By Steve Chaconas
Fishing involves a collection of skills. Basically a fishing triangle is comprised of the base, which is casting, then lure presentation, and angling skills.
Accuracy, distance and the ability to make these casts from different angles takes practice, but fundamentals can get anyone started and up to a high level over time.
Next is lure presentation, making fish bite. Fishing lures don’t catch fish, fishermen catch fish. Lures just catch fishermen. Making the best selection for the conditions, primarily based on depth and speed, increases catching opportunities.
After obtaining a high proficiency casting level and making fish bite, angling skills come into play. That’s detecting a strike, setting the hook, and bringing fish to the boat. Subtle differences along the way can only be attained with time on the water.
Professional guides are exceptional at teaching these skills to ensure their clients maximize the effectiveness of their fishing time. In a typical 8 hour trip, repetition and constant tweaking will develop or sharpen skills. Anyone can learn these skills, after all I did. After 20 years, hundreds of clients and thousands of fishing hours, I feel very confident in my ability to achieve some level of success for my clients. Young, old, big or small, athletic or not, fishing skills can be learned.
Stepping onto my Skeeter, Andy was eager to learn. He was in his 40s and has been blind since he was 4 years old. My immediate and only concern was his safety. I quickly learned that Andy was not helpless. He lacked sight but could see in his mind. Quickly assessing the layout of my Skeeter, he was able to move around as needed. Prior to the start of our trip, he clearly stated his objective was to improve casting and fish with soft plastic lures. Catching fish would take a back seat to the success of this trip.
I felt like the overprotective parent but settled into my teaching role. Powering to our training spot, the Power Poles were lowered to keep the boat steady. This allowed a focus on teaching. From that point on, Andy was just another guy on the boat who was there to learn. It was up to me to overcome my communication handicap. I couldn’t simply state, “do it like this” or “cast over there”. It was up to me to truly be hands on.
Andy made a few casts while I tweaked his technique. In short time, I found Andy was easier to work with than most of my other clients. Not only did he listen attentively, he was able to duplicate each tip on every cast. It didn’t take long for him to nearly double his casting distance. When it came time to focus on accuracy, he was already there. I chose casting locations and directed his aim and he executed. The key to casting or any sport is consistency. Andy was already consistent, adjusting his casting distance according to my range direction.
Andy’s fishing brother had worked on choosing targets. Using the boat to create consistent casting positions, he was a great help. The finer points were up to me. The essence of soft plastics fishing is based on feel. During our month long communications before this trip, we both ascertained that Andy had a leg up on other anglers. He was much more attentive to his surroundings and was able to focus on what his lure was doing on the bottom. He was also free from distractions. Ignoring another nearby boaters, airplanes or a pretty girl jogging on the bike path. I did let him know about the distance of the other boat, the direction of the plane, and a few details of the jogger.
Without my input, Andy attained two skills. He was able to detect baits hitting the bottom. It’s a very slight indication and most anglers don’t feel it. Andy did. The other was a bit more compelling. As part of casting instruction, lures should be about a foot from the rod tip. Not knowing how to achieve this, I left it up to Andy. He quickly figured it out. Reeling until the lure hit the tip of the rod, he stopped and stripped out the appropriate amount of line. This was a pretty obvious way to reach this point. But it was a bit later that I noticed Andy doing something else. I tie leaders to the main braided line. There is a small knot. Leaders are about 5 feet long. Andy was hearing the knot go through the guide, a signal the lure was close behind.
Andy learned two techniques that could be used under most fishing conditions. Drop shot and Neko rigs. Andy’s casting vastly improved and he took a major step toward being a complete bass angler. As for me, my instructional methodology took a step that wouldn’t have been achievable without Andy showing me the way.
Potomac River Bassing in November
Cooling water is encouraging fish to bite. Use search baits like Mann’s Baby X crankbaits on deeper cover or Baby 1-Minus for shallower cover. Tie to 10 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line.
Dock fishing is also good now. Pitch soft plastics with pegged 3/16 ounce weights on Quantum Smoke casting gear spooled with 12 pound Edge or Quantum Smoke spinning gear with 15 pound Gamma Torque braid with 10 pound Edge leaders. Texas rigged soft plastics with 3/0 Mustad Mega Bite hooks will work: stickworms, Mizmo tubes, and just about anything in blue, black or green pumpkin.
For deeper applications and just about anywhere else, drop shot with 3/16 ounce Water Gremlin BullShot weights and braid/fluorocarbon setups, 2/0 Mega Bite hooks with 4 inch soft plastics. NEKO rigged stickworms on red 2/0 Mustad weedless wacky hooks work too.
On cloudy or windy days, try Mann’s Classic spinnerbaits on 12 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & freelance writer. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.