Patterns - Solving puzzles at the pond and beyond

I think it was famed writer and angler Ernest Hemingway who coined the phrase a "moveable feast." Well, in fishing what you have that's moveable is a pattern. What it takes to "catch 'em" constantly changes, and if you let it, can constantly frustrate you. Of course, this challenge is one of the reasons I love it so.

So, there is no doubt that fine-tuning the pattern fishing technique is the real key to success, and you must be alert to recognize patterns within patterns.

Fishing can certainly be viewed as a game of odds — you start fishing along a shoreline as soon as you arrive and make 200 casts and only catch a small fish. Those kinds of odds make for a long day.

You know or will soon learn that the majority of your casts will not produce fish. But trial-and-error fishing directed toward establishing a pattern can help you significantly reduce the number of no-catch days. If you find a pattern or two, you'll find fish no matter what the weather brings you on a given day.

Pattern fishing is cutting the odds of that 200-to-1 shot. Discovering that the fish are holding in the bushes is one thing. But which bushes? Are they in the back of the coves, on points, back in the flooded woods? Are they on sand, gravel or a mud bank? Are they in 2 feet of water or deeper? Are they isolated?

There are numerous questions that you can ask yourself in pinpointing where the action is. The more questions you ask, the more you'll ponder, and the more questions you'll come up with. When this happens, you'll definitely be closer to finding the fish.

Also, you must be alert to places that overlap fish-holding factors. This is known as "multiple structure" or "multiple cover," and it cuts the odds in your favor. For instance, a stump or treetop might hold several fish. But a stump sitting in the middle of a point might be a smokehouse stacked with a school. How about a treetop and a channel bend? Each of those factors may produce fish, but put them together and it might make a trip even more memorable.

Combinations of structure and/or cover are potentially endless. Paying attention to what combinations exist and where the fish are found is a quick key to identifying subtle patterns within patterns.

Also, lure preferences are crucial — type, color and depth, plus retrieval speed will figure in. To discover the best lures, change frequently and keep experimenting until something clicks. Keep casting and retrieving to find out what works.

Some final words to remember about all this is that you must realize patterns change from early to midday to late in the afternoon and at night. They also change from day to day and season to season. What worked yesterday or last month, or even a year ago might not work and at this moment is only a good starting point for a new day.


For more words of wit and wisdom from one of our sport's greatest legends, check out