I know that some of the people that will be reading this know most of these tips already, and some will disagree on one or more. I myself will go against my own advice under select circumstances or conditions, however, following these 5 simple tips will help the majority of anglers catch more fish the majority of the time.
- Set your drag properly ahead of time and then leave it alone. While working as the head mate on a both charter and party boats, I saw hundreds of fish lost to improperly set drags or anglers trying to unsuccessfully adjust their drag after a fish was hooked. One huge mistake I commonly saw anglers make after hooking a large or powerful fish was just to automatically start tightening the drag. The angler had no idea how large of a fish they had hooked or how much drag they were applying and it usually resulted in a broken line or pulled hook. Anglers fishing heavier tackle should seriously consider using a spring scale to set the drag at 25% of the breaking strength of their line and let the drag do what was made to do. On the rare occasion more pressure is needed, a gentle thumb or index finger gently applied to the spool will do the job without touching the drag.
- Change out stock hardware (hooks, swivels, split rings) on factory baits with quality components. Some of the best massed produced plugs (Bombers and SP Minnows come immediately to mind) come with hooks and split rings that will straighten out or fail under heavy pressure and torquing. Todays no stretch braided lines and stiffer graphite rods only exacerbate these issues. I witnessed a massive northern pike (a true 44” or 45” fish) lost boat side when it straightened out the factory treble on a Junior Thunderstick. A number of manufactures produce super sharp strong trebles, inline single hooks, and tiny but super strong slit rings.
- Fish with a fluorocarbon leader. I think that this will probably get me more argumentative emails then the other 4 tips combined but I don’t care, if you want to catch more fish, fish a fluoro leader. Fluorocarbon leader is more abrasion resistant as well as much less visible underwater. I have personally witnessed too many times when fluorocarbon vastly out-fished mono, wire, or direct tied braid particularly when fishing bait or slow soft plastic presentations. Yes, fluorocarbon is more expensive when compared to mono leader material, but most of the time you only need a few feet and a 25 yard spool will last a long time.
- Fish at night. Now this might not seem like a tip at all, most anglers know that fish often feed best in low light conditions, and yet time and time again most anglers like to fish in the daylight. I have multiple spots around my house both fresh and saltwater that produce fish all summer long. These are well known spots often hosting dozens of anglers on a sunny day. I am still amazed how often I see anglers show up just as the sun is rising, have good fishing for the first hour or so, and then struggle to catch for the rest of the day. This is especially true on high pressured waters. Keep in mind, largemouth, smallmouth, stripers, walleye, crappie, catfish, and trout (particularly browns) are much more active after the sun goes down and will often move into very shallow water to actively feed. I fish these same spots often starting around 10:00 pm for as long into the night as I can stand, and I am almost always have the place completely to myself.
- Learn one new technique a year. I don’t think I have ever met an angler, no matter how experienced that knew how to fish every lure type or technique even in a select area. For years 15 or so years I caught my share of surf stripers on plugs, swim shads, poppers, metal, chunks, live eels, as other baits, but never once did I catch a striped bass from the surf on a bucktail, arguably one of the original and best striper lures ever invented. Not for lack of trying, I always carried a few jigs in my bag and would put one on when things were slow and my go-to baits weren’t working, yet for years plenty of stripers, just not on the bucktail. Several years ago I decided it was time to learn how to fish a bucktail correctly, so in the middle of the fall run, I made a point to learn. I started fishing a bucktail every time I was on the water and already into fish on plugs or shads. Amazingly enough I started catching fish on the bucktail, and not just a few, but good numbers with some decent quality mixed in. As it turns out for years I was working the jig as though I would for fluke or walleye, slowly bouncing it on the bottom, not actively swimming the jig. One of the hardest things about learning a new technique is to have the confidence to stick with it. Confidence is one of the most valuable tools to possess when fishing. If you think truly believe you are going to catch a fish on the next cast or the next minute, you probably will.