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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!






One response to “The Rookie Move”

  1. Leonida says:

    Great post, really enjoyed it!
    — Leonida

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