Msg 1 Posted: 02:15 PM 05/02/07 (CST)
Don't Sell Yourself Short by Bret Baker |
One of the most frustrating events in a walleye fishermans day is to miss numerous fish to the short bite. For a long time I was resigned to the fact that some days walleyes were just nibblers. On those days I would be frustrated by chomped off half crawlers and minnows skinned alive that signify the disheartening short bite. Oppositely, I remember great days of guiding when we caught thirty, but we must have missed thirty more! I realized I needed to reexamine my approach on both the tough and hot bites to put more fish in my boat. In the paragraphs to follow I will examine why short bites occur, and several techniques that I utilize to combat the dreaded short bite.
Several variables come into play with a short bite, and they all point back to how a walleye feeds. As you probably know, walleyes flare their gills and inhale the water around their prey, thus sucking the offering into their mouths. Their teeth are angled inward to prevent easy escape. They are designed to be very lethal predators. There are two variables that I have found that hamper this process. First off, the mood of the walleyes. If a walleye is in a very positive feeding mood it will aggressively suck in your offering. On the other hand neutral or negative mood walleyes will attempt to suck in your offering without much enthusiasm. Secondly, the size of the fish. Small walleyes even aggressively feeding do not move as much water through there gills, and therefore are less efficient feeders. On the other hand, large walleyes have no problem folding up a 6-8 inch baitfish on a daily basis.
Knowing the basics of how walleyes feed, make the reasons for short hits apparent. Something in your offering is keeping the walleye from flaring his gills and moving your bait into its mouth. Your offering could be too heavy, or your bait could be moving away from the attack. Rather than dwell on all the things that can go wrong, lets focus on what we can do about it.
Combating short bites has become a passion of sorts for me. Each and every presentation I make to the fish has been adjusted in an attempt to make my offering easily devoured.
Whether rigging, jigging, bottom bouncing, or bobbering, your live bait presentation can be tweaked to connect with more fish. For all live bait presentations I go with the lightest and limpest line possible. Many walleye fisherman already fish low diameter lines in an attempt to fool the walleyes eyesight. In my opinion I catch more walleyes on light line not because of the visibility factor, but rather because light line can be moved easier into a walleyes mouth at the time of the attack. Besides light line, each presentation has its own subtle variances that will put more fish in your boat.
Lindy rigging has become a completely different technique for me over the past few seasons. I used to pull Lindy rigs all over the place, and they certainly caught their fair share of fish. But I was also missing a lot of bites. I would try to feed the fish some line, only to miss numerous fish over the course of a day. When I applied my knowledge of short bites to Lindy rigging I began changing my approach.
Nowadays if I am rigging I am stopping and going constantly instead of pulling rigs at one steady pace. I either pump my rod tip, or slip the motor in and out of reverse. This stop and go pace allows for some slack in my presentation, and when there is slack in your line, walleyes meet little resistance as they flare their gills around the bait. For those of you who utilize floats, or floating jig heads, they can also be a great way to add a pivot point or a little slack to your presentation. I also experiment with where I hook my live bait. For example, a crawler hooked through the middle is going to be inhaled much easier then a crawler stretched out with a single hook at the tip. Additionally I always add one colored bead above my hook. This offers some flash, but I also believe it moves the point of attack further up on my bait, improving hook up percentages. Even with all these precautions, sometimes it takes some odd techniques to finish the deal.
One such technique I read about years ago that works well is coiling your leader. It is a simple process. Take a high memory line and make many wraps around a cylinder. The leader will then come off looking coiled like a slinky. If you use this as your last four feet to your bait, you will always have a degree of slack to combat short hits. Another odd technique that I have been experimenting with involves tying a ball of steelhead yarn above your hook. The yarn obviously provides some color, but more importantly if you realize a walleyes teeth are angled inward, you will also realize that the yarn is very hard for a walleye to spit out, once he has gotten the bait inside his mouth. Just another addition for your short bite arsenal!
Many of the same techniques I use Lindy rigging, I also employ when I am utilizing bottom bouncers. Most bottom bouncer fishing involves pulling spinners, but I prefer to use bottom bouncers in place of Lindys in deeper water. I often fish my bottom bouncer with a plain hook and a long leader. A five to eight foot leader coupled with a stop and go presentation on a bouncer is a killer combination in the fight against short bites.
We have all missed our share of fish jigging. If you take the time to make some adjustments, this frustration can be avoided. Once again, light line is key. Also, you have often heard the saying get by with the lightest jig possible. The simple fact is light jigs are more easily devoured then heavier jigs. Also try adding soft plastic when you are experiencing short hits. Plastic adds bulk, but not a lot of weight to your offering. Bulk without weight, allows for the jig take up more surface area. Thus, the bait is more easily moved into the walleyes mouth. I am also conscious of how I hook my live bait while jig fishing. A simple rule of thumb, the farther onto the shank of the hook you place live bait, the closer the hook will be to the walleyes mouth.
For slip bobber fishing I make two quick adjustments that can make a real difference. The first is to experiment with the amount of weight below the bobber. I add weight until the bobber is just visible enough for me to keep an easy eye on it. This allows the fish to grab my dangling bait without the resistance of having to pull the entire bobber under water. Secondly, I love attaching all my live bait under a bobber to a plain hook directly hooked through the middle. When youre on a dock this summer, pull out your bobber rod, attach a leech through the middle, and lower it into the water, you will be impressed by the thumping of a lively leech hooked through the center. Any walleye that makes the commitment to engulf my offering is going to have no problem finding the hook.
In addition to live bait presentations, artificial baits like cranks and spinners can also be fished in ways that prevent missed fish.
When trolling cranks I am constantly pumping my rod tip allowing for a stop and go presentation. I have found that walleyes following directly behind the bait will literally run into the crank as it suddenly stops. Also, if a fish hits on the pause, I will have few problems getting some hooks into it. If I am running boards I look for opportunities to make my boards produce the same action. Heavy waves help as boards jump and skip from wave to wave, also a more subtle stop and go presentation occurs while trolling a turning and twisting S pattern. Casting cranks should not always be a straight, no frills retrieve. Sometimes pauses and twitches, especially with neutrally buoyant baits are just the ticket. The exception to this rule for me is at night. I believe a straight retrieve at night allows the fish to hone in on your crank. You may be thinking to yourself, I have never had a short bite on cranks. But unlike live bait, cranks provide no visual evidence of attack. While fishing cranks, a short bite may never even be felt, because your crank is moving away from the fish, and the walleye may not achieve any contact at all.
As far as spinners go, it is very difficult to incorporate a stop and go retrieve like cranks. Spinners have two built in advantages that already address the short bite for you. One, they are often full of hooks. Crawler harnesses incorporate a wide array of single and treble hooks. Two, the flash of the spinner and attraction of the beads often times focuses the point of the attack farther up the bait. This compensates for the fact that the spinner is moving away from the fish.
Some days, I will incorporate one or two of these approaches; some days all of them are pulled out of the arsenal. The difference is clear when you begin saying We caught 58 walleyes today, we must have only missed one or two! I believe walleyes are killing machines, and if you take the time to adapt many of your presentations to combat short bites, your catches will improve dramatically.
IF IT'S WET...IT'S CATCH'N FISH