Bass Fishing: Finding the Pattern

I recently saw an article talking about “Junk Fishing”.

The author went on to explain that junk fishing was not what he had originally imagined; junk fishing is an odds game and not fishing in the strange places other anglers fear to fish. The author linked to a video with Boyd Duckett explaining the method behind the madness.

This made me think about the fishing tournament I competed in over the weekend.

My co-angler and I were fortunate enough to have two days during the week to pre-fish leading up to the weekend event. On Wednesday, we were both left scratching our heads; the fish just didn’t seem to want to show up for anything we tried. Thursday however, we put together a very modest five fish on various jig-based tactics.

We carried this knowledge and pattern, including areas we wanted to hit into the tournament on Saturday morning. The trouble is, the pattern can change from one day to the next. Friday presented us with a day of rain and thunderstorms, turning our game plan for Saturday upside down.

After a torturous Saturday weighing in just two small bass, we decided that we would just enjoy Sunday casually fishing for a limit. A very strange thing happened; while other boats struggled, we filled a box and culled up to  a modest 11 pound limit. For a quiet day where others couldn’t put a fish in the box, we coasted to one of the top four limits of the day.

The point?

Had we not tried all of our options believing what we found true on Thursday to be the “pattern” we would have never stumbled on a successful recipe for Sunday. I am personally a big fan of “junk fishing”. I don’t like getting locked into a single technique, and believe as many professional anglers do, that adaptation is the greatest skill an angler can possess.

Guys out on tour get pigeon-holed into shallow and deep water guys; my experience says you can’t be a one trick pony and win. You have to figure out where the fish are, what they want, and fish accordingly. I don’t consider myself a crankbait guy, however, I know to throw one and stick with it when its hot.

The advantage of having 6+ rods strung up and ready to go is that you can quickly and easily switch techniques. When you find a pattern that works you can pound it for a limit and then go back to testing the waters. We were very fortunate on Sunday that the crankbait bite was good all day, and there was really no need to switch up.

On a final note about patterning and junk fishing: experiment with size.

Although many presentation factors may apply, we performed a little test on Sunday. My co-angler and I threw the exact same crankbait in two different sizes once we realized the crankbait bite was on. The interesting thing was, more than pattern, the size was the difference in the bite. We upsized the smaller crankbait to a similar pattern on the same size I was throwing, and in four casts my co-angler was pulling in his first good bass of the day.

The key here is keep your options open, and don’t get stuck in the “this is what I am good at” rut. Always be experimenting with new techniques and prepared to adapt on tough fishing days. The fish are there, they will bite, you just have to coax them into it.

Watch the video from SmallWatersFishing on YouTube:

 

Match the Hatch and Designed to catch Fishermen

If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times:

Match the Hatch

Or:

Most lures are designed to catch the fisherman

Well, I am here to tell you that both are entirely too true, and of course, patently false at the same time. Confusing? I know…

Simply put, match the hatch just means choose lures and baits that mimic what your target species is currently dining on. This naturally depends on what is readily available in the area.

Figuring this out isn’t as easy as it sounds for most anglers. The confusion lies in the industry; the Pros preach about lures that fit the lakes they fish in, and your local tackle shop stocks what “sells”.

Here is the key thing no one is telling you: bait fish and forage are not the same everywhere!

1) Shad – There are none in most Ontario Lakes, except perhaps the Great Lakes
2) Crawfish/Crayfish – They don’t have the same colouring here
3) Frogs – Again, we have different species here

So every time you hear about shad imitating baits, and buying the latest greatest shad pattern, you are unfortunately wasting your money. Your local tackle shop is not making this easier; they are most times stocking what their reps recommend, rather than what you need.

The key here is thinking about some key factors:

1) Where are you fishing?
2) What time of year is it?
3) What do the fish there eat?
4) What kind of water are you fishing?

Where you fish will obviously dictate what the fish are eating. The kind of water you are fishing and time of year will help you figure out the patterns/colours that will work for you. You have a lot more leeway in colour selection on a dark cloudy lake than you would on a “gin-clear” lake such as Lake Simcoe. As a general rule, dark colours/patterns in low-visibility lakes, and lighter more natural presentations in clear water.

Here is the big takeaway for you, summed up in 3 tips:

1) Craws and Creatures – These baits mimic natural prey for fish; they grow over a season and often change colours throughout. Crayfish will change colour from light brown and very pale white bellies in Spring to a much darker brown and reddish colour in Fall. Look for lures that offer two-tone plastics and early to late season colours. I recommend Power Team Lures for plastics.

2) Frogs – Frogs grow during a given season like crayfish; if you like frogging for bass, start small in spring and size up over summer to fall. LiveTarget offers weedless frogs in three sizes and enough patterns to match your local frogs.

3) Minnow – Look for patterns that match what your target species eats when buying crankbaits and other minnow imitations. In Ontario lakes for instance, your best bet is to stick with patterns that mimic herring, smelt, bluegill, shiners, and perch as they are abundant in most waters. Again, LiveTarget is my go-to brand for this type of bait.

4) Chaos Theory – Ok, I mentioned that “Match the Hatch” was true and false; let me qualify that. There are patterns that while they appear to be created only to “catch fishermen” they defy all logic and work. Some great examples are the classic blue/white or blue/pink stickbait, or the good ol’ Fire Tiger pattern on just about any sort of crankbait or stickbait, or the ever faithful red and white daredevle spoon (honourable mention to the five of diamonds). None of these patterns match any natural prey, but seem to work time and again.

Hope this clears up some of the confusion for you. Nothing beats research and common sense when planning your fishing purchases and trips.

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