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The Right Stuff – Innovation - Chesapeake Light Tackle

Revisiting my series on the common traits of good fishermen, I keep coming back to attitude and innovation. I recently crossed paths with Chesapeake Bay light tackle guide Dennis Fleming and the subject of “the right stuff” came up. Dennis noted that, regardless of experience level, some fishermen come on his boat with a natural talent for fishing. When I think of talent, I consider my experience with artists and musicians. There is no doubt that creativity comes more naturally to some people than to others. So, how important is natural talent and creativity to successful fishing? Obviously, the most important factor to success is time on the water. In fishing, there’s simply no substitute for experience. Still, there must be something to the observation that some anglers get it, and some never will. An important factor is that successful anglers are open to new ideas.

It’s been said that 10-percent of the fishermen catch 90-percent of the fish, and that good fishermen think like a fish. Hmm, “think like a fish?” Is that something that can be learned or taught? Embracing creativity and experimenting with innovative techniques is lot of what this website and my book, Chesapeake Light Tackle, An Introduction to Light Tackle Fishing on the Chesapeake Bay is about. I try to pass along good ideas and tactics I’ve learned once I’ve had a chance to try them out. It all starts with an open mind.

Good fishermen keep their minds wide open about new methods and techniques. They look at what’s working for others and they constantly experiment with their own innovations. We all know the curmudgeonly old salts who refuse to incorporate new tactics. You can fish circles around these guys and they still dismiss anything new or innovative as a fad. I’ll be the first one in line to listen to the advice of a well-practiced fisherman, but I don’t have much patience with anglers who aren’t open to new techniques. Patterns change, behaviors change, populations change, fish change, and it takes an innovative fisherman to stay on top of the game. The best fishermen hold fast to time-proven techniques, but are wide open to learning new methods and trying new things like innovative lures, creative presentations, leading-edge electronics, and advanced rod & reel combos. Anyone can catch fish when they’re schooled up and hungry, but it’s a lot more work to catch fish when they aren’t particularly inclined to bite. It takes a combination of ideas to make bad days good and good days great, so it pays to experiment. The guy who thinks he knows it all, doesn’t.

Similarly, good fishermen recognize the importance of exchanging information. One of the advantages of fishing in the 21st century is that it’s a lot easier now to come in contact with anglers who have similar interests. Social networks, fishing websites, angler blogs, and electronic bulletin boards are just a few of the tracks we can take to learn from fellow anglers and improve our fishing skills. You have to be careful though, because the most vocal members of the social networks may not be the most successful. It’s easy to talk a good game, but something else entirely to be consistently successful on the water. Take what you can from any website (including this one), but look first for proven and demonstrated results. The best proof is trying the tactics out for yourself to see if they improve your fishing.

I’ll have more to say about attitude and innovation later, but speaking of improved fishing, the spring striped bass migration is well-underway in the Chesapeake Bay. Catch & release fishing has been respectable this year. Maybe not as consistent as last year, but overall, the fish seem bigger. I think that’s a result of good year classes in the mid-to-late 1990s. All the stripers we’re releasing now seem to be very young, or very old. We just aren’t seeing too many fish in the twenty- to thirty-inch class.

My son Daniel visited last weekend, and we had a successful morning fishing with Rich Jenkins onboard my center console, Thunder Road. Despite only fishing the Chesapeake Bay a few times in the past year, Daniel had at least ten fish over 30-inches and a couple pushing 40- using ten-inch color-contrasting BKDs hotrodded with orange or chartreuse garlic dye and very specific presentations. All told, we had two fish in the mid-40s and lost another huge fish when it came unpinned at the boat.

Spring is late this year, and temperatures were in the mid-20s when we started fishing. Nevertheless, I am seeing spawning herring now in most of the tributaries and in the high current discharges. Reports of hickory shad are just starting to come in from both the Potomac and the Susquehanna. Water temps are still a little low, but warmer weather is predicted next week and that should kick off better striper fishing in the Susquehanna Flats. April should be a great fishing month, so open your mind to innovative ideas and tactics and see how good you can get!

Posted Monday, April 1st, 2013 at 2:00 pm
Filed Under Category: Fishing Reports
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Responses to “The Right Stuff – Innovation”

  1. uncle phill says:

    Nice piece. I’ve got some snake oil in my bag now, I may be dumb but I’m not (too) stupid.

  2. jumbo1 says:

    Good stuff Shawn..the same grouchy ol’ men are the same ones that run their motors over fish…go into the hot zone to retrieve .50 jigheads and are too selfish to go upwind or around active fish…very sad to see..
    This may not be very nice but I do enjoy the part about “fishing circles around them”…nice write-up ol’ buddy..
    The guys that don’t think scented baits or color contrasts make a differnce..keep doing what you’re already doing..if you’re not ctaching already it won’t make a difference..

    • Shawn says:

      I didn’t see that, but in my opinion the biggest mistake Chesapeake Bay fishermen make is a lack of noise discipline.I think a lot of guys are still stuck on methods and techniques that worked when fish were plentiful back in the post-moratorium days. You’re right, if we don’t evolve and learn, it’s business as usual.

  3. JOE YACK says:

    Good Stuff there Shawn… I may have taken the try new and different things a bit too far this last year…always the innovator I have tried some goofy things to try to catch’em… the trick I’m finding is to recognize failure early and go back to the tried and true methods, like Gerald says “well, now we know what they won’t bite on”… I am sold on scents, being a smoker I have alot of my own scents to hide as well as flavoring the bait. Good Reading here… Thanks!

    • Shawn says:

      Joe, after seeing some of the great looking lures you’re turning out, there’s no doubt you have the right stuff. I’m a big fan!

  4. JOE YACK says:

    When is Rich’s Book coming out and is it still called “Keeping Up with Kimbro”…LOL.

  5. Monoman says:

    Your ideas and techniques have helped me tremendously in the past year. It’s already payed off this spring. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I’ve bought 3 of your books for gifts to my fishing buddys and getting ready to make another purchase.

  6. ES Fisherman says:

    Here’s a little trick I do sometimes when the fish are finicky: Take a zoom fluke or similar bait with a flat tail and split the tail down the middle to create two smaller tails. The little tails kick and have a different action and can sometimes be the ticket to getting bit on a tough bite.

    • Shawn says:

      Cool idea. I’ve done that before after a bluefish bites off a tail. I’ll certainly try it on original lures as well. Thanks.

  7. Jesse R. says:

    Shawn you should consider that the bigger fish you are seeing can be a result of your technique and preference for larger lures. I know some guides are using six and seven inch baits and they are catching plenty of fish in the twenty to thirty inch range along with a big one now and then. You and the guys you fish with have refined your method for getting big fish consistently. I’ve seen it in action twice this year and its amazing. I’m working on it and getting better but I still have a long way to go to where I can make long casts like that and still feel the bottom and bites and especially with big lures.

    • Shawn says:

      Yeah, there may be something to that, Jesse, but I still think there aren’t as many school size fish around. I think Flats season will tell us more.

      Now, I’m wondering what boat you were in when you saw us fishing!

  8. Mike W says:

    Shawn, I admire your diplomacy and thoughtful defense in responding to an inflammatory post elsewhere. I am in the camp that scented dyes and oils, at the very least, cover up our “unnatural” human scents and if they help fish key in for any other reason, all the better. I saw them work firsthand two weeks ago with my personal best, and first 40″ when the rest of the crew only had 3 fish combined with the biggest at just over 20″. Thanks for your regular posts, as a relative newbie I find them insightful and thought provoking.

    • Shawn says:

      In my “Strike Triggers” presentations I talked about 5 reasons why fish bite, and 5 reasons how they sense their prey – I have no idea how that got reduced on a mailing list to “dip your tails.” At least it gives me some insight into what people take away from my presentations. Thing is, even if that’s all they picked up, it’s still good advice as anyone who has tried it knows.

      One of the advantages of social networking is that it reveals a lot about people and it usually tells us more about who we don’t want to fish with than about who we do. Thanks for the comment, Mike.

      • H1N1 says:

        I read that. jealousy is green eyed monster.

      • Daniel says:

        so if I dip my plastics I’ll stop losing jigheads on rockpiles and current breaks…and the hooks will set themselves? -dk

  9. Mike W says:

    I saw you present “strike triggers” at Carroll County MSSA last year and it was chock full of insights, not just DYT (Dip Your Tails…maybe that’ll stick like BKD…ha ha). I find resistance to change in my line of work as well. And new thinking and technology is in all aspects of our lives. I feel that those that embrace/at least consider a different perspective or thought process are better off because it causes one to criticize their own. At the very least take what works with the new and use it to complement the tried and true. I think you apply that very well in your approach and I appreciate your sharing the knowledge. Thanks again.

  10. Eastport Sam says:

    Good stuff as usual. I learned long time ago to beware of the mailing list heroes.

  11. RiverCat09 says:

    <> That could explain why you and my buddy Norm, who has taken me under his wing and is trying to teach me music, do so well.

    Could you elaborate on “very specific presentations”? I’m assuming that you are fishing the customary drop offs near live hard bottoms. Nice article!


  12. OldEvinrude says:

    Thank you for another steller report. I heard you speak at Pasadena last year about bought your book. I need another one because I have worn the pages out.

  13. Ole River Pussy says:

    Your pages are worn,
    Their pages are stuck together.

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