bass time to read your menu and he will be on yours.