view counter

Tricks for Second Chances

Don’t give up on that missed strike

      I sent the Rat-L-Trap sailing out over the water in the longest cast I could manage. Pausing for a slow four-count to allow the lure to sink near the bottom, five feet down, I began the retrieve with long upward sweeps of my rod, followed by brief pauses to allow the lure to descend back toward the bottom.
      The braided 20-pound-test line had no elasticity, which allowed me to feel not only the lure’s vibration but also any collisions with rocks or bottom structure as I drew it back. Those impacts often trigger predator-prey attacks.
       Witness the utter panic induced in baitfish pursued by gamefish and you understand that in that frantic flight from danger, the small fish often run headlong into dock pilings, bulkheads, rocks or any other obstacle in their path. Stunned, the helpless fish are easy pickings. 
      An angler can reproduce this situation. When you feel your lure hitting any object, immediately but briefly accelerate its progress. Then pause to allow it to slowly sink like a concussed fish, giving it a twitch or two. If a predatory gamefish has been following the lure, its instinct is to attack. Fish on!
      You can also — sometimes — turn a lost fish into a success. Particularly in the initial phase of the fight, you may suddenly feel the lure pull free, leaving no resistance on the line. You might be tempted to quickly retrieve your lure to try again.
      Instead, on feeling the sudden lack of pressure, let the lure fall, giving it a slight twitch or two. Quite often the hooked fish was not alone. Other following gamefish may see the twitching lure, falling free, as an opportunity for an easy meal. Bingo! Fish on.
      In top-water fishing, a key to success is never — no matter how violent the attack — set the hook until you feel the weight of the fish on your line. The hookup rate on surface strikes is generally less than 50 percent. 
      Gamefish miss their intended surface target so often that the phenomenon has a name: blowup. The reasons for blowups can be varied. The gamefish’s eagerness and difficulty in seeing may cause it to miss. Others that I’ve witnessed include the fish striking the bait with its tail, intending to stun it, butting the fish into the air for the same reason and biting and throwing the intended prey out of pure playfulness. 
      After a blowup, my preference is to let the bait remain motionless for a slow five-count while carefully eliminating any slack in your line.
       If this hasn’t resulted in a follow-up strike, give just a small quiver to the lure, enough to suggest the prey is alive and recovering. Give it another five-count, then another more vigorous twitch. After that with still no results, begin a slow but action-filled splashing retrieve suggesting a confused and injured fish. It doesn’t always work. But sometimes it does.
     Don’t give up yet. Do not immediately cast back to the same area. Rest it for as long as you can, working other points of the compass. Then return and make another cast well past the location of the blowup. Bring the lure back through slowly but actively. The odds are no longer in your favor. But you may just get lucky. 
 
Fish Finder
     There are nice schools of spot and perch with a few croaker over shell bottoms, where they are holding in morning shade and around the piers and jetties.
     Crabbing may turn up a bit after September 7’s full moon slough. It may take another week or so for the jimmies to put on some weight.