BOB MAINDELLE: The importance of sticking around | outdoor sports
Fishing for white bass on Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes for over 30 years now, I have had the good fortune to make many observations about the behavior of these members of the temperate bass family.
Using written notes kept from every fishing trip over the past three decades, I have seen patterns emerge in the data. These trends have helped me to constantly be in the right place at the right time throughout the seasons of the year.
One habit I’ve developed that’s productive in all seasons is to “stick around.”
By this I mean the practice of positioning myself above fish and, once I have caught fish, remaining perfectly positioned above those fish as long as they continue to bite and/or the sonar reveals the presence of fish.
A characteristic display of the white bass is that of being attracted to commotion. Many dedicated and successful white bass anglers use thumpers and/or splashers – devices intended to send sound/vibrations through the water to attract white bass.
I am so convinced that these devices attract fish to my boat that I would feel handicapped to fish without them. For this reason, I have a backup device on my boat’s primary device in case that primary device fails.
The moment I give the Spot-Lock command to my Minn Kota Ulterra trolling motor, it begins to steadily hold me at the top of a set of GPS coordinates. From that moment, I start to create commotion in this place.
The rotation of the trolling motor creates agitation. Lifting and dropping my lures while jigging vertically creates a stir. The aforementioned thumper or splasher creates a stir.
Catching and releasing fish creates commotion. The waves slapping on the hull of my boat create commotion.
Hooked fish making their way through the water column to rise to the surface creates a stir.
All this commotion can be detected by nearby fish – fish that aren’t directly under my boat yet. Over time, these more distant fish will usually migrate to this bustle, thus adding even more bustle as they do. It’s like creating a ‘fluttering snowball’.
Additionally, in response to stress, white bass often defecate and/or regurgitate when brought up from the depths. As the boat hovers in one spot, these discharged objects rain down to the bottom, adding odor and visual appeal to the commotion.
Watching it all over and over again made me resist the urge to leave a productive zone prematurely. Note that I said productive zone.
If I stop fishing and an area doesn’t produce right away, chances are it won’t produce; it is not an example of a productive area.
However, if I stop to fish and catch fish right away and, while observing colored sonar (2D) or Garmin LiveScope or both, I see fish moving steadily parallel to the bottom, I will stick to that area to see what develops.
Certainly if I stop fishing and the fish really come on, I will fish during that peak of activity and continue to catch those fish even when the action starts to decline, knowing that letting the fish find fish is rarely a winning strategy.
I can’t tell you the number of times (mainly when I was offering weekend trips) that I found fish and caught it well, only to be joined by other boats that didn’t hadn’t had so much success in their own search for fish. Since I just stayed in one spot to catch fish regularly, other anglers moved all around me, never staying put for more than a few minutes and never having a “choppy snowball” under their own boat.
Eventually these “guests” would leave after catching nothing or landing just a fish or two at most.
As the threadfin shad spawning runs its course, the water gets warmer and the day length gets longer towards the summer solstice, fishing is going to become much more difficult than fairly simple fishing. and predictable spring and late spring that we have seen unfold since late March.
It will become even more important to take full advantage of bottom fishing for all the fish you can find before you pack up and go in search of more fish. Really, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush during the harsh summer months.
The upshot of all this is not to be in such a rush to get to the next spot that you won’t be able to fully fish an area that’s already been proven. Instead, “stick around” for a bit, watch your sonar and see what happens.