The first piece in this series described three basic mistakes I've observed novice speckled trout anglers regularly make in their choices of equipment and lures. In this second piece, I'll identify several other fundamental flaws within the realm of methods and strategies. The first prominent, widespread weakness reveals itself in the way many beginning and novice anglers hold their rod and reel.
Grip plays a critical role in establishing a legitimate foundation for success in the execution of the physical aspects of sport fishing, similar to the way it does in golf. Along with rhythm and alignment, grip serves a primary role in the trio of most important physical fundamentals in both sports. When fishing with artificial lures for speckled trout, properly gripping the rod and reel involves cradling the reel in the palm of the hand, assuming the angler uses a conventional, level-wind reel.
The low-profile design of today's reels makes this easy to achieve. As mentioned in the prior piece, reels weighing less than six ounces optimally serve today's trout anglers. They fit comfortably into the palm of the hand, even when attached to a graphite rod. The reel seats on most modern rods carry a trigger at their base, used to help one maintain grip pressure and control the rig adequately throughout the processes of presenting lures and hooking and fighting fish.
Ironically, this trigger creates confusion for some people, who place it between their index and middle fingers. This sets the hand too far back on the rod, behind the rig's balance point. In truth, the trigger should protrude between the angler's ring and pinkie fingers, so the side-plate of the reel can sit squarely in the palm of the hand. Placing the rod and reel in the hand this way allows for resting the thumb on the top of the side-plate, further enhancing control, precisely at the balance point.
Cradling the rod and reel in the hand at the balance point facilitates better control of the equipment, which reduces stress on the hands, wrists and forearms during the execution of presentations. More importantly, a proper grip enhances the potential for creativity. Lack of creativity in presentation style stands out as a second flaw in the methods employed by many novice anglers.
Displaying creativity in presentation style normally involves the coordination of twitching and reeling elements. The timing of this coordination regularly includes parts of presentations when the angler twitches the rodtip while turning the reel handle at the same time. These statements ring true for all the best fishermen I've observed. On the other hand, I see many less-accomplished ones who struggle to execute this basic element of presentation.
For some, twitching and reeling at the same time seems much like scratching their head and rubbing their stomach. As soon as they start twitching with one hand, the other stops turning the reel handle. Conversely, as soon as they begin turning the reel handle to retrieve line onto the spool, they cannot continue twitching the rodtip. This problem causes a loss of creativity and generates multiple issues.
With most types of lures, twitching the rodtip rhythmically through a fixed point in front of the body while controlling the slack by slowly turning the reel handle generates effective presentations of various types. An angler who cannot learn to continue reeling while twitching will instinctively control slack by lifting the rodtip. Once the tip of the rod approaches twelve o'clock (or worse, moves slightly beyond perpendicular to the ground) the angler will drop it rapidly back to three o'clock, while reeling up line quickly. While this presentation style does work some of the time, it limits creativity significantly, preventing the execution of many effective presentations.
Concurrent with this problem, many novices display a related weakness--they stubbornly employ just one presentation with each type of lure in their quiver. This lack of versatility stems from a kind of casual ignorance, which falsely assumes each lure will work best when moved through the water one way only, regardless of the environmental conditions present and/or the vigor of the feeding mood of the fish. In the truth inherent to an ideal world, multiple presentation styles can and should be employed with each lure, in response to changing conditions and predictions about the situation.
Creativity in presentation style involves conscious alteration of the speed, rhythm and intensity of the movement patterns of lures. Experimenting with these elements of presentation in a thoughtful manner while considering the feeding mood of the fish and the prevailing conditions enhances the potential for productivity. Along with depth of presentation, the movement pattern of the lure affects the number of bites more profoundly than other aspects of the lure choice/presentation duo, such as lure color, size and noise production.
On countless occasions, I and the other members of my group toss the exact same lures at the fish in front of us. Most of the time, someone catches more fish than the others. From this, I conclude the movement pattern of the lure makes the difference. We normally attempt to overcome this problem by mimicking the style of the angler getting more bites, sometimes with limited success. A tiny variation in the movement pattern of a lure can make a huge difference in number of bites earned.
In order to maximize control of the movements of the lure, one must first accept the need to adjust the elements of presentation, then incorporate methods which include a combination of twitching and reeling, pauses and speed bursts, all within a coordinated, well-timed effort. Mastery of these things cannot be accomplished by one who never twitches while reeling, nor by one who fails to learn multiple ways of working each type of lure.
In a classic sense, conventional topwater lures reveal these problems clearly. Some anglers fail to achieve even modest success with floating plugs because they can't master the act of turning the reel handle to control slack while twitching. This causes the aforementioned lifting and twitching, followed by the rapid dropping of the rodtip, fast reeling, and repeating. Sadly, an ample percentage of people who do learn to twitch and reel concurrently, who can adequately “walk the dog” and make the head of the lure dance side to side enticingly, display the other weakness, often repeatedly twitching and reeling with the same rhythm for the entire retrieve, and worse, doing so cast after cast after cast.
Seemingly, they become mesmerized by the clicking sounds emitted by the lure, idly observing as it wobbles atop the waves. In the worst-case scenario, they fall into a kind of trance, mindlessly repeating the elements of presentation, insanely expecting the same actions to produce different results. I call this “fishing in auto-pilot.” In this numbed state, anglers lose focus and creativity, diminishing their potential for productivity.
Mindless insanity plays no role in consistently productive angling efforts. In all aspects of life, a mindful state enhances productivity. To maximize creativity, lure-chunkers should work to maintain a mindful state of awareness while they fish. For a lure fisherman, fishing in a mindful state means acknowledging the need to experiment regularly and thoughtfully with presentations, adjusting the lure's movement patterns to meet the needs of the moment.
An angler who lacks versatility in presentation skill with each lure cannot do these things. People who work within such a stubbornly ignorant mind-set fall easily into fishing in auto-pilot and negatively impact the number of fish they catch. In a related way, many of these same people squelch productivity by making their choices of location without full consideration of the situation and without complete knowledge of the bodies of water in which they fish.
The angler with the most complete knowledge of the body of water where the fishing takes place has the best chance at consistent productivity. On the other hand, incomplete knowledge of the bays and the impacts of various environmental elements on the waterways will handicap any angler. Because most people fail to do the work necessary to maximize their knowledge of these things, they wind up relying on a relatively small catalog of spots at which to make their angling efforts.
The reliance on an insufficient number of spots significantly cripples consistency. In a way, it's another form of fishing in auto-pilot. People seem to make their decisions about where to fish based on a vague sense of “we caught 'em there before” rather than on an assessment of the totality of the situation, including the season, weather, time of day, and other variables. In other words, they don't fully consider their choices, in many cases because they simply have not taken the time to identify a full menu of potentially productive options.
Anglers intent on improving their consistency and productivity will find some of these fundamental flaws in strategy and method easier to fix than others. Anyone can learn to grip the rod and reel properly without much thought or effort. Doing so will provide almost instant, recognizable and tangible benefits. Mastering multiple presentations with all lures deployed, learning as much as possible about the bodies of water targeted and avoiding fishing in auto-pilot require more thought, time and effort. In the end, all these endeavors carry high value in the quest for the establishment of a solid foundation for success.