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Fishing Tips!

Insite on a hot spot, great destinations, advanced techniques.

The other day, my girlfriend Nancy and I were fishing the bass opener.  We chose Goderich, ON as our destination for the day.  All and all, I think this was a good choice.  The water was beautiful and there were many opportunities for mixing it up.  You could go past the break-wall or stay in the marina area.  You could fish the mouth of the Maitland river too.  All very promising spots.  Out on Lake Huron, the water was such a beautiful inviting blue, you could see the sand bottom through the crystal clear waters out to about 14 ft. depth.  It was more like being on top of a giant swimming pool than a lake.

The ramp area was a bit of gong show as it was a very busy Saturday and the bass opening day.   We had to exercise patience.   The conservation officers were out and inspecting .   All and all – not a bad thing.

The inspiration for this article was an incident that I have actually played out before – the “Rookie Move.  This rookie move was in an all to familiar form for me.;  I tried to horse in my fish.  Let me break it down:  I was using one of my new favourite baits – the jerk bait.  This particular stick was a beautiful silver, blue, orange number from Rapala, the Husky Jerk 12.  It is a suspending jerk bait which means it will float on the water until you jerk it under.  If you stop jerking it down, it will suspend in the water column without diving or floating up.  I have found it to be a very effective bait, especially on the initial cast.  Bass love these things when they hit the water.  I like the Husky Jerks and the Smithwick Rogues.  I had just finished casting and the bait had hit the top of the water.  I let it settle there for a moment and then gave it a jerk to bring it down and I got a strike.  The fish must have come towards the boat with it because I lost the feel of the strike and had to reel in line.    I was pretty certain that I had lost the fish when I felt it’s weight back  on the line.  The fish felt me at the same moment and I set the hook.  Beauty!  I had the fish on and it was hooked – it started on a run, pulling line off with ease.  I had a medium heavy rod and it was well bent into the rods backbone.  The drag was set heavy too, yet this fish was having no problem peeling off line – this was a GOOD fish!.  It took a turn towards the boat and I was reeling in line.  It got near the boat and then took a hard run under and down towards the back of the boat.  I was worried that we were going to cross lines, so I made Nancy aware that I had a big one on and it was heading her way.   I was concerned about the fish rapping itself on the motor at the back, but we had it up almost all the way out of the water – so no worries there.

Ok – so far so good –

The fish changed directions and headed back out from the boat.  I realized that I was probably not going to lose this fish from the hook set which had now held up through a couple hard directional changes.  The fish realized it too.  It started heading up towards the surface, now out way out the front port side of the boat.  I was getting pretty excited and was letting Nancy know.  (anyone who knows me personally can fill in the blanks here – I’m sure you can all imagine).

“Ooh Nancy – oh!! It’s coming up to the surface!  It’s going to jump – Look Nancy Look!!  It’s coming up – I think it’s going to jump!!!”  Nancy – cool as a cucumber says ” Stef – I can’t see the fish”  True, as I had polarized, but I still couldn’t see the fish at this point either.  I was just expecting it to jump because at this point I figure that I have either one hellavu monster bass on or maybe a steelhead because this thing is pulling like a monster and it obviously has legs because it has done 3 good runs now – so this is no ordinary fish.  The fish comes up to the surface just off the bow of the boat and it turns in the water – it doesn’t jump.  I get a glimpse of it through the water (we are in the marina and the water here is a murky green , choked with weeds too.  I see the flank as it rolls and I see the tail which has a black stripe at the end of it and along it’s width but I can’t make out what kind of fish this is.  It is just starting another diving run when I get the great idea that I should try to turn the fishes head.  And there it is folks – the “Rookie Move”.   As I’ve mentioned, I’ve done this one before and as soon as I began I knew it was a mistake, but before I could stop myself, I had pulled the bait out of the fishes mouth and just as suddenly as it had begun – it was over.  The fish was on it’s way to la la land and I was on my way to deprived angler blues camp.  What a stupid stupid, stupid mistake!!!  If I hadn’t done it before, I would have thought lesson learned – but I’ve learned this lesson already so what an idiot!  That fish would have elevated me to angling heaven.  I would have been angler extraordinaire!  Instead I am chump.  DON’T make the same mistake folks – let the fish run – keep the tension on your lines but not too tight on the drag – let the fish play out – and when it’s all said and done – reel the fish in and be your own hero – not a rookie zero.

Other Rookie Moves to be Aware of – (painful mistakes learned the hard way)

Here are some other tips from me on rookie mistakes to be avoided at all cost!  Feel free to leave comments with a few of your own rookie blunders and I’ll post them up for others to see – I mean learn from!

Putting the Plug in the Boat :0

I won’t mention names but I’ve seen it – check and double check and if you are prone to forgetting things (like a tent when you and your buddy decide at the last minute to go camping in Algonquin Park), then you should make a list of equipment needed and check it before setting out!  The plug goes in the boat!

Net Man Down

Don’t chase the fish around with the net at the boat – or even at the shore.  Set the net into the water and lead the fish to the net, scooping it up as the fish enters the net.  (Sorry for the salmon that got away Val)

Not Setting the Hook

I want you to read Musky Opener Hijinks when I finish writing it to get an idea of how this can feel.  Seriously, “hook sets are free” is a quote I’ve heard before and even if you think it may be a snag, set the hook!  You have nothing to lose except maybe a trophy fish.

Power Loading the Boat Without Putting the Parking Brake On

Imagine how horrifying this one can be!  You’ve just won a new boat and you have it out on the water and you go to power load it.  The door to the truck is wide open and the truck is in park on the ramp when the column pin slips and the truck starts sliding into the water.  Now, the guy loading the boat notices in time to back the boat up, but the truck is still sliding into the water with it’s momentum building.  You jump into the front seat, but not in time to save the truck from jack-knifing the door into the side of the ramp.  You save your truck from completely submerging, you save the boat from ramming up into the backward moving vehicle,  but you put a really nasty dent into the side of your pretty much brand new truck.  This is a really bad rookie move.  Engage the parking brake at the ramp.  If you want to know if this happened to anyone I know, the answer is; I’m not telling.

Not Setting the Latch on Trailer Hitch and Securing It Properly

It’s great to get up at 3 am and set out salmon fishing.  The only problem is that it’s 3 am and you usually get up at 6.  This can lead to a bad rookie move if you are towing a boat.  When you set out, take time to double check all of your connections.  When you get to the first stop sign on your street and the boat trailer keeps coming into the back of the truck – putting a beauty of a dent into the tailgate of your otherwise pristine pick-up, this rookie move will also put a dent in your wallet and your mood for the day.  Actually, come to think of it – if this happens to you, you might want to just turn around, park the truck and put the boat away – go back to sleep.  It was on a day that started like this, that we also got smashed into out on the water by a guy who had fallen asleep at the helm.  Luckily we were able to somewhat avoid the collision to the boat and we only lost a few down rigger arms, but even those with extensions can cost a bit of cash.

Don’t Muscle the Fish

I’ve had plenty of days on the water playing fish.  I enjoy fishing for steelhead with light gear and I’ve landed a fair number of the ones I’ve hooked, so you would think that I’ve learned a thing or two about playing a fish, but nope, I can still make the mistake of trying to bring the fish in before it’s done.  Let the fish dictate to you when it’s had enough.  You will know because the fight is over.  Reel her in and rejoice in your success.  Otherwise, try and muscle the fish and lose an opportunity to land a trophy.  I have had this experience a few times now, where I have had a fish peeling off line and I’ve either set the drag tension too high on purpose or by accident (slipped when trying to tighten a rear fighting drag spinning reel), or I’ve made a stupid decision such as outlined in the incident above.  You can practice this with every fish you catch, letting it play itself out a bit before landing it.  It certainly makes it easier to handle the toothy ones and the big buggers.


Drop me a line with your rookie moves and maybe I’ll post them here.   Maybe I’ll even send a prize out for the best of the best rookie errors I read.   Thanks folks and have fun on the water – and remember – don’t muscle your fish!







Bait Caster Bird’s Nest! Bait Caster Bird’s Nest

My line is all askew

Now what do I do?

Some choice words as I spew

This darn thing’s brand new

I’ve only taken it out for one time or two

Has any of this ever happened to you?

Bait Caster Bird’s Nest

Makes me not want to use you

Bait Caster Bird’s Nest

Could someone please show me what I’m to do?

Bait Caster Bird’s Nest

I swear one more time and you and I are through


Does this sound familiar?  Don’t panic!!  You are not alone!!

Now, I know that there are some things that you have to do when using a bait caster.  The guys where I bought it were actually quite thorough in describing how to set it up for weight of the lure and how to avoid bird’s nests – but… for some reason, I still struggle with my bait caster .   For tips on how to adjust your bait caster for each lure you use, talk to someone down at your local fishing store.  Seriously, I have never been to a fishing store where there wasn’t at least one helpful person willing to take time to show me how to work the gear properly.  This is what makes angling shops so awesome compared to big box stores.  If you don’t find that your particular local outlet is very helpful, then go somewhere else!  You will find other people who have worked through the exact same struggles as you and there is nothing to be embarrassed about!

Being Consistent

I have learned that if I snap my wrist when I cast, I will get a completely different cast then if I cast nice and smooth.  Therefore, if my “test” cast is nice and smooth and I am happy with the tension settings, then I need to continue casting in that manner.  It stands to reason that if you make a cast with more of a snap of the wrist, you are changing the dynamic of the cast and therefore the mass of the object being cast as mass equals force times acceleration. If you have your brake set for one mass but change the force on the object, you actually have a greater mass at the time of the cast. This could result in a bird’s nest ( you can actually watch the reel and see the bird’s nest about to happen).  You could crank the tension/brake  up a bit which would take away from the bird’s nest potential but this appears to greatly affect the distance you are able to cast.  Especially if you are tossing light baits.  As a matter of preference, I think for light lures and baits, you really can’t beat a good spinning reel.  A good spinning reel matched with a good rod can cast the heck out of light tackle.

I think that from what I am finding with my bait casters, a little bit of a spin in the rod to start the cast appears to really smooth out the cast and add consistency as well.  It’s kind of fun to do too.  You just quickly twirl your wrist clockwise and smoothly cast out, all in one motion.

There are probably experts out there cringing right about now at my description and by all means feel free to offer suggestions  – but keep in mind that not all of us have had bait caster’s in our hands for years and years.  I had to save up for a couple of years to get the rod and reel and 9 times out of 10 when I go fishing, I still have a tendency to grab the spinning gear.  However, I know that there are techniques in which a bait cast outfit shines, so I really want to learn them.  The only problem is the trial and error learning period.

A Great Technique for Bird’s Nest Removal

The other day, a helpful fellow-John watched me make my first cast of the day with the bait caster.  It was a little intimidating  when he asked me if I’d had the bait caster a long time.  Especially since his young son Adrian was there too, and obviously new more about bait casters than myself as he proudly displayed his beautiful collection, but the two of them seemed very nice and  I answered as truthfully as my ego would allow – “um, yeah, for a year or so, but I don’t get out with it much.”  He asked if I would mind if he showed me a thing or two and I said “by all means- be my guest”.  Pretty soon he was showing me a new way to get out bird’s nests. ( yeah you guessed it, I got one on my very first cast – thus the conversation with John- sheesh – how embarrassing in front of the kid)  I won’t try and describe the method, instead, I have posted the YouTube video link that I think best illustrates the technique.   I highly recommend watching the video and keeping it in mind for the next time you are out with your bait caster.  Try and remember this article and that there are others out there that share your frustration.  I hope this helps take away the urge to heave the thing into the deep blue where it will never bother another soul again.

The first video shows the technique as shown to me at the river the other day.  The second video shows a different technique but also effective.  Remember to continue to go down through the spool of line to continue looking for culprits as if you do not smooth the line out, you will continue to find that you get a nest at the exact same place in your cast each time.


I was thinking about a time last year at a friend’s cottage in Buckhorn.  It was the musky opening weekend but the musky fishing was slow at best.  I had pretty much thrown in the towel on musky and turned to targeting walleye.  I managed to score a couple of nice walleyes but the highlight of the weekend became the blue gill fishing I happened to chance into.   I hadn’t thought too much about it since, other than I became the hero around the campfire that night armed with a good plate full of battered blue gill fillets.  Recently, I was reminiscing about the fishing that day and I wanted to share the story with you and some of the observations I made and the lessons to be taken.

I had spent  a few hard days on the water targeting musky.  I had no experience with musky fishing at all, and  very little experience with bait casting outfits and the particular headache they present known as the “bird’s nest”, which is endemic of that particular type of fishing equipment.  I have since learned about how to “tune” a bait caster to the weight of the lure.  Now that I have a little more experience casting with them, I do not have as many problems with bird’s nests.  Back then though, this was not the case.   To top things off,  I had made a couple of donations to Poseidon in the form of a couple of my friends prized buck tail lures.  Too, due to the discourteous behavior of a fellow boater, I had scraped a chunk of the gel coat off my boat and broke the transducer off my side imaging sonar.  Their idea of enjoying a day on the water resulted in a huge wake that cranked me into the top of a submerged granite boulder.  Rock beat fiberglass pretty much  just as rock beats scissors.  Too say the least, I needed to catch something and I didn’t care if it was a musky or a mudpuppy.  Something needed to give and it was going to be the fish.


Since the transducer was done for and therefore my sonar unit rendered useless, I decided to switch things up and I headed to an area below a small set of falls and rapids.  I caught a nice walleye in a pool about 12 feet deep but the action was very slow.  As the water was crystal clear, I noticed a bunch of panfish swimming by some docks near by.   The water clarity allowed me to pretty much see every fish.  I quickly changed gears again and put together a small float outfit and began tossing a Berkley bubblegum floating trout worm at the school.  I could pretty much see every detail of the fish going for the lure.  It was too big for them – they have very small little mouths, so I had to change to a smaller hook and just a little piece off the worm.  It worked!  I stopped missing the hits and started landing fish.  At first, they were good sized fish, but by the end of the school, I was pulling much smaller ones out of the hole.   There was a sweet spot that I had to get to as well.  I learned that I had to drift to the fish, as a cast that landed to close to them would float on by untouched.  They only wanted the offering if the bait was floating to them and it needed to be at a certain depth and it needed to be a certain presentation, drifting in well ahead of the float.  There was a very small window of opportunity to catch these fish.  The “spot-on-the-spot” so to speak and that meant about a   6 to 8 foot length where the fish would actually hit the lure.  Don’t cast into them – cast ahead  of the current – and drift into the spot – if you go more than 6-8 feet you’ve gone too far.  Now that is something else eh?  To have a perfect window into the underwater world of panfish and to be able to observe their behaviour on such an in depth level.

When I had cleared the pool to the point where the only fish left were too small to consider keeping, I moved along to the next dock and repeated the process.  Again, pretty much the exact same scenario played out with the largest fish being first and the smallest fish being last.

When I think back to that day and I think about the whole experience, I really was blessed to be able to glean so much valuable information from this one fishing foray.  I now know a lot more about schools of fish then I did before.  I know that the aggressive, fast fish are the first to fall prey to a lure but that there can be plenty of opportunity to catch more fish if you keep at it.  I learned that I need to always have perfect presentation to the fish and that the presentation also has to reach the spot where the fish want to feed.  They really didn’t want to work to hard for their meals, preferring to position themselves in the current in such a way that  food comes to them.  I learned that with a few minor adjustments, there really can be a pattern that you dial into and can repeat for success.  I learned that good things eventually come to those that persevere.  I learned that sometimes, to get a prize worth keeping, you have to be willing to adjust to the program and accept things on the level that they are handed to you.  I learned that you need to adapt your style of fishing and I learned that some times, it is worth accepting that you aren’t going to get your way.

That weekend was a really memorable time.  It stands out as one of my favourite fishing trips even though I didn’t catch a musky.  Actually, out of the 10 anglers, some of them seasoned veterans that attended the opener, only 3 musky were caught over a 4 day period.  But in the end, who cares.  We all had a great time trying.  I can’t wait until this years opener!  I would like to catch a musky and I’m going to give it all I’ve got, but if all I’ve got isn’t good enough, then by golly, I’m not going to let that stop me from having a good fishing trip and maybe just maybe, I’ll take some time to find an unsuspecting school of panfish, lock into a presentation that will catch them, and fill a plate of fillets for the evening snack.

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