Let’s Look Back-Part 32

On one of my early trips to a Mexican lake the guide had us troll 10-inch worms way behind the boat.  It paid off. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

On one of my early trips to a Mexican lake the guide had us troll 10-inch worms way behind the boat. It paid off. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

You darn well better learn to listen to what the fish are trying to tell you if you expect some of them to join you for dinner.

I made a comment like that once while doing a casting exhibition years ago at the annual outdoor show held in connection with the Bassmasters Classic. There was a collective snort of sorts from my audience. “When,” asked a bearded old guy in the front row, “did fish start talking? I ain’t never caught any that did.”

I endeavored to explain what I was trying to say. No, of course fish don’t “talk” in the usual sense, but they certainly will show you their likes and dislikes if you’ll simply give them the opportunity. I guess the best way to explain it is simply to say it’s a situation where actions do indeed speak louder than words.

Both largemouth and smallmouth bass change their minds quicker than a Bourbon Street blonde on New Year’s Eve. I don’t have to look very darn far back to recall the times I’ve had this proven to me.

But before we get to worrying too much about what bass want to eat we’ve got to find out where they are. Today’s anglers are ever so much better equipped to do that than bass anglers were back there in the middle of the last century. It was pretty much “By Guess and By Gosh” when I caught my first bass away back in the late 1930s. Thanks to the electronics available today you can go out and find structure you know bass favor and even pinpoint exactly where they are holding.

I got an early look at what the future was going to hold in this regard when the first Bassmasters Classic was staged on Lake Mead in 1971. My roommate at that first Classic was Carl Lowrance. If you know beans about bass fishing you know that Carl is the guy who developed the world’s first transistorized sonar.

Carl’s first “Little Green Box” hit the market in 1959. I had, of course, heard about the new Lowrance invention before that 1971 Classic but I’d never bought or used one. Having a chance to room with the nice guy who invented it changed things in a hurry.

Besides spelling out for me exactly how to use his “Little Green Box” Carl sent me one of them for my own use right after the Classic. I did a heap of writing about that product once I had a chance to learn a few things about it. So did a lot of other writers who had been to that first Classic.

Did bass anglers around the country find that new Lowrance unit of interest? Well, between 1959 and 1984 the company’s history books tell us more than a million were sold. The last I heard the Tulsa based Lowrance company now employs 1,000 people.

There are, of course, a number of other ways bass anglers were locating fish before the marvel of electronic locators ever came on scene. You don’t see it done much today, at least I haven’t seen a lot of it where my own piscatorial pursuits have taken me, but sometimes this tactic can be darn effective.

The technique I’m talking about is trolling. Perhaps trolling is your favorite way to catch trout, kokanee or walleye. If you’ve done enough of it to wear a few calluses on your rear, you’re very much aware that none of the species I’ve named always react exactly the same way. Trolling isn’t generally that deeply associated with bass fishing. There were, however, a few bassin’ men using it before electronics ever came on the scene. A few still do.

As you’re aware, the title of this column is Let’s Look Back. If you’ve been around bass fishing very long you undoubtedly remember reading some of the material the late Homer Circle did on the subject of bass fishing. Uncle Homer, a former fishing editor for Sports Afield magazine and later a columnist for Bassmaster, was one of my closest friends. We fished together in a lot of spots here in the United States as well a number of foreign countries.

Though trolling isn’t generally that deeply associated with successful bass fishing, Homer was among the first open my eyes to its possibilities. I’ve also had guides take the same approach on certain of my early trips to some of Mexico’s best bass waters.

I recall a trip Homer and I made years ago to a bass lake in Honduras. We’d took off from the resort where we were staying and ran to the far shore. “Stan,” Homer said, “we have no idea where these fish might be holding or what they’ll hit. Whenever I’ve encountered this type of situation in the past I’ve sometimes found I can get some of the answers I’m looking for by just trolling next to the cover along the shoreline.”

That’s exactly what we did – Homer rigged with a crankbait and I tied on a spinnerbait. We’d probably trolled for about 15 minutes and – Wham! – a 5-pounder smashed the lure Homer had on like it had been just been waiting for us to get there.

That bit of trolling pinpointed where at least some of the lake’s fish were located. As a matter of fact, the best success we were to have on that lake came along the shoreline not far from where that first one showed up.

As mentioned I also saw a similar procedure used in an early fishing trip to Mexico. The Mexican guide who also used trolling to advantage was an old guy who’d been around for awhile. Whenever he wanted to move us from one part of the lake to another he was in no hurry about it. Instead he had us Texas rig a couple of 10-inch Power Worms.

I remember him insisting we use worms that were black with a blue tail. When he fired up the outboard to move he didn’t go roaring across the lake. He just took off at a slow pace and had us troll those big worms way behind the boat.

I thought this old dude might not have all his bass fishing marbles. I was wrong. My partner and I both wound up boating fish of more than five pounds before we got to the spot where he wanted us to resume casting to cover.

Trolling is a favored way to take many sports fish.  Trolling that blue Flatfish I'm holding got this nice trout for me in the mountains of Argentina. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Trolling is a favored way to take many sports fish. Trolling that blue Flatfish I’m holding got this nice trout for me in the mountains of Argentina. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

If you want to get those bass you’re after “talking” a bit, keep what you’ve just read in mind. Once you get the buggers pinpointed you can, if you choose, quit trolling and cover the area as you would normally with repeated casts using different lures of different colors and different retrieves.

You’ve undoubtedly discovered that if the fish don’t respond to the first approach you take to catch them, it’s best not to spend long hours continuing to do the same thing. You’ve also found out that sometimes a change in lures, boat speed or lure colors can and does often make a big difference.

I bring this up because there are items of fishing tackle and ways of using it out there today that make these changes ever so much easier. Trolling often involves the use of spinners of one kind or another. How many times have you gone on dragging the same metal bladed spinners hour after hour because you simply didn’t want to go about the bother or the down time involved with changing your rigging? Again, chances are if you’re an experienced angler you darn well know you’ve done what I just mentioned.

Ever heard of a fish-attractor called a Smile Blade? It’s one of the newer developments designed to help trollers find out where they are and what they want. I’ll share more details about what these new fish attractors on down the line.

They hung my name on one of the spinnerbaits that uses an in line spinner made of the same material as the Smile Blade. I’ve not used it for trolling but I took a largemouth that weighed 10-pounds, 4-ounces casting one of these Stan Spin’s spinnerbaits to cover.

I’ll share some more thoughts about these relatively new additions to the bass fishing lure market in one of my future columns.