In today’s technology based fishing world, it seems all too easy to get distracted staring at our electronics instead of paying attention to what the fish are telling us. There is no doubt that modern electronics are one of the most game-changing discoveries in the history of the sport, but we also need to keep in mind that good ole’ mother nature and the fish themselves can often be just as useful.
One thing I have really tried to teach myself over the years is to be extremely diligent about taking a detailed look at every fish I catch. There are several different things to look for that will give a really good indication as to what the fish are doing.
Here is a short checklist of things to look for:
Reading the Fish’s Color
The color of a fish can really tell you a lot about what they are doing. A pale, whitish bass tells you that it has been hanging out in deep water. If you catch the fish out deep, it tells you that it has been out there for a while and has lost a lot of color. If you catch it up shallow, you can assume the fish just moved up into the shallow water. Very dark colored fish are fish that are relating to grass and have much more defined markings. Once you catch a couple fish and pay attention to their color, you can get a much better idea of whether you should target shallow or deep water.
Identifying What’s on the Fish’s Belly
Another thing to look at after you catch a fish is the belly. If you see mud rubs on the belly of the fish, you can determine that they are sitting on or very close to the bottom. It’s also good practice to start feeling the fat part of their belly to see what they are feeding on. If you are fishing a tournament, fish tend to spit up some of their most recent meal in your livewell, and sometimes this can be a blessing.
Just recently, I was fishing a Tuesday evening tournament on the Ohio River and the small spotted bass we had in the livewell were spitting up big crawdads. We went back two days later with crawfish colored crankbaits and flat wore them out. They were engulfing the whole crankbait, and it seemed like every fish had both treble hooks. Attention to detail can make all the difference.
Looking at the Fish’s Nose and Throat
At some point or another, all of us have probably seen a shad tail or crawfish pincers sticking out of a fish’s throat. It is always worth a look to see if there is a tasty morsel hanging out of their throat. If you can tell what that tasty morsel is, you can match the hatch and put more fish in the boat. Every once in a while, you will see a fish that just looks beat up. Sometimes, that could be from other fish or a number of other predators. However, take a quick look at their nose and you may find it to be scratched up and beat up. If this is the case, you have a fish that is banging around the rocks looking for crawfish. Only a few ways to catch a bass that’s looking down!
Knowing About the Fish’s Tail
This is probably the most common feature of a fish that anglers pay attention to. It really pays off during the spawn and post-spawn periods. Fish will tend to get their tails beat up pretty bad from the whole spawning process. Examining a fish’s tail can help determine which phase of the spawn they are in. A beat up, bloody tail usually means a fish has just gotten done with the spawn. You can use this information to draw your own conclusions about how many fish are left shallow and how quickly they will begin the process of moving out to their summertime locations.
Every little piece of information that we gain as anglers will help us put more fish in the boat. Follow these tips and it just might help you put a few more pieces of the puzzle together!