I continue to be amazed at the importance of a good mindset in reacting to changing conditions and bites and finding the right pattern. I’m talking about avoiding preconceived notions we subconsciously adopt before we even hit the water. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to recreate a pattern you just heard about from a buddy (or a report).
My realization came on a striper fishing trip a couple of years ago at San Luis. Arriving early, I wasn’t prepared for all the boats lined up along the ramp almost to the top by 7:30! Was there a tournament going on, I thought, as I waited a half hour to launch and more anglers poured in?
A guy told me the topwater bite was great the day before and word was out. Seeing all the high-powered bass boats, as well as all the regular multispecies boats running up and down the lake looking for topwater action, told me they were all certain there had to be some active fish somewhere! There were 50 to 60-plus craft hitting every cove and point. No one was finding the elusive boils signaling feeding stripers! Something had changed overnight.
OK, so the fish weren’t on top as expected; so where were they? I figured they had to be deeper, maybe the 50- to 60-foot range, right where I had gotten them before. After an hour of trolling, I finally admitted the fish must have moved. I was so sure they had to be in that range; I had come to rely on it.
Finally, I decided to go out of my comfort zone and head deeper. I didn’t expect to find anything. My pattern had been very consistent and I had my waypoints set. But as I motored into deeper and deeper water, I saw more and more fish. What the heck were they doing out here? This isn’t where they’re supposed to be, but they were.
I actually resisted putting my lures down deeper than I usually do because it didn’t feel right, even though the darn fish were staring at me on the graph! Within minutes I had a fish on! Well, I’ll be. The trend continued as I kept catching stripers every so often. By 10 a.m., about 70 percent of the boats had packed up as I kept scratching out a fish every once in a while. Didn’t see another fish caught by anyone.
About 11, I had a bass boat come over and ask how we were doing. They confessed they hadn’t gotten a bite. I told them we had about 15. “Really, how?” they asked. “Well it seems that the fish went down to over 80 feet since last night,” I said. The guy whacked himself in the head: “Dumb! We were so intent on the shallow bite we heard about, we never looked any deeper than 60 feet!” They had been trying to recreate a past fishing situation, rather than going in to the day open to whatever worked. Their preconceptions actually kept them from finding the fish because it wasn’t in the game plan they envisioned.
I’ve caught myself trying to force patterns based on hearsay. I then realize my thoughts weren’t on figuring the fish out, they were focused on copying what my buddy or a report said had worked. “Am I doing it right – or not – just like they did it?” Comparison becomes the key concern, rather than learning and observing. Fish your style.
I laugh when someones tells me he fished a secret hot spot, “And I did it exactly just like they told me, too, and got nothing!” they protest. “Yeah, I think I see why you didn’t score!” I answer. (Of course, this report is an exception!) LOL. Never give up!
▪ I’m doing a San Luis Reservoir striper seminar on downriggers and lures, areas to target, etc., from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Fresno. Meng Xyong of FishAholics will cover the Aqueduct and Forebay. Preregister at (559) 261-2900 and email@example.com. See you there.