Tips & Tricks but There Are No Constants
By Ron Niswonger, U.S. Anglers Choice Contributor



 Every competitive bass fisherman has his own well kept secrets. Little tricks of the trade that he has either learned on his own or was taught by someone else. It may be something as simple as going to a smaller diameter line to get your crankbait to dive a little deeper, or using a stop and go retrieve to illicit a strike. Most of the better tricks are guarded like priceless treasure and when asked to give them up the angler would fib to his own mother to avoid divulging a potential edge to his competition.  

 I learned a long time ago that the only constant in bass fishing is that there are no constants in bass fishing. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, something changes and what was working suddenly just doesn’t. The very best anglers will adapt and eventually find another pattern or lure that works. Every lesson learned, adds to the angler’s arsenal of experience to draw from in the future when the bite gets tough.

 There are a few tried and true tips or tricks of the trade that seem to work year in and year out. Some of these I have discovered on my own, but most of them I have learned from other fishermen.

  A few years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Gale Breckinridge (first cousin of Bassmaster Classic Champion Rayo Breckinridge) and local tournament powerhouse. I interviewed him after he and his partner won a tournament. I asked him how he was able to consistently out fish such a strong field of competitors.

 “I throw baits that I have confidence in. For me that is a crankbait. I learned from Rayo many years ago that I can locate fish faster with a crankbait because I can cover more water,” he said. “In one April tournament on Wappapello the lake was high and dirty and falling. Those are conditions that set up perfect for the way I fish a crankbait. I made five casts in a row on one spot and caught five fish that weighed 24.96 pounds. Now it doesn’t always work out that way but I know I can get bites on a crankbait. Also, I’m throwing a bigger bait and I’m fishing it deeper than most guys. Plus, I’m fishing for only five or six bites in an eight hour tournament.” Breckinridge has not only earned the respect of his peers but is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He is always the first person to offer a congratulatory hand shake to his competitor on the off chance that he somehow stumbles and doesn’t finish in the top position on tournament day.

 Most people don’t have the confidence or patience to stick with a lure like that, especially after fishing the first two or three hours of a tournament without a bite, knowing that valuable time is slipping away.

 Not too many years ago, I interviewed the points champions for the Anglers’ Choice Wappapello division. Wappapello is an eight thousand acre impoundment in Southeast Missouri that is notorious for being extremely difficult to consistently pattern fish.  The anglers were Tim Green and Steve Seiter, each of them consummate anglers individually, but when paired together they were the epitome of talent. One of the questions I asked was: “Were you able to put together a pattern while prefishing for any of the tournaments this season that was still effective tournament day.” Green fielded the question and his answer was interesting.

 “Most of the time, the pattern fell apart by tournament day,” he said. “But we almost always were able to find something else that worked as well, and it was always in the same general area where we initially found them. For example fish might have been on a channel swing and relating to a steep bluff, but then move to an adjacent shallow flat. We just had to look around until we found them again.” So, the tip in this case is one that everybody has heard before:  “Don’t leave fish to go find fish.” The fish were still in the area, but for some reason had moved to a different location in the same general area.

 Another tip I was able to garner from Green was and I quote: “Don’t forget, the wind is your friend,” he said. “Always, always, always chase the wind.” This seems to hold true even when the wind is a brisk north wind in the early spring. I know the old axiom is to fish protected coves that are sheltered from the wind and while I do subscribe to that theory, there will almost always be a few fish on the windy banks actively feeding if you can stand to hold the boat in position and not let the chill get to you.

 Another “tip” that the old timers used to say and I believe still holds true most of the time is to match your lure color to the color of the water.   We have all heard or read that in clear water use natural translucent colors. If the water has a green tint then try to match the hue of the lure to it. Tannic colored water, root beer usually will work well. Seemingly counter intuitive is to use brown in muddy water, but it works. I believe that the bass’ forage will evolve to match the water color in an effort to camouflage themselves from predators. If matching the color of the water doesn’t seem to be working, I have had success doing the exact opposite. In clear water I have caught fish on the brightest color lures I own. I’m not sure if the bright color elicits a reaction strike or it’s just so gaudy that they spot it easier, but I have seen it work. For example how many of us have fished for bass on the beds with a weightless bright pink stick worm?

 Here is one that I learned from a friend that I happened to bump into one day while prefishing for a tournament. Note: this was in the days before wake baits became popular. He said he was catching a lot of fish on a square bill crankbait that he had trimmed the bill back to just a nub. The modification made the bait run much shallower and also gave it a side to side searching action. A note of caution if you decide to try this, trim just a little at a time until you get the action you are looking for. Also, experimenting with an old bait would probably be a good idea as the modification is permanent.

 Another time a competitor told me after a tournament that they had added a ribbon tail worm to their buzz bait and started catching not only more fish but bigger ones. They won that event.

I believe that there are times when just doing something a little different will trigger a strike. I’m sure there are a thousand other tricks or tactics that readers could think of to add to this list. Stroking a jig comes to mind.

 Finally, remember my comment in the second paragraph of this article, the only constant in bass fishing is that there are no constants in bass fishing. The variables are always changing. Cold fronts, muddy water, flooded conditions, fishing pressure, mechanical failures, etc. But isn’t that what makes the challenge so rewarding? When you figure it out and everything clicks it’s the best feeling in the world.

 Add to that the innovative new lures that have appeared in recent years i.e. the vibrating jig, the Neko rig, the Ned rig, the Umbrella Rig, the Spy Bait etc. to name just a few. Necessity is the mother of invention and without doubt the next hot lure is on the drawing board right now.  

 Finally, without exception every angler I have ever interviewed, have all offered the same advice. “Don’t ever go to a lake with a preconceived idea on how the fish will bite. Let the fish tell you what they want.” The hard part for me is learning how to listen. :)

Good fishing and God bless.