Long-lining? I thought I’d seen it all. I’ve been around bass fishing for decades, at the highest levels. And yet, when this year’s Douglas Lake Challenge came along I saw something new. It’s called long-lining.

Let me say right from the start that you’ll not hear me criticize anyone for using it. The technique is perfectly legal, and the guys who fished it last week were well within the rules. In fact, I admire their innovative approach. They caught their fish fair and square.

What I want to talk about is the fact that I didn’t know about it. Maybe even more interesting is the fact that a lot of the other Elite guys didn’t know about it either. You’d think we’d be up on just about everything there is in this sport. For most of us, it’s all we care about. And yet, we find ourselves staring wide-eyed at someone doing something totally new and foreign to us.

That says something about this sport and why it’s so fascinating. No matter if you’re a novice or a full-time professional there’s always something new out there. You’ll never get to the point where you know it all.

The problem on Douglas was that the fish were deep — 30 feet plus. We could all see them with our electronics but we couldn’t make them bite. They simply ignored the usual deep water presentations with jigs, weighted plastics and drop shots. The only thing left was to try for a reaction bite. That’s easier said than done at those depths.

Somewhere, someone came up with the idea that you could back away from a crankbait after you cast it out and make it run a lot deeper. That’s legal so long as you don’t move the bait while you’re backing away from it. (That’s easy enough. Just keep your spool free or your bail open and pull line off with your fingers.) It sounds simple and obvious as I write about it. Not so in the real-world. In all my years of fishing, I’d never seen that done.

It makes sense when you stop and think about it, though. It’s common on Lake Erie to throw baits upstream from your target and let the wind and waves drift you back to where you want to be. And who hasn’t let a lure drift along with the current as it’s being retrieved? Oftentimes, that’s the only way to get a bait into the strike zone.

Long-lining isn’t exactly the same thing, but it’s darn close. It’s a matter of innovating, being willing to do something different and take a chance. That’s the real message. It’s not the technique so much as it’s the thought process behind it.

That’s one of the reasons I love this sport of bass fishing so much. No angler will ever get to the point where he or she knows it all. They’ll always be something new that we need to learn. And, no matter about all that, the bass will still win more often than not.

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