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Scientific or not, it's about the act of fishing

March 22, 2009

The best hunters and anglers I know are those who study their quarry closely.

Many of them even keep notes after every day in the field or on the water. I'm not one of them. At the beginning of every season I promise myself that I will keep notes. I never do. I have purchased many notebooks and even worked up a spread sheet to keep track of my fishing success or lack thereof. They are all mostly empty.

This really hit home recently when my brother-in-law, Kenny Davis, and I were sitting on my dock teaching minnows to swim. Actually what we really want was for the minnow's swim to be cut short by a nice walleye or crappie, but that was not happening. While hoping for a bite, I mentioned to Kenny that another angler had told me that fishing was good in this cove for about 45 minutes twice a day.

Upon hearing this Kenny asked why I didn't mark down the times when I caught fish to see if there is a regular time that the fish would bite. It was a good question, but I still haven't done it. I guess I always figured that the best time to fish was when I had the time to fish.

My dad was even less scientific in his approach to fishing. When I was a kid I would ask why we were fishing in a certain spot. Dad's reply was always, "It's as good a place as any". Now that I know a little about structure, fish migration and such, I know dad was wrong, but at least we were fishing.

In those golden days of youth we used bobbers, but they were a far cry from today's bobbers. Sometimes we used one of those ball shaped affairs that clipped to our line. Since a kid's reel was about as smooth as a coffee grinder, we needed a big bobber to hold up the chunk of lead we used to provide casting weight. You could have used these huge plastic balls to mark a river channel.

I still use bobbers, but now I'm more particular. Rather than making a big splash when the bobber hits the water I try to be as subtle as possible. The bobbers I use are either made from foam or balsa wood. They can be difficult to cast in the wind and I sometimes have to resort to heavier materials just to get the weight I need.

The wind and current can dictate the shape of the bobber as well as the fishing method I am using. Bobbers with a round body will drift more in the wind and stick type bobbers drift more slowly. Stick bobbers can be difficult to see if the waves are too high.

The facet I like about stick bobbers is that they offer less resistance to a fish taking my bait. I just feel that the less resistance a fish feels, the less likely he is to suspect something is wrong.

The serious bobber angler must take shape, weight and size into account when choosing the proper bobber for the task at hand. One manufacturer, Thill, offers about every shape, size and style possible and I have several of their bobbers.

Slip bobbers are my favorite as they let me adjust the depth of my bait or lure. Just this week I saw how important depth can be. I was fishing bait for big shell cracker sunfish and getting no bites. I kept changing the depth until I started getting bites and the fishing was great. Eventually, I lost some of my line to a snag and had to retie my terminal tackle. You guessed it. I got no more bites until I found the right depth.

The line runs through a slip bobber and the depth is adjusted by moving a stop above the bobber. This can be anything from a rubber band to heavy line tied around the fishing line. I prefer a small bead that I can hold in place with a tiny plastic pin. It works for me.

Crappies and other panfish are biting right now and using worms or minnows under a bobber should help you catch a tasty meal.



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