By: Mike Lundy
If you are like me, you have noticed that some people just catch more fish than others. If you talk to a number of people, you know that it is not just a matter of luck but hard won practice and experience. Countless articles have been written to help people like myself understand the techniques that work. Despite all of this very friendly help, I have so little time on the water, that I was having trouble mastering the art of catching more fish.
Perhaps it is my engineering background, but I just could not let the problem of becoming a better fisherman alone. Maybe I just don't like to lose.
When I studied the experts, I found certain elements in common. One of the common themes in all of the articles I read was to put your bait in the strike zone of the fish. Have you ever asked an expert how they know that their bait is in the strike zone? The answer I got was that they just knew where the bait was, they could just "feel it". And they could! They pictured where the bait was as they retrieved the line.
To me, that was not telling me much. I understood that fish like to be near structure and drop offs. I could use my fish finder and locate the structure. But I'll be darn if I could control my bait to make it do what I wanted it to do when I could not see or "feel" where the bait was during the retrieval.
You have heard the saying "necessity is the mother of invention". I had a need to control where and how deep my bait was during the retrieve. After some thought and a lot of experimentation, I developed a way to let me know where the bait was and exactly how deep I was fishing. The answer came from making a devise that would dispense an exact amount of line measured from the surface of the water. The devise would also allow me to retrieve and "see" right where the bait was as I retrieved the line. With this I could do what the pro's did without the skill level they have. Since I was able to set a precise depth to within 0.1 feet (1.2 inches), I named my devise the Dial-a-Depth Fishing Float™.
I was able to do three new techniques of fishing to put my bait in the strike zone. When I found fish in a school, I could set the depth and drop my bait right in the middle of the school. I was able to precisely control the depth by setting the dials on the float to the depth where the fish were on my fish finder. This "Controlled Depth" fishing made it easy to put my bait right among the fish. This was great for schooling fish.
The second method was "Controlled Depth Jigging". Once the line was dispensed to the set depth, lifting the rod tip would cause the bait to jig up and down at the precise depth I had set. This gave the bait a life-like action. If I cast into heavy cover such as submerged trees, I was able to set the depth and move my lure near and around the branches. I could see the float and know where my bait was in relationship to the trees. This let me know I was in the strike zone without the superhuman skill of the pros. I also found that I got far fewer snags. When I retrieved the line, the lure would move primarily vertically with a small amount of horizontal motion.
This action let my lure jump over branches and avoid the snags that were a common experience before.
Another method I had read about was fishing drop-offs. Here all you had to do was let you bait fall down a drop-off to where the fish were waiting. I saw pictures of just how it works. The problem I had was knowing when my bait was going over the drop-off so I could let the line go slack to let it drop vertically down to the fish. To me this was more magic of the pros who could somehow "see" though the dark water. To solve this problem for a rank amateur like myself, I set my Dial-a-Depth to a depth greater than the depth of the water. That way each time I let the line go slack, my lure would drop to the bottom again. As I retrieved my line, I could see where the float was, and I could see if more line was dispensed when I let it drop back to the bottom. The inertia of the float caused my bait to drop vertically just as though I were right above the drop-off. Once again I had found a method of putting my bait in the strike zone of the fish.
Another attribute of the above methods was that I was able to keep my bait in the strike zone for a longer period while I kept my bait moving. I was able to work larger areas to locate the fish.
I was able to compensate for bad casts by maneuvering my Dial-a-Depth float to where I wanted it to go.
In some ways, this method is similar to the new method of drop-shotting with the added advantage of covering more water. I was able to make a worm dance each time I lifted my rod tip. The worm I used would rise and fall in a life-like fashion as it moved slowly back to my boat. This slow retrieval with lots of worm action keeps the bait in the strike zone for long periods of time while I walk it across large areas. I find that this is a great method to locate fish that are biting.
You may think that I have come up with a devise that has an unfair advantage. Frankly, I doubt that I will ever become a pro even with the Dial-a-Depth Fishing Float™. I have to work too many hours to find the time on the water to master the many other things that must be done to really compete.
I have found a way to make my time on the water more productive and more fun. After all, it is sport to me, not a vocation. I fish because I want to have fun, and much of the fun is in the catching. I hope that more amateurs catch more fish using the techniques I have discussed here.
Mike Lundy, Registered Professional Engineer