I’ve always found the BD message boards to be a good barometer of what’s happening on the So Cal fishing scene. I don’t gauge it by the reports that are, or aren’t, being posted, but on the amount of non-fishing related posts I see — especially those that flare into 10-page monster arguments on subjects like tipping on sport boats. While these types of threads are amusing, they’re usually a pretty good indicator that our members are getting restless due to a lack of fishing.
The increase in the amount of dog-piling that’s been happening on the boards coupled with the distinct lack of empty trailers I’ve seen in the launch ramp parking lot the last few weekends leads me to the question, “Why aren’t people fishing?”
While we’ve got some rain scheduled to arrive this weekend, the last couple weekends have offered great weather and while the fishing hasn’t been wide open, there were still plenty of fishing options available to both private and sport boat anglers.
If you’re feeling like getting off the couch and out on the water, this is a great time of year to learn new techniques and practice some of the things you already know. That way, when the fish do start biting again, you’ll be better prepared to catch them. Everyone’s fishing goals and skill sets are different, so I can’t tell you what you should be practicing or experimenting with, but I will share what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks, and it might just give you some ideas of your own.
Though seemingly abundant and easy to catch, spotted bay bass have proven to be the nemesis of me and my fishing partner Matt. These fish, which can be so easy to catch on some days, prove almost impossible for us to catch on tournament day. While we’ve had some success, like our fifth place finish in an SWBA spotty event a couple of years ago, we just can’t ever seem to get the fishery dialed in to the level that we can when targeting sand bass or calicos.
I believe this is mostly due to the fact that we need to stop thinking like saltwater bass fishermen and start acting like freshwater bass fishermen as some of the best spotty fishermen on the tournament circuit have extensive largemouth bass fishing experience. The problem is that it’s tough to just throw a switch and start fishing differently. Like anything else, it takes hours and hours of practice. So, that’s why I’ve been trying to commit at least one trip per week this winter to targeting spotties. Yeah the fishing’s been tough more often than not, but that just makes it more rewarding when I do catch a few.
A couple of weeks ago I went fishing with my friend Dave Valadez who invited me to come and check out how he fly-fishes for calico bass. With morning air temps hovering just about freezing along the coast and brisk 52-degree water on the Palos Verdes coast, I didn’t have very high expectations. To my surprise, the fish were biting the fly pretty well and they were doing it in areas that I’d never had much success with conventional baits.
So, not only did I get a chance to learn about a new technique, I also got to see how different presentations might lead to bites, or lack of bites, at a particular spot. While the information I gathered may not be of any immediate use, it’s important to hang on to it rather than dismiss it. Any information gained on the water is of value if you can process it and log it into your memory for future use.
This may seem like a minor factor, but it’s the single most important step in becoming a better fisherman. An angler can only reach a certain level of ability when casting. By that I mean that just about all really good fishermen are on the same level when it comes to handling a rod and reel, casting and presenting a bait. So aside from that, the only thing that sets one fisherman apart from the next is his ability to process and log the information he takes in.
It’s a lot like assembling a picture puzzle. In the beginning, there is a big, mixed up pile of pieces and a picture on the box that shows what the end result should look like. At that point it might seem damn near impossible that you’ll be able to assemble all of the pieces in the correct manner. But if you follow procedure and pick out all of the pieces that are flat on one side and put the frame together, it starts to look a little more manageable.
The next step is to work on the easily distinguished parts of the puzzle and then put those into their approximate position to give you a better feel for the whole picture. At this point you’ve probably got 80 percent of the puzzle finished, but now that all the obvious things are completed, it will take an ability to focus on the small details to fit together the remainder of the puzzle.
A lot of fishermen are content to get 80 percent of the puzzle completed and call it good, which is okay. I was one of those guys too and to be honest I didn’t even realize that there was another 20 percent of the puzzle that was still awaiting completion.
Looking back I almost wish I’d never realized it because it can be difficult and sometimes frustrating to try and get better at fishing, especially when you’re targeting spotties and feel like your back at 45 percent. But in the long term it will pay big dividends in your fishing ability and if nothing else, I find facing a new challenge to be a good way to invigorate my interest in fishing — even when the fishing is slow…