Living in this technology and information age, sharing your fishing waters with other anglers is a fact of life. There are no secrets anymore. As a matter of fact, you will be sharing all public and most private waters with lots of other anglers. So, besides figuring out the fish you are pursuing, where they are located, and how to catch them, you better have some strategies to at least cope with if not plain out-fish every other angler. Dealing with fishing pressure should be part of your strategy while you are on the water. Let me share some ideas on how you might develop a little bit of an edge on other anglers. . . .
Go Far, Fish Hard
Naturally, we do not invest any more time or effort than we have to into any of our life pursuits. That is called “conservation of energy”. Conservation of energy is even more true for most anglers as fishing is a time to relax, unwind, “take it easy”. The result is that most anglers will not expend any more effort on the water than necessary. I completely agree that you should enjoy your time fishing, and it is supposed to be FUN! I have also learned that it is darned fun to catch more and bigger fish, and sometimes you have to work a little bit harder than other anglers to accomplish that.
I do not remember what brand of pickup has the TV commercial where they say that everyone knows the best fishing spots are off the beaten path and you gotta have their 4WD pickup to get there. You do not have to have that pickup to catch fish, but there is a lot of truth to getting away from the crowd and finding more fish. That may mean you have to hike farther, paddle or motor farther, or in some cases drive farther, or it may mean that you do not necessarily have to work harder, but smarter than other anglers. Anglers often end up fishing where everyone else is fishing, especially if they see someone catch a fish. Like sheep they follow the herd. Sometimes the best place to fish is in a crowd, but more often you will be further ahead by finding your own fish.
Plan to fish harder than other anglers. Spend as much time as possible on the water, and while you are there do everything you can to be fishing, trying to catch fish, every possible second. Do not quit. I believe that I may run out of time to fish, but that would is the only reason I did not catch something. If I only had more time. . . .
Pick Your Times
Few of us can fish all the time, and even if we could, our success would still be best at certain times. I know a very good Nebraska “stick” who said something to the effect that he would rather spend an hour fishing at the “right” time, than spend an entire day fishing the “wrong” time. Now many of you are thinking of moon phases and solunar periods, falling barometers, solar eclipses, etc., etc., etc. as being the “right” time when the fish are more likely to bite.
That ain’t what I am talking about.
Pick your times when it is less likely to be crowded.
In today’s society with the diversity of jobs and work schedules, you may find someone fishing on every day at almost any hour. But, there are still days and times that tend to be most busy. If you can avoid weekends and fish during the week, you will almost always find less competition. Likewise, many folks will run out after work to fish, but they may not be able to slip out first thing in the morning. By picking and choosing times, you sometimes can even have those hot community holes all to yourself.
How about fishing when the conditions are less than ideal? Everyone loves to be a fisherperson in the spring when the skies are clear and the afternoon’s are warm. But what about a rainy day? What about when the wind is blowing? What about the “off-season”? I will guarantee one of the reasons I love fall fishing and one of the reasons the autumn bite is so productive is because there are a lot less people fishing then.
The fish still bite at those times, they still feed. They are always “biting”. Sure there are days when they are more likely to be active and easier to catch, but oftentimes the days we determine will not be the best to go fishing have nothing to do with the fish.
Think Outside the Box
Earlier I said anglers tend to be like sheep and follow the herd; it amazes me sometimes how true that is. For example, you find a group of anglers fishing a spot and they are ALL fishing 1/4 oz. orange jig-heads with chartreuse twister tails, or they are all throwing white spinnerbaits or all dragging spinner rigs with nightcrawlers. Now, do not be mistaken, if everyone is fishing the same bait, that bait has probably been catching fish. If you want, go with the flow, catch some fish, but when it is like that you might learn a lot more by trying an alternate presentation. I will hardly ever fish exactly the same bait as my partner or partners even if they are whacking fish. If they are catching fish, then I know the fish are active, catchable, and I know their presentation is working. That is the perfect time to throw another presentation, maybe something a little different, maybe something a lot different, to see if that will work too. Sometimes is does not, but sometimes it does and some of those times it will work even better.
I will never tell you that fish, any fish, are “smart”. The biggest of them have brains about the size of the end of your finger. However, that does NOT mean that they cannot learn or be “conditioned”. If everyone is throwing a white spinnerbait, fish, especially fish that are caught and released, can begin to figure out that white spinnerbaits are not natural prey and they outta let ’em swim right on by. Fish can and do become conditioned to this year’s “hot bait”. If everyone says THE bait to use is a purple Hot-N-Tot, the bait shops are sold out of purple Hot-N-Tots, then even though I have a couple of purple Hot-N-Tots, I am going to try a variety of other options before I fall back on the purple Hot-N-Tot.
Do NOT think of baits or colors as being magical. Instead think in terms of putting the right baits where you need to fish them, and fish them at the right speed to get fish to bite. Think in terms of what prey the fish are actually eating and how your baits imitate those prey. Think of each presentation as a tool and the key to success is using the right tool for the job. When you think of presentations in those terms, you can begin to envision alternate baits, lures and presentations that might work as well and even better than what the herd is using. Learn to do that, and you will lap the field.