Learning to be a Good Fisherman

Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni

The crappie fishing has been especially impressive at Lake St. Marys, and I imagine that the other Canal Lakes are also producing fish. One thing for sure is that the majority of the fish are being caught by experienced fishermen who know their sport and spend a lot of time refining their skills. Now that might not seem fair, but as they say, it’s real. However, take heart, for you, too, can learn to catch fish.

While some fishermen have spent a lifetime learning how to fish, new fishermen have a distinct advantage if they are trying to develop similar skills. The easiest way to develop your fishing skill is to watch good fishermen fish. That’s the secret of the “windshield” fisherman. Hunt for good fishermen and you will usually find fish. Unfortunately, what you observe might only be working at that certain time, at that certain place, under certain conditions. For example, last weekend I watched fishermen catching fish in the middle of a channel using a black and blue jigs with their bobbers set almost three-foot deep. That combination won’t work when the fish are hiding in the close to shore in shallow cover. Maybe that’s why I saw a guy jigging just off the bank with his bobber set at 12 inches. It worked for him one time and he thinks it will work anytime. That’s a wrong conclusion. Observe fishermen over time, and you will notice that they change what they do depending on the situation. In some cases it might be something subtle like a color or depth change. In other cases, it might be more drastic.

How many crappie fishermen know how to spider-rig, troll, or shoot docks or pontoon boats? Most of the good ones do. A person can watch, ask questions, and hope for the best. Some prefer to discredit these tactics calling them unnecessary and inefficient. I assure you, at the right time, any of these special tactics will produce spectacular fishing. For example, my fishing partner gets upset whenever I mention dock or pontoon shooting although everyone knows it’s one of his favorite crappie fishing tactics. What he doesn’t realize and others don’t understand is that without the skills he has developed, shooting docks and pontoons can quickly turn into a frustrating waste of time. The best way to learn a tactic is to fish with someone who knows what he or she is talking about. If you don’t have that option, the internet can become your substitute teacher.

It’s easy to go online and Google anything. Try, “How to shoot pontoons.” You will come up with some fishing references along with rules on how to play the card game, Shoot Pontoon. Obviously, refer to articles and videos about fishing. Which ones are credible and which ones aren’t? Believe it or not, I prefer to read the most current. I wrote an article in 2015 called “Shooting Pontoons and More.” It wasn’t a bad piece but it reflected what I knew at the time. I’ve learned a lot more since then. One thing I said was that when sling-shooting a jig, grab it by the hook. That’s not right although it made sense at the time, and that’s what I was doing. The best way is to grab the jig by the lead head. I also tried to learn to shoot pontoons with an underslung spin-casting reel. That’s almost impossible to control. Use a spinning reel. I’ve continued to learn. Unfortunately, that article is still available on line.

I like to watch fishing videos to learn new tactics. One of my favorites is watching Russ Bailey and Brushpile Fishing. I’m not going to call Bailey the greatest crappie fisherman in the world, but he definitely is in the top 5% that catch fish, knows a lot more about crappie fishing than I do, fishes great lakes I’ll never fish, partners with their local guides and experts, uses tactics hardly ever used around here, and presents a pleasant video experience. Watch him shoot a jig under docks, and you’ll soon get the idea. You’ll learn the type of tackle needed and the basic techniques. All you have to do is practice to become efficient. I think there are four seasons of programming available by simply clicking on brushpilefishing.com. If you happen to go to my website, forbabirds.com, you can click on the orange “Brushpile” ad and get to the same place.

Fishing is fun, but catching makes it “funner.” I can honestly say, my crappie and catfishing skills have improved greatly over the last ten years or so. I’d like to brush up on my bass fishing as well. Eventually, I intend to bank fish for saugeye at Indian Lake. I’m sure I’ll be able to find out how to properly rig a tight-line with a floating jig head tipped with a bass minnow. And if I’m searching on line, I’ll look through multiple sources. Keep in mind that there are sources like me online who aren’t experts but rely on research and inquiry to create a respectable piece of information. Watch out for those who claim to be experts but actually might know less than you. They’re out there. Oh yes, unless you haven’t already figured it out, not everything online is 100% correct, and I’m being generous when I say that.