Started off a little colder and eventually got a little warmer than yesterday, and the wind didn’t blow quite as hard, although it did blow a lot harder than the 8 mph that was in the forecast. The water temp was a degree or so higher, and the fish were in pretty much the same areas we found them biting yesterday.
Like yesterday, we (read that as Steve) had a short activity period soon after first light, and then a slow bite until we figured out exactly what they seemed to respond best to today. Probably 65 to 70 of the 90-some-odd fish that Steve & I caught today came fishing the jig & plastic directly under the rod tip. Vertical jigging without the usual jigging motion. Mostly holding it still in the water column, except for the trick.
Yeah. Something I’ve been doing in certain vertical fishing situations for more than 50 years. I’ll tell you more about this little bit of fish trickery in a bit. First, the rest of the boring details of today’s fishing.
As mentioned above, we caught in excess of 90 stripers between us today. I think the final tally was 95, and Steve beat me by 5, based on a 10 fish lead he built up before I ever got to set the hook on anything. We each got one keeper today. Mine was 29 inches. Not sure how big Steve’s was, because he invented his own trick and made it, along with his Boga Grip, disappear before swinging the fish over the side. From what I saw of the fish before Steve knocked it off while trying to catch the Boga that was sinking out of sight (and reach), I’d guess low thirties.
I also caught two white catfish. On consecutive casts. Haven’t caught a cat in the tidal Housy since Jim (Jimfish) Boyne and I caught four or five of them on jigging spoons one December Day in 2009 or thereabouts.
OK, back to that trick I was talking about.
When presenting a bait by dropping it straight down to fish you’ve spotted on the electronics. most people jiggle the rod tip up and down a bit, or go into a repetitive, lift-drop routine. But I like to get it right n their face and hold it there, as close to motionless as I can. Toward that end, I drop the bait all the way to bottom, and reel it up to the depth the fish are holding at, as seen on the depth finder. Most spinning reels in the 2000 to 3000 range take up just about 2 feet of line per turn of the reel handle. Some a little more, some a little less. But 2 feet per turn is close enough when all you’re doing is figuring out how many times to crank up from bottom to get your lure into the same depth range as the fish. They aren’t rocket scientists, after all.
Once your lure is at the right depth, just hold it there, with the rod tip low, in good hook setting position. Give it long enough to be seen and hopefully tempt a fish into biting it. You’ll need to experiment with how long to hold it there before employing the trick. It kind of depends on how inactive the fish are. Somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds is pretty typical.
Give the reel handle one sharp turn, bringing the lure almost instantaneously straight up a couple feet. The idea is to take the bait away from any fish that might have been eyeing it, and make that fish react. At least that’s what I like to imagine it does. The meal the fish was considering just darted away — but not so far as to be out of sight — and the fish charges after it and engulfs it. Like I said, that’s what I like to think is going on down there. I’m not a fish, and I don’t have an Aqua View or similar camera to actually witness what’s happening. What I do know is that an amazing number of my hits when employing this tactic come within a second or two of the lure jumping up a couple feet.
If you’re in a situation like we were today, where the fish are stacked 5 to 12 feet thick, if you don’t get hit right after the lure settles in at its new depth, give it another 10 or 15 seconds and repeat the trick for the benefit of the fish that might be eyeing it since it popped into their zone of interest.
I first came up with the trick back in the sixties, when my brother and I used to night fish for kokanee salmon at East Twin Lake, using a kernel or two of corn on a single hook, weighted with only a large split shot a few inches above the hook. I believe that’s where I developed the sense of feel and hook set reaction that has served me so well every time I have fished a jig type lure to catch most anything that swims over the course of the ensuing half century. It’s also where I developed the trick, as I noted very early on that many of the barely discernable bites I got (The kokes are plankton feeders and don’t eat the corn, just mouth it for a split second and expel it.) came shortly after I changed the depth of my offering — particularly when I raised it in the water column — and the more quickly I moved it when doing so, the more likely I was to get bit almost as soon as it stopped moving. I’ve applied the same principal to crappie and both largemouth and smallmouth bass in fresh water, and to weakfish and fluke in salt water. And of course to stripers spending their winter in the tidal rivers.
Back in that striper world, casting the lure and retrieving it horizontally with lots of twitches, pauses and little spurts of speed, or letting it drift in the current for a swing bite is usually far more effective than dropping the lure straight down to the fish, even with the trick. But as you go through your presentation options to decode what it’s going to take to catch this particular bunch of fish, on this tide, under these conditions, you can’t rule out a vertical approach, and a vertical approach without at least trying the trick amounts to short changing yourself.