Do you have any follow-up tricks?
Response by Steve Clark & Jim Crowley - Dated 1/17/2000
Fishing pressure as I define it, occurs when the body of water you are on is accompanied by or receives a lot of traffic. It can be boating, water skiing, fishing or a combination of all. Where I live in Central Illinois, that is a weekly circumstance you learn to deal with it and plan accordingly. On a smaller scale, fishing from the back of the boat or behind another boat, is also a "pressure" we all face from time to time.
Pressure is what can be referred to as "conditioning" as the dictionary defines it, conditioning is changing behavior in such a way that an action formerly associated with a particular stimulus becomes associated with a new and unrelated stimulus. So the question is, what can we do to put more fish in the boat?
There are many options, I will share with you some of my favorites.
The term "slowing down" comes to mind and I don't just mean picking up a worm and throwing it all day. The fishermen who catch fish consistently learn to adjust and WORK their lures not just throw them out there. For instance, when retrieving a spinnerbait or crankbait, run the lures into everything you can and make them deflect off the objects. Bass will feed more out of instinct and reaction than they will hunger. Simply because they are not hungry all the time, however, their instinct is to kill or eat the weak. If our lures portray that, we become more successful.
Downsizing is also an option. Throw smaller lures that closely imitate the size of the forage bass are feeding on. Smaller lures tend to look more lifelike and you end up getting more strikes. Following a boat, fishing a piece of bottom structure can sometimes be an advantage if they have used larger lures that splash the water and alert already pressured fish to hold in there hiding spots.
When I say structure I mean any irregular change in bottom contour; that would be a drop, a ledge, a point and cover would be rocks weeds or a stump. The best would be structure with cover! The best of both worlds. With a more life-like presentation that mimics a small creature entering the water, such as a frog, "zooming" the bait as it hits the surface and then a small dart followed by a couple of twitches gives the appearance of a wounded but still alive morsel to be watched, on its way to the bottom.
Making the presentation "alive" will trigger interest and patience will entice the wary "conditioned" bass to an irresistible offering. Scent and salt impregnated lures will only help this method and get the fish to hold on a bit longer to get a good hook-up. I do this on a regular basis when fishing behind another boat. I have caught many fish on small crankbaits that I decided to run through lay downs or around stumps that the boat ahead of me threw a jig at. There are really no limits to this. Do something different, either by changing shape, speed, or presentation. Practice this outside a tournament situation and know what to expect from your new skill.
I tell people in seminars every year that we can all become better fisherman and catch more fish every year if we do one simple thing. Teach, really teach yourself one new technique every year. Your arsenal will grow and you will have more to fall back on.
Something I have found, that I used to think would never work, is when you miss a bite resist the temptation to reel the lure in and recast. If you think about it, the fish do not have feelings but they have reactions. The fact that he was enticed to instinctually react to the presentation of your lure the first time means he was interested and why would he react differently all of a sudden? How they react is up to them but I have found from walleye tournaments a useful tool is instead of thinking the bite has gone or lost interest, point your rod tip right back in the direction of the hit and let it go to the bottom again.
The interested party will resume its predator prey relationship and go in for the kill. The fish reacts to this as a wounded piece of food that was not as easy to eat as it thought and is still alive. If you present it as an even more wounded former bait smaller dying actions will have to be imparted on the lure by the cunning fisherman. This technique works very well in colder water and more time is needed in colder/deeper water.
Remember there are other fish around and you may wake up an even larger fish that has the ego to steal a meal from a competitor that was not fish enough to choke your offering down. So resist the urge to retrieve and let nature take its course.
We can consistently catch more fish on pressured water by getting off the banks and learning how to fish deeper water more effectively. Lets face it, your favorite structure is someone else's favorite structure and the obvious fish holding pieces of structure or cover will be hammered by every Tom Dick &Harry, you'll just be the next and so what, don't take it personal. Don't let your mind set be controlled/pressured "conditioned " by this fact of fishing. I learn more about this every year. Again its a practiced skill and not something you can spend ten minutes on and go back to pounding the banks. Also, learn to watch for "feeding" opportunities. These occur where current funnels bait fish. For instance it can be wind current, waves caused by boats and/or generated by a power plant. This current can come through bridge pilings, around points and other circumstances that can school fish up. We need to learn to look for those. When you find one, you can load the boat quickly.
Methodology comes to mind when working a feature that you suspect holds fish and has been hit by other fisherman and thinking what has happened to that feature.
Stealth is a method of approaching a fish holding prospect and rationalizing how the fish have been treated. Is there open water near by, thick weeds, a dead fall, a high traffic channel of the waterway? Think of where they could temporarily take relief from a frightening encounter with a fisherman and then proceed to make casts that would prove your theories. They could be only twenty feet away. Remember, every time you are out fishing you are gathering data to be used at a later date.
Try not to use the old adage "think like a fish" but understand how they don't think and fish for a predictable unemotional thing that has a very predictable set of reactions that it cannot help doing.
All the latest lures in the world are useless if you are not fishing in the right spots. So educate yourself and read as much as you can and arm yourself with seasonal knowledge and your live well will have more use in your boat. It could very well be a case of fishing in the wrong spots as opposed to pressure. Just because other boats/people are fishing in some spots does not make them the right spots for that particular time of the year. Fish are potentially everywhere and anywhere there is water but there are areas that are high percentage areas that are a lot better than others depending on the season.