What's all this fuss about fishing fast? Just because everything in our world seems to be rushing by, lots of bass fishermen think they need to kick things into high gear, too. I call it the "VanDam Factor." These anglers are trying to be just like one of their heroes, Kevin VanDam.
Make no mistake, I think VanDam is an incredible fisherman — maybe the very best ever. But when I listen to anglers talk about how fast they fish or how fast they plan to fish or how fast they want to fish, I think most of them are making a really big mistake.
If you want to catch more and bigger smallmouth bass, you really ought to consider fishing slower ... a lot slower.
Of course a blanket generalization like that won't always hold true, and there are certainly times when faster is better, but if we're talking about the dog days of summer or the coldest parts of winter, slower is almost always better.
And speaking of Kevin VanDam, I'm frequently amazed at how many guys try to copy his fishing style even though they may not be fishing in a tournament or even fishing under similar conditions. That reaction bite that VanDam is trying to trigger is great when you can find it, but in the summer and winter, when the bass are lethargic and bites are tough to come by, you'll do better by going slower.
And remember that fishing and tournament fishing are two very different things. Sure, the Elite pros catch some big fish, but they do it despite themselves. True trophy anglers fish a lot differently, make fewer casts and fish slower.
How slow is slow? I once had an old timer tell me that after he cast his jig out and let it sink to the bottom, he'd light up a cigarette and smoke it all the way to the filter before he'd ever lift up on his rod to move that bait.
That's a long, long time, but he caught fish doing it and so have I. Do you really need to slow down that much? Probably not ... at least not most of the time. But you'll definitely do better with smallmouth under tough conditions if you'll double the time it takes to make your retrieve.
I'd say that on an average cast it takes me three or four minutes to work my bait back to the boat. And I usually work it all the way back until I figure out the depth they're in. After that you can start taking shortcuts and focusing just on the most productive areas, but even then I believe in soaking my bait in there just as long as I can stand it.
Slower makes sense when you think about it. Those big brown bass didn't grow to those sizes by exerting a lot of energy chasing down baitfish and fast-moving crawfish. They got big by expending as little energy as possible and catching nutritious meals that were slow and easy to grab.
I want my lure to be the slowest, easiest-to-grab thing out there. When it is, I know I've got a better chance to catch the biggest bass in the lake.
Now, when my wife or my fishing buddies tell me that they think I'm slow, I just say "Thank you!"
Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at Stephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.