Sharpen Your Senses

Using your five senses effectively, and connecting with your 'fishy' sixth sense, can help you land more big ones.

shutterstock_142908184 copySOMETIMES IT TAKES EVERY SENSE — sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch — to catch a fish. And often, a sixth sense — thinking like a fish — is a big part of any successful angling outing.

Using that sixth sense of thinking like a fish is perhaps the most fun to use. For example, in fresh water I’m often thinking that bass like to hang out by an inlet of newer water into the stream, pond or lake. The fish want to get into a position to strike any new critter that gets carried in by the current, so my cast has to be where I “think” the fish might be. When it works, it’s great. Fish like places to hide, so lily pads or any type of cover, maybe a dock, is a place they are going to hang out, so a good cast to where you think the fish might be can pay off. Learning all about your target species at libraries or online is a great way to spend a rainy day.

Many anglers believe the most important sense is hearing, because fishermen like me believe we have it all figured out. Sure, our ears perk up when someone mentions a secret spot, but when it comes to technique, our ears close. My grandpa said, “Back in my day, we used a long-shanked hook and a real earthworm, and we liked it like that!” Now I get stuck in the same rut.

For example, last week I fished with my buddy, a more experienced angler, and I wouldn’t listen. I pitched the same green worm with the same line the same way I always do — and wasn’t getting any largemouth bass pickups. I sort of heard his words to go to a lighter line and a different color plastic worm, but it seemed like too much of a hassle. Then this new guy with little experience listened to my buddy, and he soon had a largemouth flopping on the deck. I switched over to that rig fast.

Listening to expert advice and applying it can help fill up your fish sack. Matching the line strength to the hook and bait is a very important factor, especially when you are scratching for every strike. To get more information, local fishing clubs have pros who conduct seminars, and don’t forget to tune in to a Saturday morning radio show about fishing — there are still a few out there.shutterstock_178882640 copy

Regarding touch, one thing I learned early is to be able to always “feel” my bait. If you don’t have a tight line at all times, then fish might strike when there’s a big loop or slack in your line, decide your plastic worm is a fake and take off without you even knowing what’s happening. Yes, you might catch a fish now and then — a really stupid fish will grab that worm no matter what — but if you can’t feel your bait, you are missing some strikes.

Another thing about touch. Capt. George Mitchell, a fine angling guide and former pro out of Jupiter, Fla., told me he always uses the Q-tip test: “You can feel your ringed guide for imperfections, but a Q-tip will give it away instantly,” Capt. Mitchell said. “Bad guides mean bad line.

Sight wise, quality polarized sunglasses are well worth the money — and if you need to, get them with “cheaters” built in, so you can see up close. I have high-end Costa del Mar specs that I only wear when I’m fishing. They aren’t for the car, yard or beach. I keep them in the protective case and don’t stick them in my pocket, so they are scratch-free and in perfect shape after five years. Polarized glasses definitely help when you are “fishing to the fish,” so you can see where to cast the worm or fly.

Regarding taste, I’ve definitely acted in bad taste. After a fishing trip with my buddy, he started scrubbing down his boat, and nearby was an extra scrub brush, waiting to be used. Did I lift it and help? No, I let the new guy take the bait. Then I started thinking like a fish and got the heck out of there.


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