Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Patterns and Instincts

I took a trip down to Northern Virginia a few weeks ago to fish with my buddy Paul. We had a couple different areas to fish and species to target. Day one included fishing for smallmouth, largemouth and snakeheads. We were pretty successful on day one so we opted to fish a local reservoir and train me in deep water fishing. Its a serious weakness in my game, and I could use a tutor. Fortunately, Paul is a really good at it, so I was in good hands.

The thought was that the fish had spawned out and would be transitioning into the summer pattern of feeding on the humps and ridges in deeper water. Paul had the locations all mapped out from previous years of trial and error, so all I had to do was cast and catch. My kind of fishing, or so I thought.

We located the first piece which was a long point that was about 8 feet at the top and bottoming out around 18-20 feet. We anchored up and put on the extra deep crank baits. It took me a bit of time to get the crank bait down to the right depth and deflecting off the rocky point. That didn't seem to work, so I switched over to texas rigged brush hog soft plastic and hoped a different presentation would induce a strike. That didn't go according to plan. No luck for either of us, so we moved to another location.

Spot #2 started out as a repeat of the first location. Ugh. Then Paul's experience started to hone them in. He caught 3
largemouth to a little over 2 pounds in 3 casts. Hello teacher. Don't mind me. I am just the kid in the corner with the dunce cap on.

After a few more spots and Paul increasing his total for the day, and me struggling for a clue, I gave up. The shoreline was just a paddle away and I thought that the fish could be staging along the shoreline as well, not quite in the summer deep water yet.

I approached the shoreline quietly to get an idea of what I would be fishing and what lures to select. There were reeds coming up out of the water with vegetation out further from shore. The vegetation was on the surface close to the shore, and below the surface as the water got deeper. The water looked to be a couple of feet deep at the shoreline and sloping to 6-8 feet deep a cast from shoreline. One very important detail was the abundance of bluegills in the vegetation.

I grabbed a spinnerbait, frog, shad rap and some Choopy stuff. I thought that the largemouth would be cruising the weed line, or sitting deep in the vegetation looking to feed on the bluegills. I had a nice wind that would slowly push me along the shoreline. I drifted a 1/4 mile or so before I got my first hit on a frog. Right about when I thought that maybe Paul had the right idea staying in the deeper water. I kept on throwing parallel to the shoreline deep with the shad rap and spinnerbait, and at the shoreline with shallow baits like lil Barky and the 3" Pike. I had made a whole lot of casts along this drift, and into a cove with a few bites, and nothing hooked. Frustration started to settle in.

I made the paddle back to where I started and wanted to hit the drift again. I knew that the fish were looking up and I could fish a few larger baits on the surface or a few inches below just incase they were surface shy. Plus I wanted to use some lures that had treble hooks. Apparently on this day I needed the advantage of 3 hook points with these finicky eaters. This drift started out about the sames as the first, until had a bass blow up on a 3" Pike. After a bit of a tussle, I landed a smallmouth bass. Have I ever told you I love small mouth?

A few hundred yards away and 10 or 15 casts later, a largemouth ate the 3" Pike. OK, I was figuring something out. Drift to the next point and I had another. I turned inside the point and set up my cast. A fish hit the 3" Pike. Hard! After a few good pulls and jumps, I had the fish boat side. A solid 4.5 to 5 lb largemouth. All I had to do was grab the leader and land the fish. I didn't have a net. I should have. It freaked when I grabbed the leader and off it went. Sucker! I would have liked to have a picture of that fish.

I headed back to see what Paul was up to and give him a quick report. He landed a few more fish and headed back to the shoreline with me, but fished another piece that a bit off the shoreline and caught the largest of the day tipping the scale at 3 lbs. I started my drift again but wanted to show them something different, afraid that I might have worn out my welcome. I know that Paul likes the sexy shad crank baits in the reservoir, so I grabbed a 1 1/4 oz Danny in a sexy shad paint scheme. The action was a bit slower so I rotated between the 3" Pike and the danny with the occasional cast with lil Barky. When I got the the main point where I lost the nice largemouth earlier, I switched to the danny and set up the boat to the cast that I wanted. Like clockwork, the fish blew up on the danny and a nicely proportioned 2.5 lb largemouth was in the boat.

We checked out one more cove and got on our way. I still had a long drive home and needed go fill up on some pizza first. We split a pie and talked about the different way the fish were staged in the lake. They clearly weren't exclusively set up in either pattern, but it would have been a mistake to fish only one pattern. Once again, flexibility in your plan shows to be important. I always find it interesting to see how different anglers look at a body of water, and where their instincts tell them to fish. Always learning something new while watching other people think about fishing.

Another great trip down to dixie. Hopefully chasing more of Paul's fish later this fall.

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