You fish too slow. That's going to go against the grain of how your father or grandfather taught you to fish. But sometimes the truth hurts. And of course there is a catch. The truth is anglers should fish thoroughly, but they should do that in areas that have potential.
And you find those areas according to some of the sports top pros by fishing fast.
"The biggest difference between a pro angler and a weekend angler is weekend anglers fish too slow in the wrong areas," Michael Iaconelli said.
That wasn't a slight on weekend anglers, but he was illustrating the point on a recent trip, and his fellow pros backed up his theories. People are trained to fish slow and thoroughly, but when you're searching for them, you can fish slow in the wrong area for way too long. The time to slow down is after you find a biting bass and are looking to expand the area.
We spent 12-16 hours working on this story with pros Iaconelli, Gerald Swindle and Terry Scroggins during the prespawn on a great fishery between Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments.
When they get to a fishery, the first thing they do is check out the water temperature.
"Before I even make a cast, I already have a pretty good idea what the bass are going to be doing by looking at my Lowrance Electronics and the water temperature," Iaconelli said. "Then it's a matter of hitting a lot of different areas to see exactly where the bass are holding. We're here in the prespawn so the bass are going to be staging and heading to spawning areas so we have to figure out where they are in relation to those areas."
Map study can get anglers ahead of the game by knowing where spawning flats are and where the last deep water is leading to those flats. It can clue them in on areas that might have current or grass or manmade structures to check. So studying maps before hand can get fishermen ahead of the game on unfamiliar bodies of water.
The next part is choosing tackle based on seasonal patterns and regional effective lures. You can find out a lot about colors and regional baits on the web or from your past experience on the fishery. For example, if its prespawn and grass, you're talking about jigs, crankbaits especially lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits, and maybe some spinnerbaits.
To effectively find the fish, it's a sheer volume game for these pros. Cover enough water to know where the bass are and look for that very first bite. And this is where speed is a factor.
"When I'm covering water looking for fish, I keep my boat at a pretty good pace and don't really stop until I find something or get a bite," Swindle said. "Even if the water is cold, I'm still moving my boat pretty fast trying to hit key spots in an area with the right bait. I keep experimenting with baits until I find one to which they are reacting."
Ike began his search on our morning session by fishing a main lake flat near the river channel. He cranked both shallow and deep before abandoning the area and looking more towards the backs of a creek and those flats.
From there he hit a nearby section of docks, then a marina area, then some riprap, then another flat in the back of a creek pocket, then a secondary rocky bank and then it happened. He hooked into a 5-pounder with a Rapala DT6. How long did it take him to figure out the lake he hadn't been on in more than a year? It only took 90 minutes.
"There is a philosophy in fishing called fish everything," Iaconelli said. "That just means when you get to a section of the lake, you hit everything in that section quickly to see if you can get a bite. Most of the time your first bite is not a fluke. It's that key piece of the puzzle that helps you see where all the other pieces fit. Maybe 10 percent of the time a bite is misleading, but 9 times out of 10 that first bite helps you figure out the fishing that day."
Swindle's experience was very similar on his first day on the lake. He started with riprap.
"Rip rap is something I always check. Some people over analyze rip rap. It's just rocks. I fish them shallow with a shallow crank and if they have deeper water I'll come back through with a deeper crank."
After the riprap failed to produce he ran to a grassy pocket. He made 10 casts with a lipless crankbait and determined the water was too cold and too muddy for his liking because he had seen warmer water further up lake. As he left the pocket, he noticed coots on a point where the water cleared. He pulled in and started casting a lipless crankbait. Almost immediately he had a bite, and another and another.