It’s up to you to find what works best

Ask any fisherman to name his or her favorite fish and you will get a variety of answers. Some of us actually love the weight and strength of carp and catfish, while others feel the only real game fish is the bass. I know a couple fishermen who would rather starve to death than fillet a bass for dinner. Personally, I’ve eaten bass and also carp and catfish.

Fishing is just not a one kind fits all sport and our fishing methods vary as much as the species we chase. Tell a dry fly angler that you caught a trout on a nightcrawler and he will consider you less than worthy. I was once chided for catching a bass on a minnow, even though it was an accident. I was fishing for crappies.

Over the many years since I first dipped a garden worm into a strip mine pond, I have tried about every type of tackle and method. I have used my flyrod, my spinning rod, my casting rod, and even cane poles and willow sticks. I consider every fishing method to be fun, relaxing and often challenging.

Over the last few years I have done a lot of trolling. Granted that many consider trolling not as challenging as flipping a bass lure under a dock or floating a dry fly down a limestone creek, but doing it right can be a lot of fun. I get bored trolling Lake Erie for walleyes, but it is a different matter when I am in control of the boat and using my sonar to seek out underwater structure and depth changes. I enjoy that type of trolling.

My first trolling efforts at Guilford Lake were fruitless, but I learned a lot about what doesn’t work. It was in the 1960s when we took the kids camping at Guilford every time I had a long weekend off. My boat was homemade out of exterior plywood and really all I could afford. It was just a 10′ pram so there wasn’t much room onboard, but it served the purpose.

My unsuccessful efforts involved making a circle of the lake and changing lures for each pass. All I accomplished was to weed out some unproductive lures.

A few years later I had a better boat and one of the first flasher type sonar. Barb and I trolled RoadRunner jigs around Highlandtown Lake. Actually, Barb did most of the trolling as I was mesmerized by the sonar. She caught fish, too, as with the help of the flasher I steered the boat over promising bottom features.

By the time my friend, Lowell, and I trolled Mosquito Lake for walleyes, both the boat and sonar had been updated. The sonar was no longer a flasher, but had a screen that featured a fish symbol. We both trolled black and gold Hot n’ Tots and caught a lot of fish of all kinds.

Now my pontoon boat the Barbie J provides plenty of comfort for trolling. My fishing partner, Ken Davis, and I have padded swivel seats and the electronics rival what must have been on a WW II destroyer. The Barbie J’s sonar features side imaging, down imaging, standard sonar, a flasher view and even GPS. I don’t think it catches any more fish for us, but it sure is fun to watch the bottom images slip by under the boat. You quickly learn why certain flat areas never produce a strike. You can’t catch fish that aren’t there.

Our quest now is to find the best lure. With both of us dragging different lures or different colors it is fun to search for just the right lure for this lake. Of course it is not a controlled experiment as the weather and other environmental changes need to be factored in. Even so we have reached several conclusions as to lure design, color and amount of line we put out. It works here, but the lake you fish will likely be entirely different. Besides, anglers never tell everything about their fishing methods. We guard our secrets like the government guards that certain hanger in Roswell, New Mexico.

The best way for you to learn what works best for the water you fish and the fish you pursue is to get out there and fish.