This post is probably more for me than you, but there are some good points in it, so hopefully you’ll take something away from it.
Two nights ago I was fishing the surf, and had a good body of fish in front of me. They were breaking everywhere from about 200 feet out in front of me, to within 6 feet of me, and in a 100 yard area to my left and right. This was not just a couple fish, it was minimum dozens and probably was more like scores of fish.
For two hours I stood there, casting and casting and casting. I threw every plug at them that you can imagine. From 2.5oz danny, to 6” sluggo, to darter, to several plastic swimmers, to 4 different types and sizes of needles. Glide baits…bucktails…5 sizes of swim shad…3 other colors and 2 sizes of sluggos…you get the point.
Usually in these cases, a dead drifted sluggo is killer. If that doesn’t work, I have a tiny 3/4 oz metal lip I love. Despite these things being effective in the past, almost fool-proof…I couldn’t even get a hit.
Now, normally when I run into this I’m content to just watch and move on. I knew they weren’t big fish- hell I knew they were probably really small (I was right as you’ll see). But this time of year, I want to put numbers on the board, before the first couple weeks of May when I switch over to hunting large fish. It’s a good ice breaker, and I find it warms me up for the hunt.
So on this particular night, I was sssooo frustrated I couldn’t get them to even hit my plug. Yeah, I probably should have had my fly rod and maybe that would have worked. But I didn’t, and I didn’t have a teaser either. There’s a blog post in those couple comments as well…next time.
So I continued to cycle through plugs and presentations. Eventually, I got to the Mag Darter, which I was just discussing with a friend on the phone last week. I haven’t used it in a couple years now, but he implored me to give it a try again this spring. So I had it.
I put it on and had no hits. So, I took it off. I fished a few other things for a while, and eventually decided to give it one more try.
When I pulled it out of my bag, I accidentally ripped off all the bucktail from the tag that I use instead of a rear hook. Irritated, I cut the flag off with my plies and was too annoyed, I didn’t change to anything else. I just fished it with front hook, nothing on the rear.
First cast, I had a hit. Second cast, I landed the first fish of the night, a 25” schoolie covered in sea lice. After 2.5 hours of nothing.
From then on, I had a hit basically every third cast, and lost a ton of tiny schoolies and landed a few as well up to maybe 21-22”, before I called it a night after about 30 more minutes. I didn’t need to catch more, I had proved they were catchable and I was content. Still, I was shocked that removing a flag could have that much of a difference. To my eye, the plug swims 0% different with, or without. I’m guessing, it probably had more to do with profile than the action. But who would have guessed it would have worked better? Not me. Although, to be fair, I do fish my Redfins without a flag and have lots of data to support they work better without a flag…so…why would I assume anything?
The point of this post is that sometimes the details really do matter. When it comes to plugs, I’m first and foremost a profile guy. I care little for color, or precise action…or really anything else. As long as the action is close to what it’s “supposed” to do, I’m happy. When it comes to line and hooks and presentation, I’m all about the details. I’m obsessed with hooks and line actually. But I just haven’t seen enough situations where tiny changes in color, or action of a plug- say from white to bone or yellow to chicken- make any difference. That is often just in the mind of the angler, and I think comes down more to the specific presentation of the plug, not the color.
However, as I was discussing with Dave today, when the details matter…they REALLY matter. It seems like if you get that one thing the fish will hit, it can be so precise as to preclude literally anything else- even a seemingly identical plug may not produce.
And this applies triply- or orders of magnitude- more for hunting single large fish. All those little things add up to equal greater success. So mitigating- controlling- as many variables as possible is important.
So this season, as I pursue larger fish on the fly, I’m going to make a renewed effort to be a little more open to the point that, yes, sometimes the tiniest details CAN matter. We work so hard to just put our offerings in front of a fish, why would l want to risk blowing it because I’m too stubborn to accept that? After all, we must give the fish what they want, not what we believe, or think, they should want. Listen to the fish.