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More Powerful than any bait in your Box

By: Chris Erwin

The day was windy and cold, white caps and bending branches would bare witness to the first day on the water for me this year. It didn't take long to know this was going to be a tough beginning to the 2009 season.

Sitting in the boat wondering what would be the best way to come up with a lease a fish or two, to show you, would put me to the same test that many of you will face, if you choose a day that you can go, instead of the day that is ideal.

The main lake was in pretty good shape but my day would be spent on Licking River where the water was muddy, water temperature was 47-50 with very little visibility.

This will set the conditions of the day; water on the rise, with hard rains the days before I get on the water.

All of this is enough to send many angler home in a short time, but if you want to know how to break through this tough day on the water, read on, we will show you how to make the best of a very tough day and still put a few fish in the boat.

I went to Cave Run where the PMTT (Professional Muskie Tournament Trail) would be holding their spring tournament ,which was held on the main lake on Saturday, but my free day would be Sunday in Licking river, and I was bound to make the best of a tough day.

Early in the spring the weather and water condition change so fast it's not always easy to pick perfect days on the water, when you find yourself in this position you have to rely on something that in my opinion is the most powerful tool in you bag of tricks to catch fish during tough times.

What would that be..(Confidence..) I know you heard that before but stop! There's more to it than that.
Lets break it down a bit, and look how you build the confidence and focus it takes to catch fish when everything is telling you it's hopeless..

I have watched it a million times over my 40 years of fishing, a guy ties on a bait and catches a few fish, that lure becomes the only lure that he has "confidence in" so if the fish aren't biting on that lure, his day becomes frustrating usually cutting his day short, marking it up to they "aren't biting".

You see the failure isn't in the baits/lures but instead in "the confidence" the angler has in the baits he or she is fishing. Once you break this cycle you will be able to shift your game plan to match the day you're on the water.

It's not necessary to catch fish on every lure you have in your box to build confidence in that lure, but you must get pass the fact that if you tie on a bait and it doesn't produce, you can't put it back in your mind that this bait didn't work for me..

The failure is never in the bait, as long as it is working properly, but instead the environment that you decided to use it .. HOLD ON.. did you get that.

Fish are really not that smart they react out of environmental conditions, what I'm trying to get across to you is, don't put your faith in a single bait, instead understand that the fish hit your lure because of the "environmental conditions" once you can see that, you can put together the right lure for the right water conditions.

Just to define "environment conditions" for anyone that might not understand the term as it pertains to fishing; Fish feed, move, stage, and breed, along with almost every other thing in their life is the result of all the forces around them, water temperature, sun light, wind, rain, rising or dropping water, current, water clarity, the season it happens to be, all form together to influence just what the fish happen to be doing that day. The baits we use must take advantage of the environment conditions of that day.

Once you can put faith (confidence) in your ability to read the conditions of the day and then use the baits that have a track record of producing in those conditions you will come a long way toward not have that dreaded "I got skunked today" answer to the question of, "how did you do today".

There has been hundreds of articles written on confidence and how big of a role that it plays in the game plan of fishermen that seem to always catch fish, before this is useful to any new angler or a struggling angler you must know where to focus your confidence, it must be in your ability to read the environmental conditions and apply it to the lures you choose to use.

Then the second step to success is learning "Presentation" a term that refers to how to work any particular bait, you can gain this knowledge by reading, fishing with a friend, hiring a guide, or learning on your own.

Each lure will have more than one way to present it to the fish, learning them will add to your ability to very your presentation according to the day you happen to be fishing.

The third rail to success is "Focus" when you just pitch and grind your plugs don't expect much, there is no life in what your doing, focus puts that extra edge on your presentation, its like a dog on point every thought is building to the climax of the strike.

As you work the lure imaged is coming through the water over rock around timber see it in your mind as it digs the bottom, feel the difference between hard bottom and mud, the more you focus on your lure the better you will become at fooling the fish and the more you will get solid hookups..

To make my point lets look at this weekend.. What do we know worked.. To compare lets look at the tournament that was held this weekend, about 160 guys were on the main lake trying to catch fish, many of them true pros. What did they catch their fish on?
According to the tournament results it was Rattle-traps, spinnerbaits, crankbaits.

What did I catch my fish on? Rattle-Traps.
What was I fishing with? Rattle traps, crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
it's not just a fluke I was using what most of the fish were caught on, it's what made the best sense once you look at the environmental conditions.

The bass I caught was a by product of fishing for muskie.
As you can see here the rattle-trap is pretty dang big for this fish. I was using a bright colored bait because of the muddy water, I caught four of these bass all about the same size while I was trying to catch a muskie.

As the day started into the evening hours, I got a good muskie to hit my rattle- trap only to loose the fish the first time she shook her head, with the water conditions so tough I figured that I lost my chance to get any kind of a muskie to show you, the light was closing in on me and the day was almost over, but this one fish told me something, I needed to be fishing the flat edges, so I spent my last few minutes moving back away from the bank, still in fairly shallow water but close to deeper water.

About half way back I get another pounding strike this time the fish is hooked a little better and I get it to the boat, it's a small muskie, the pattern proved to be productive

I didn't measure this little guy I wanted to get him back in the water quickly.

He may have been little but it was still a ton of fun and I'm sure we may meet again down the road.

If you take the time to study the conditions that surround your catches, you will start to build the confidence it takes to read the water and pick the lures that will produce that day.
I hear people say, "I just couldn't figure out the fish today". I totally understand what they are saying to me, but they are missing the true question. What was it that I was missing that kept me from figuring out the right lure and presentation?

The evidence is always there we just can't always see it, finding fish is an art form It's not luck; you can become better at it by just using the power of your mind building on your confidence and experience.

Till next time, take notes this year, visualize your baits coming through the water, focus on your line, watch for fish breaking the water, and take a friend fishing, sometimes it's more fun when you work together to figure out fish patterns.

Good Fishing
Chris "Trimmer" Erwin