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Shadow: Search baits increase daily fishing success

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This was a week of mixed activities around the Shadow ranch.

With my ol' mare having a sore leg, it seemed like I was applying liniment or wrapping the afflicted area continuously. The upside of this is that I got considerably better at applying leg wraps.

Then, the grass grows like mad due to the periodic rains. If I could get my corn to grow like the grass does, I’d have a bumper crop. In between all the other confusion, we horizontal-bored in 300 feet of water and electric lines to the site of my proposed new horse barn.

That boring was necessary, rather than trenching, because of several other unmarked utilities in the path. The boring process was rather amazing, and 600 feet of conduit was in the ground before lunch.

Then, hooking the right conduit up to the proper energy source was tricky. It wouldn’t do to have the electricity running out of the water hydrant or the water coming out of the wiring. It all worked properly in the end and all is well.

On to more sporting subjects: I guess most everyone is getting their fill of fresh crappie and stocking up a few for the future. The bass and walleye reports have also been pretty promising.

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Bass fishing is a considerably different sport than crappie fishing in that you don’t expect to catch the quantity and it’s usually necessary to experiment with different lures and techniques until you find the right location or the lure that will catch the fish. There are several ways to approach the problem of locating the catch-able bass.

Here are some ideas for your next outing:

When it comes to finding the right location or the right lure/presentation it usually is not a good idea to start out with a slow-moving lure like a plastic worm of a jig. These lure are good fish-catchers, but you simply waste too much time fishing in water that is not holding enough fish to make it productive.

The thing to do is use a “search bait” to locate an area that has a population of fish — the search bait will often cause bass to show themselves, even if they don't take the bait. After this area is located, then you may need to switch to a different bait/lure to continue to catch more fish.

There are several good search baits with which you can cover a lot of water compared to the worms, jigs, etc. Certainly, a spinnerbait has been the top search bait for me over the years, providing the fish are relatively shallow. Crankbaits are good if more depth is needed.

One of the most universal search baits that I have ever used is the chatter-bait or vibrating jig. If you’re not familiar with this relatively new lure, it’s simply a combination of a couple of other lures. Someone took a jig and put a flexible diving bill on the front of it and an attractive shimmering trailer on the back. The bill is shaped in such a way that makes it vibrate when retrieved. This causes the trailer to shimmy violently and is quite a fish attractor.

Since the jig runs with the hook in an upward position, it is very forgiving when retrieved through logs, grass and the like. The depth can be controlled by stopping and starting the retrieve, then letting it fall on each stop cycle.

One your selected search bait has located some catchable fish, it is many times necessary to switch lures to catch the fish that are more reluctant to bite the faster moving lure.

Obviously, if you’re continuing to catch fish on the search bait, that's great, but many times the strike frequency will slow down even though there are still fish in the area. That’s the time to tie on that plastic worm or a rubber-legged jig and try a slower approach.

Now that the water is warmer, don’t forget to keep a buzz-bait tied on as a search bait and simply a fish producer. I was on the lake this week and strikes were slow after a while, so I picked up my buzz-bait and caught some more fish that simply would not hit the submerged baits.

There’s just something magical about a buzzer that makes the fish aggressive and the fisherman happy. Be innovative and persistent for more fish and more fun!


Dave Shadow is an outdoor columnist for the JG-TC.

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