You Can Catch Fish Without a Boatload of Gear
By Ken Schultz
Does it make sense to fish simply sometimes, or is this notion as quaint as writing a term paper on a manual typewriter? By simply I mean fishing from ordinary jonboats, rowboats, canoes, or kayaks, probably without any kind of motor, and with minimal gear? Sure it makes sense. You won’t be able to cover great expanses of water, but then who catches fish when they’re running wide-open across the lake to get to that far-side hotspot?
When you fish simply, it helps to adopt the right attitude. That means not having an intense gotta-succeed mentality. Be loose. Angling certainly involves catching fish, but it doesn’t have to be a strategic mission to catch the most or the biggest fish.
Simple and Smart
To make fishing simply more than an exercise in breathing fresh air, it helps to remember that people were catching fish long before there were backlash-free reels, low-stretch hi-tech lines, electronic boxes that reveal water depth, and submersible cameras that provide underwater viewing. Sure, the fish are more pressured than ever in some places, but they’re still fish -- with the same feeding and survival instincts that their ancestors had.
In most places you can’t be completely haphazard about fishing and expect to have more than just hit-or-miss success. So, if you’ve trimmed down your gear you need to take a page from the wading stream angler, who has to know the habits of the quarry and read the water to figure out where to make a presentation. Of course, still waters often don’t belie depth, submerged structure or cover, or bottom contours like flowing waters do. So you’ll have to study the surrounding terrain more closely for clues to underwater features, and, where necessary, use a drop weight to gauge depth when knowing depth is important.
Wherever you fish, you should work places thoroughly. Many anglers seem to think that the way to catch fish is to cover a lot of water and hit a lot of “spots,” because somewhere they’re going to find activity or a stacked-up mother lode. But it really pays to work appropriate places slowly, quietly, patiently, and thoroughly.
Refine your presentations, and concentrate your efforts, especially anywhere that you catch fish. Many people, bass anglers in particular, move away from good places too quickly, when staying and working a place that has already yielded a fish may, in fact, yield more with persistence.
Troll While Traveling
As a low-tech angler moving from one place to another, you have an opportunity to do something that 99 percent of big boat anglers don’t consider: catch fish and discover open-water hotspots by trolling. As a young angler I fished a municipal water supply reservoir where all types of motors were (and still are) prohibited. I rowed. When I wanted to move across the reservoir to fish, I always trailed a lure. Many, many times I caught fish, including nice-sized smallmouth bass, that I would have never seen had I just moved quickly from one spot to another.
I won’t go so far as to suggest that fishing simple should entail a rejection of modern lines, rods, and reels, or even electric motors. An electric motor is a great help in proper maneuvering and positioning, so that helps you be more thorough.
Sonar and GPS are great aids, too, but you won’t miss them and other modern microprocessor-equipped accessories on many small lakes and ponds. And I’m sure you’ll find that you don’t need a zillion lures either to have success on the water.