Cast after cast go unrewarded, you feel like you’re in the right spot, so when is it time to change baits? This is a question that haunts the newest of kayak anglers. You have a box full of baits that are supposed to catch fish but it seems like the bass have abandon your “honey hole.” Understanding the fish that you are trying to fool goes along way as to set the hook on a few fish. The senses of many creatures are the best clues to solve the puzzle of how to convince the fish to strike. There is a sequential order of occurrences that bring the bass to the bait.
Equipped with a diminished sense of smell and not too dependent on taste, all the bass species rely more on hearing, vibration and an acute sense of eyesight. The ability of a bass to hone in on the smell of food source is minimized by the fact that they don’t depend on the olfactory sense of smell because it doesn’t even start to develop until after they reach five years of age. As far as taste they’re more likely to reject something because of a foul flavor then use it to feed. A glance at the physical characteristics of a bass goes a long way as to appealing to the remaining senses. A pronounced lateral line is utilized for sensing vibration and movement in the water. This is a help in the search for food. Hearing is a key but can be as much a deterrent as a plus. Negative experiences with the sound of lures, trolling motors and outboards may send fish into a “hunker down” mode. Most critical is the visual appeal that helps fish identify food sources. With large eyes set on either side of the head that offers 270 degrees out of a possible 360 degree full range of sight. The bass’ eyes are capable of differentiating between distinct colors and also a high degree of depth perception. That’s a roundup of making sense of senses.
Here’s a common sense approach that has for seasons produced for me. Regardless of the size or type of water you are paddling I start with the quietest lures that I have tied on. The point of this is if the bass are spooky because of clear water, over exposure to other anglers or it’s a small water environment they are much less likely to be disturbed by the soft fall, quiet entry of a plastic worm or a jig than they are a big noisy bait. The soft plastic baits work well even when the bass are in a negative or neutral feeding mood. So say the first few casts don’t produce, take the level up by tossing the next subtle sensory type lure. In my case that would most likely be a spinnerbait. On retrieve the spinners displace water, the arm of the bait sends out vibration waves but impart a minimum of sound. In dirty water the fish’s lateral line now comes into play as does the shine thrown by the metal blades, these give the look of a frightened or fleeing baitfish.
Still no takers? Let’s get crankin’. A crankbait with a square bill for shallow water and heavy cover, or an oval billed bait for deeper fish or maybe the lipless rattling baits that work well in colder water temperatures. Cast to cover that goes from shoreline objects to off shore holding spots the cranking lures produce and give off sound as well as vibration but again the eye appeal seals the deal. The cranking category of lures does well when fish are schooled up or suspended in deeper spots. Typically this is the case after the spring time spawn and well into the summer. Okay, time to make some noise, bring out the big guns, time for topwater “plugs” those being buzzers, chuggers, poppers and side to side dog walkers. The wild surface disturbance is often the last ditch effort in bring the bass out of hiding and having them try to destroy your bait. They haven’t been spooked by the previous lures and now you swing for the fences. This is often when the biggest bass exhibits an aggressive hit and the most memorable battles.
The plus for us paddlers is the built in quiet approach, positioning and silent drift of the kayak. Going from quiet to crazy is highly effective on all species of bass and even other game fish. When all else fails sometimes you just have to disturb the peace.