JACK WOLLITZ Stop and think what the fish would be saying
Creatures who live in worlds other than ours communicate in ways that may seem incomprehensible to our eyes and ears.
They may not care much whether we understand them. As a matter of fact, I'd suspect most animals would rather humans were totally oblivious to the signals they send.
But we anglers are predators and it is to our advantage to see, hear and compute the messages from our prey. Some of us are more dialed in than others when it comes to receiving and translating fishes‚ communications.
People whose survival is based on an up-close-and-personal relationship with nature have senses superiorly in tune with what other animals are telling us. Some high-level professional anglers, for instance, have learned by studying American Indian lifestyles how to develop senses that enable them to understand more about fish than average people.
Not that complicated
It pays, these anglers say, for anybody who wants to catch more to "listen" to what the fish are "saying." It's not as complicated as it may seem.
Randy Blaukat, a pro bass angler from Missouri, has worked hard to be a good listener.
"I've learned from Native Americans," he said. "They had to be completely in tune with nature or die."
Every fish we catch is talking -- not with words, of course, but by its actions.
Say you hook and fight a walleye on a crankbait trolled at a pretty fast clip in 12 feet of water. As the fish nears the net, you notice the bait is entirely within the fish's mouth.
If that fish could talk, it might be saying, "Man, I'm so starved I was willing to chase down that speeding shad and grab it before the others in my school could get to it." An observant angler can rightly conclude it is worth repeating that tactic to catch another walleye.
Now imagine you are again trolling a crankbait and get a strike. This time, however, as the fish nears the net, you are chagrined to see the big walleye is barely hooked. One tine of the back treble is stuck to the fish, which pulls free as the walleye lunges for the bottom just beyond the net's reach.
That walleye was saying, "Well, I wasn't totally convinced that hunk of plastic was worth eating. It didn't act right, but I wanted a closer look just to make sure I wasn't missing anything." If the angler is listening, he might adjust to a different lure, a variation in color or a change in speed.
Blaukat says, in fact, that the location of the lure in the fish's mouth is a good indicator to the savvy angler. Check the next time you catch a bass or a walleye and decide for yourself whether that fish wanted to eat your lure or just scare it away.
"Everything we experience -- directly or indirectly -- we need to be aware of and use as part of our information highway," Blaukat said.
Better bass anglers learn quickly about their prey's behavior simply by observing where they are positioned relative to the cover. If the bass are biting out in front of a line of flooded willows, it's a pretty good bet the fish are turned on.
But if the bass are hunkered down in the darkest shadows in dense thickets, they more than likely are taking a break and don't care to expend any energy.
Next time you have some spare moments, think about the things you noticed about your last few fishing trips. Did they whack your bait or sip at it? Were they shallow or deep? Suspended or on the bottom? Near cover or structure or nestled within it?
The answers to those questions and others you may ask yourself will go a long way to ensuring you have a better experience the next time you go fishing. Listen up and have more fun.