Have you ever wondered why it seems that some fishermen are the lucky ones and always manage to catch their share of fish? I suppose, at times, luck may play a role, but to be consistently good at taking fish, a lot more than luck is required.
Let’s try to simplify things a bit; to catch fish, you must either see the fish take your presentation, or you have to feel it take your offering. You can see a fish strike a surface lure such as a floating plug or a dry fly, or you can deliver your offering with a bobber or some type of strike indicator. I often use all of these methods, and they work, but there are times when I rely totally on the feel method for detecting a strike.
Admittedly, learning to feel a fish take a submerged presentation takes a little time, patience, and practice, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a very effective way to hook good numbers of fish. One of the big pluses of presenting your offering without the aid of a bobber or strike indicator is that the depth you wish to present your lure is totally under your control on every cast. There is no need to make adjustments to a bobber or strike indicator; you simply cast and count the lure down to whatever depth you want. Being able to fish a variety of depths and to make changes quickly and frequently can lead to a lot more strikes. This is especially true when fishing for schools of fish like crappies on lakes.
When utilizing the feel approach, one of the biggest problems I often see is oversized equipment or rods, reels, and line that is too heavy and makes detecting strikes much more difficult. If I’m fishing for panfish like crappies, bluegills, or perch, I generally go with an ultralight light open-faced spinning reel spooled with a four-pound test line. I also opt for a light action seven or seven-and-a-half-foot rod. These outfits work well for presenting small jigs or other small lures or even live bait offerings. The reason I opt for small and light is that I’m fishing for small, light fish, and the size of the equipment better transmits the feel of a strike.
Now if I’m planning on going after big bass, walleyes, pike, and the like, I’m not using light line and ultralight equipment; I adjust my equipment to match the fish I’m after. For example, if I’m fishing a wacky-rigged plastic worm, I’ll go to at least a ten-pound test line, maybe even twenty, and a heavier spinning reel or a bait-casting outfit. These larger fish will often strike harder, and I set the hook much harder to drive the hooks home.
In this type of feel-the-strike fishing, it helps a great deal to always maintain control of the line and not allow the slack line to lay on the water; after all, you can’t feel a strike on a slack line. Remember, it’s all about feeling that light “tick” or bump at the business end so you can immediately strike back with a lift of the rod. Another way to maintain good line control and to feel the strike is to keep the rod tip higher, thus keeping the line from laying on the surface; thus, anything that touches the lure can be felt and maybe even seen if the tight line twitches. This same technique, referred to as “high-sticking,” is often used in fly fishing when drifting nymphs along the bottom of a stream.
Something I’ve gone to in recent years to help detect strikes is a braided line instead of monofilament; the braided line has no give or stretch and transmits the strike better. Since the braided line is more visible, I add a rod’s length of the appropriate size of the fluorocarbon line since it, too, has very little stretch and is more sensitive to strikes.
Learn to feel your strikes, and you may also feel better about your catches.