Selecting a Fishing Pattern
Editor's Note: Shaw Grigsby, a tournament bass fisherman from Gainesville, Florida, and a member of the Strike King Pro Staff, competes on many of the national bass-fishing circuits and hosts the television show "One More Cast." One of only four anglers to have won over $1 million in B.A.S.S. career earnings - ranking 4th on B.A.S.S. all time money list - Grigsby has had nine BASS Masters Classic appearances and eight wins. This week he shares a few of his most unusual bass-fishing tactics and answers some of the industry's most-asked questions.
Question: What's another question that people often ask you?
Grigsby: Probably one more question is how to select a fishing pattern. That's a tough question to answer, but I get asked it a lot. The method I used when I was younger was to always carry a little voice-activated tape recorder with me on fishing trips. When I'd get a bite, I'd talk into the recorder and say something like, "OK. I just got a bite back in a pocket. I spotted a downed tree and threw a crankbait into it." I'd also mention the color of the crankbait, the conditions of the water, the weather and the time of day. When I got another bite, I'd record that. I would just record the pertinent information - what bait I was throwing and everything - on every bite I got throughout the day.
Question: Did you write down the information?
Grigsby: No, I'd just record my findings on the tape recorder. At night I'd come in at the end of the day, lie down in bed, rewind the tape, close my eyes and listen to my entire day of fishing. In a few minutes I'd be finished with the whole trip, having listened to every one of those 5- to 10-second sound bites. If you use this method, oftentimes you'll discover a pattern. For instance, during the day you may have noticed that most of your fish have been back in the pockets in some brush. By listening to the tape, you can better define that pattern. Perhaps the bass aren't just back in the bushes on the edge of the pockets. Maybe there's a whole flat of bushes back there and the bass are holding on the outside edges.
Now in any given body of water, there's always going to be more than one pattern happening at one time. That's why numbers of anglers can go out on the same body of water and all catch fish. Mark Davis may catch bass on a crankbait. I may be sight fishing, and Kevin VanDam may be throwing jerkbait. Three or four patterns may be occurring simultaneously. Each angler tries to fish what he likes - his strong suit. If you're a spinner-bait fisherman, you probably throw spinner baits more than anything else. However, if you can't catch any bass on that, you may have to try other methods. Record every bite on your tape recorder and listen to it later that day to determine the similarities in each bite. The key may be depth, water temperature, cloudy weather or wind on the banks. Several little things may affect your fishing patterns. But if you put these details together, you'll be able to select a pattern more easily.
Question: Can you think of another question anglers frequently ask?
Grigsby: Anglers always want to know about techniques - how to do this and how to do that. Because I do a lot of soft-plastic fishing, people often tell me that they have problems feeling those baits. They can't determine if they're feeling strikes or limbs or something else. In fishing those types of baits, I've discovered a couple of things that can really help. Having the sensitivity to know what your bait is doing is a key to catching fish anywhere. You don't even have to be fishing with soft plastics. If you're using a crankbait and you can feel what that crankbait is doing, you're going to be able to catch more fish because you'll know the difference between a limb bumping over the bait or a fish pulling your line. A lot of anglers will hit limbs while cranking their crankbaits and set their hooks. The crankbaits will get hung-up, and they'll break $5 baits or good Series 3 Strike King crankbaits and think, "Oh no! There goes one of my best baits."
To avoid that mistake, you need to have sensitivity in your line, and there are a couple of ways to develop it. One way, of course, is to spend a lot of time on the water and feel what is going on around you. The easiest way is to loosen your grip on your rod and reel so that you have a gentle grip on it and can feel more of what is happening. Too, there's nothing like having a smooth reel. If you have a reel that's grinding, you're going to have a difficult time feeling any bait movement. You can feel soft plastics easier because you don't have to crank them while you work. What you want to do is loosen the grip on the reel, and try to get direct-line contact. In other words, get your index finger or your thumb on the fishing line when you work the bait. With a soft-plastic bait, you'll need to work slowly. If you have a slow bait, you'll want to get direct-line contact.
When I flip jigs, pitch, cast a worm, fish a Carolina rig - all those type of slow, soft-plastic techniques - I'm using direct-line contact. That means that I hold my hand with the reel cupped in my hand with my index finger touching the line. If your hand is not big enough to cradle the reel and the rod together, move your hand up on the foregrip of the rod so it's right above the reel. Then, holding the rod, put the line between your index finger and your thumb. Whether you're right-handed or left-handed doesn't make any difference. Just get that line in your hand so you can feel straight down the line to the bait. Everything that the bait touches will send a signal through the line to you, enabling you to determine if you have a fish or not. I think a lot of professionals learn about that sensitivity very early. They realize that if they can feel their lines they can catch more fish.