Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Don and the Windy Shelf Pig

I have said it before and will say it again: When Don is in the groove…watch out! Don predominantly throws big fish baits for big fish. This method doesn’t always come up money but when it does it is often in the OMG Class.

Out on the water and we have been search casting for an hour or so. Action is slow but we are still determined. Wind was choppy at times and practically nil at others. As the day rolled on we searched the areas that had produced fish before. This is a staple rule in the Mattsabasser book of fishing. But what do you do when those spots don’t produce? Answer: you turn the page and start with a blank sheet. Take in all the pieces of the puzzle and go from there. At this point we had fished half the water or more and merely set the hook on a few rocks and sticks. Then we move to the other side of the lake and some wind kicks up. Don takes two of the fish puzzle pieces and slams them together.

“Right there. That submerged shelf. The wind is blowing right across it now.” He didn’t even finish the sentence. Simply hit the electric motor and put the boat about twenty feet behind the shelf and facing the wind.

Dropped anchor and we began running gear across the shelf with the wind and current. Don casts out and WHAM! His rod bends over with a heavy fish on the end. The fish wanted to stay deep and lunged downward several times.

“This is a big fish.” Don replied through gritted teeth. “This is a big fish.” Realize that Don generally says two things when a fish is hooked. The other is “Dink…it’s just a dink.”

Then the water boils with a break of the green scaled, shiny finned brute. It was close enough to the boat that you could see both eyes looking right at you. The fish vanishes and tries to surge downward. Don turns the head of the fish and steers it back to boat. Then the reach, the grab and enjoy sweet success.

(Above: Stuffed to the gills and in prespawn glory this fish is PLUMP! Notice the break or ridge before the tail section. Sure sign of bloating and overall Pig-iness. Great Colorado bass specimen!)

Shameless fish bragging aside, the wind and the shelf was the key. I have gone a little overboard here to illustrate and explain why the wind and shelf was such a productive formula for fish. We may have a few more weeks of windy conditions here in Colorado to fish through. Wind is not necessarily a bad thing if you can use it to your advantage.

Wind can create a lake current similar to that of a slow moving river. Fish have to fight against this current to stay where they are or move to areas that will save them from expending the extra energy. When wind levels increase, the fish will look for areas of shelter. A similar concept would be humans standing in a heavy breeze. They have to use energy to maintain balance and physical comfort becomes an issue. Unless there is a definite reason for the person to stay out there (work or uncompleted task for example) the person will move indoors or seek shelter from the blasting winds.

In the case of our fishing, the wind was gusting at times across the lake pushing baitfish and other creatures from the shallow water across the shelf and into a deeper pool. The larger fish congregated off the edge of the incline to help avoid the moving current. Here they could wait using minimal energy and feed on anything that came over the shelf.

(Above: Simplistic illustration of baitfish being pushed out of the shallow water and into the deeper pool. Originally I had more lines showing the circling current flow behind the shelf incline but that made the illustration a bit too busy overall.)

Don would cast out and then bring the lure over the shelf and into the deeper water. If the fish were there he would get a strike. The bites were timid or from the side where the hook doesn’t get a chance to hold the fish. All you can do is throw for what you are worth and be ready to set the hook. On this day it seemed that you had to nail the hookset on the first strike. There were no second or third strikes on the lure and with the fish only allowing one pass through the area it was slow and tough going. They might as well have hung a “No Free Lunch” sign at the boat ramp.

Something else worth mentioning was maximizing the lure within the vertical water column. This was done with a raise and drop presentation shown below. The fish are still a bit sluggish and not willing to chase anything down more than a few inches or so. Keeping the retrieve as slow as possible while maintaining proper action of the lure will increase the strikes compared to the “cast out-rip back” method.

(Above: Yet another illustration showing the desired lure path over the shelf. In hindsight I should have spent a little more time on the lure. Consider this lure the “Scruffy Shad” highlighted many posts ago.)

In closing, it is sometimes good to set aside my own selfish fish bragging to highlight that of a friend. Truth be told my fishing results were two shades south of dismal. I missed one hookset early in the day and then lost a big fish at the end of the day. The difference between losing a fish and missing a hookset is huge in my book. Having a fish on the line for a count of say two-Mississippi and then having it come off generally leans toward a mistake being made during the battle itself. Rod position, reel drag and everything else comes into question.

“Next time my green scaled-shiny finned friends…next time.” My lips mutter as we were forced to roll off the lake due to time, increasing winds and low battery juice.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.


MNAngler said...

Great advice on where to find fish on windy days. I'm gonna have to remember this one.

MNAngler said...

This was such great advice, I wrote a summary of it on my blog and linked back. Thanx!


Don said...

Thanks for the spot on your blog Matt...that day was very educational. Keep up the great writing!

Anonymous said...

A little late posting a comment here, but, this is a very good post. Great tips on fishing with the wind. Thanks for sharing the photo of Don and his pig.