The day arrives and you get out on the water full of hope, confidence and adrenaline. The first cast is always almost a spiritual experience and then you buckle down for a full, fun, hard day of fishing.
But then it happens. Through the early morning the feeling starts building in you that we all dread. For some reason, today is going to be a tough bite. No easy limits of big largemouth, no fast and furious action of the smaller schooling or feeding bass, but a tough lockdown bite. Fish are just not actively chasing bait and you have two options. Spend the rest of the day running and gunning looking for small pockets of active fish or hunker down in areas that you know have good fish and try and find a bait and presentation that will goad the reluctant predators into biting.
Both scenarios test the skills and knowledge of the angler. At the end of the day there are two ways to tell how the angler performed. One is to check the live well; the other is to check the bottom of the boat. Check the bottom of the boat? What does that tell us?
By looking at the bottom of an anglers boat at the end of the day I can tell you generally how well that angler did on the water and how much confidence that angler possessed on the water for that given day.
Before an angler hits the water, each rod is usually pre-rigged with a confidence bait or a bait chosen for a specific lake or conditions. As an angler goes throughout the day he has a choice to stay with the confidence bait on each rod or change baits to find one that is more effective. When there is a good bite and fish are caught right away, an angler usually will not change a lot of baits during the day because of the confidence developed early in the day and reinforced with each fish caught. During a good plastic bite generally the one color that is producing the most fish is thrown to for the entire day with maybe one ore two color changes in the same plastic type.
But when confidence is not gained early during a tough bite an angler will usually start searching for a bait or new plastic that will trigger that elusive strike. Many anglers will just start trying one thing at a time until that pile at the bottom of the boat starts to grow into a mound of baits.
Every year there is at least one hot new plastic that comes out that everyone has to have and then interest fades until the next flavor of the year. This cycle repeats itself over and over year after year until we all run around with 500 lbs of plastics in our boats and another 1000 lbs stashed in the garage at home.
The point is, we quickly forget about the baits that once caught a lot of fish for us and soon do not have true confidence in any of the multitude of plastics that we carry. We search for that one plastic bait and then start looking for the perfect color until the bottom of the boat looks like a pile of multicolored spaghetti noodles. We have all done this before and I am just as guilty as anyone.
But, there comes a time in every anglers progression to getting better that he/she will migrate away from, lets call it the “end of day noodle pile”, and starts to realize it’s not about going through every piece of plastic in the boat until you find the magic one. It’s about finding fish and having confidence in the baits that you are throwing. I’m’ not saying don’t experiment with new baits, colors and styles, I’m just saying don’t start the process until after you find the fish and get on a good bite with confidence baits.
So is it worth spending the day throwing just one or two confidence baits and end up having nothing to show for a hard days work? The only other option is to spend the day experimenting and create the famous “noodle pile”.
Every angler winds up playing the odds one way or the other. It’s my opinion that the angler that sticks to seven or eight confidence baits and patterns until the fish are found, end up doing much better than the angler who constantly changes baits during the day trying to find that magic one that will load the boat. There very rarely is a magic bait. It does happen from time to time, but that odds generally are against it happening.
So when do you experiment with new baits? The answer is two part. Part one: After you have established a good pattern or are in an area that has a good concentration of active fish, it is time to throw a variety of baits to see how the fish will react to them. If it is a plastic bite on Brush Hogs, throw five different colors in different sizes to see which ones they eat better than the others. This is the time to go through a lot of baits and really experiment. Part two: Leave the rest of your tackle at home. Hard to do, but it works. If you want to really test a bait, rig that bait in several different colors and sizes on several rods and take only those rods and backup baits of the ones you are testing. This will keep you from switching over the a confidence baits if you go several hours without catching fish. It is also the best way to gain confidence in a technique or bait. I learned to fish a jig by tying on three jigs on three rods and that was all I took to the lake. After several days of only using jigs it forced me to really understand how to catch fish with it in many different situations. This technique can be applied to any new application or bait that comes out.
So the next time you go fishing, at the end of the day, look in the bottom of your boat. If you have become the victim of “the noodle pile” maybe its time to switch gears and start building more confidence in those baits that will put fish in the boat on those really tough days on the water.