Hey, I had a rare experience this week, Tuesday to be exact. I actually got to go fun fishing with an old friend. He's one of the original members of my first bass club, the one I joined when I was in high school.
We had a great time and, in the process, I was reminded of something that made a big difference in my fishing. Catching fish isn't about having fancy and expensive tackle. It's about presenting a bait in a manner that'll make the fish bite.
Here in New Jersey, the water's getting cold. It's around 50 degrees, more or less, and the fish are settling into their traditional winter patterns. That means they're moving onto the deep-water vertical breaks. In most of the water around here that's down near the dam.
We fished for awhile with traditional early winter baits — suspending jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits. Frankly, they're the best ones available. There's nothing better, no matter where you look. Apparently, the fish didn't know that because we couldn't get a bite ... not one.
I knew the fish were there, so it was really frustrating. Our baits were just blowing past lethargic fish. We had to figure a way to make them bite. I do not suffer defeat at the hands of a fish easily.
Finally we decided to go with an old lure that I'd almost forgotten about. It isn't fancy, nor does it cost a lot of money. It's a simple grub on a jig head. It offered the perfect solution to our dilemma.
All we did was cast it out and let it fall naturally towards the bottom with its tail wiggling all the way down. We didn't do anything fancy, nor did I use some secret trick that only the pros know about. This was basic fishing, the kind of thing you do as a kid. Nevertheless, it worked because it gave the fish what they wanted — something to eat that they didn't have to chase down in the cold water.
You'll note that throughout this blog I've been using the term fish, not bass. In addition to more than a dozen keeper bass, we boated several crappies — big ones in the pound and a half range — a handful of perch and a bunch of chain pickerel. It was a good day of fun and laughs without the pressure of tournament competition.
If you're looking for a way to catch bass a month or so before the ice starts to form, think simple. Sometimes that's the best approach. With all the fancy, expensive lures I own, a simple Berkley Power Grub in shad or green pumpkin produced the most fish.
It's a perfect example of what I mean when I say "fish the moment." You have to do what the fish want, not what you want.