In last week’s column I broke down some of the steps that private boaters can take to increase their chances of encountering luck on any given fishing day. Since I didn’t want to leave out the sport boat fishermen, this week I am going to focus on some simple things that you can do to help increase your odds of getting the lucky bites that can lead to a successful trip. And while these tips are geared more towards sport boat fishermen, there’s no reason why private boaters shouldn’t be able to take away a few lessons as well.
The first thing to remember about sport boat fishing is that it’s a very different animal than private boat fishing. All of the prep work of deciding where to go and what to target is handled by the captain, so there isn’t much you can do before a trip to increase your odds of catching fish. Well, other than choosing a boat that has been having some success with your target species.
Even if you pick the right boat, sport boats still have their disadvantages. The biggest of those is being there will be other anglers (way too many of them at times) on the boat and you’re going to be competing with them to get bites. And anyone that’s had a tough trip knows just how frustrating it can be to watch some one else catching fish after fish while you struggle to get any bites at all.
But fishing on sport boats does have its advantages too. And the biggest of those is that there will be other anglers (way too many of them at times) on the boat and they’re going to help you figure out how to get bites. By following a simple game plan, there’s no reason at all why you should be watching other anglers catch fish without using the clues they are giving you to catch fish of your own.
When fishing on sport boats, my motto has always been, “Monkey see – monkey do”. So, if someone else is catching fish and I’m not, I’ll stop and watch them for a while to see what exactly they are doing differently than I am, then I will adjust my presentation to mimic whatever they are doing to get bit.
Here are the three questions that I’ll ask myself when I’m trying to figure out how someone is getting bit. These questions start easy, as there is often an easy answer, and get more involved as you eliminate the obvious answers.
1) Are they using a different technique than I am?
This can be as simple someone catching a fish on the Yo-Yo jig while I’m fishing the surface iron; or using a dropper loop when I’m flylining. In these cases just switching to the same technique they are using will often lead to getting bit, but if it doesn’t, it’s time for the next question.
2) What are they doing differently?
Let’s say that we’re both fishing the surface iron, with similar size and color jigs, but they’re getting bites and I’m not. Now it’s time to look a little deeper by paying attention to the speed and cadence of their wind. Are they winding faster, or slower than I am? If so, try to match their wind. If not, take a look at the reel they’re fishing and compare it to your own. Does it have a different spool diameter, how much line is on their reel and what is its gear ratio compared to the one you’re fishing? These may seem like minor factors, but if the fish want the jig presented at a particular speed, all of these variations can have an effect on trying to match their presentation. So, if the person getting bit is using the same reel as you are, but has a half spool of line on it, you are going to need to slow your retrieve considerably to match the speed of theirs.
When fishing with bait, things to consider are how are they hooking their bait (nose hook, butt hook, etc), how far are they casting and what are they doing after they cast. If you’re nose hooking your bait, making a long cast and letting it run with the current for ten minutes, while the guy getting bit is butt hooking his bait, lob casting it and changing it every sixty seconds, you’ll need to adjust your presentation to get bit. If none of these adjustments result in you getting bit, it’s time to ask yourself the final question.
3) What am I missing?
This is a very open ended question and it’s not always possible to answer it through simple observation of another angler. Sometimes you’ll need to theorize on what they might be doing differently and then experiment by testing these theories out and seeing they result in you getting a bite. Some of the most obvious questions to ask yourself are as follows. Are they casting at fish individual fish (boils, birds, etc) or are they casting randomly? Are they picking a particular size or color of sardine? Are they using a fluorocarbon leader? Are they moving around the boat and catching fish from different spots or are they casting to the same place every time? How do the bites they’re getting relate to the timing and the placement of the chum?
These are just a few of the many questions you can ask yourself to help you improve your chances of getting bit. So next time you find yourself watching someone else catching fish, don’t just accept that it’s their lucky day. Instead, spend some time figuring out what they’re doing differently and use those clues to have a lucky day of your own.