Jensen column: Impatience can lead to more angling success

Bob Jensen, Fishing the Midwest
Special to the Ames Tribune

I’ve heard anglers described in many ways. Some will say that to be a successful angler you need to have certain attributes. You need to be imaginative. Or determined. Some will say that you need to “think like a fish.” That wouldn’t be so good. Fish don’t think, they respond. And some will say that a successful angler needs to be patient. I’ve had the good fortune to fish with many anglers who catch lots of fish and big fish. To a person, they are not patient anglers. They might be patient as people, but when they get on the water or on the ice, they’re anything but patient.

Most of us don’t get to go fishing as much as we’d like. Whether it be open-water or ice fishing, our time on the water or ice is limited. And, since we’re fishing, we want to catch some fish, and more is better than a few. For those reasons, it usually doesn’t work well to be patient. We need to get after it. To get after it, we need to spend time fishing the areas where the fish are situated, and then we need to show them a bait that they are willing to eat.

Let’s look at successful anglers. These people out there all day if possible. The person that sees a successful angler leave the dock at dawn and return at dusk thinks that that angler is willing to spend all day trying to catch fish. To some people that might represent patience. But if you were to spend a day in the boat with any number of successful anglers, you would probably learn that they didn’t go out, drop anchor, cast a line into the water and wait for a bite.

Rather, successful anglers are doing what they can to quickly find the fish and then find something that the fish will eat. When fishing deeper water, successful anglers will usually do some sonar work looking for signs of fish. If the sonar reveals promising information, they will drop a line. If not, they keep looking until they find an area that has fish.

If largemouth bass are the quarry, successful anglers will maybe start in the sloppy shallows and throw a weedless bait around. If the shallows and the weedless bait don’t produce, they will find some deeper rushes and try a spinnerbait. If that’s not the answer, they’ll tie on a crankbait or jig-worm and move to a deep weedline.

The same philosophy applies with every other type of fish. Keep moving and experimenting with baits until you find what they want. If you keep moving and trying different techniques, usually you’ll have some success, and sometimes you’ll catch a bunch.

In the ice season, it’s pretty easy to figure out if there are fish below your hole in the ice if you’re using sonar. There’s no question that a depth-finder will help you catch more fish. A friend of mine wasn’t a believer until I loaned him my Vexilar. After just one weekend on the ice with it, he bought his own sonar and said that he didn’t want to fish without it.

This is a guy who would drill a hole and sit on it for hours. He was patient. He didn’t catch a lot of fish. When using the depth-finder for the first time, he learned that if no fish come in and at least look at your bait in a few minutes, it’s time to move. He is now less patient when he goes fishing. He now catches a lot more fish.

People go fishing for a variety of reasons, and that’s one of the appeals of fishing. If you enjoy throwing a bobber off the dock and watching it with someone that you like to be with, I’m all for it. That’s a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. But if you want to catch more fish, patience, for the most part, is not the answer. Keep moving and trying different things until you find what the fish want. If you do that, you’ll catch more fish.

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