With any fishing method, a lot of trial and error is usually required before consistent results are achieved. Adam Clancey looks at the stages of soft-baiting, from skepticism through to mastery.
As I make my way around the country, I often fish with a varied group of people – everyone from novices to real gurus. In fact, I have even seen anglers who were once in the novice ranks really making a mark for themselves as skillful anglers. On the subject of soft-baiting, I have noticed that a lot of people go through various stages when it comes to soft-bait fishing technique and tackle.
Attention to detail is very important with all styles of fishing.
The Skeptic is the first level. Soft-bait skeptics are generally pretty good at the type of fishing they do but really don’t embrace new techniques. They may buy some soft-baits and try use them in the same way they employ their tried-and-true techniques, but probably have little success. After a short time with no luck, these skeptics will rubbish soft-baiting as a “waste of time that doesn’t work.” There’s not much you can do to change their mind and skeptics are best left to their own devices.
A Convert is often a skeptic or novice who gets to go out with someone who knows the ins and outs of soft-baiting and has some success when guided through the technique. They are not quite sure why they are catching fish, but they see the tackle working and putting good fish on the boat. A convert is likely to need a lot of coaching to get them to the next level, but they are keen to learn more. They will often see that you need a different approach to fishing but if they do not continue to have success, they may revert back to their old ways.
Choosing colours is more to do with what you believe will work.
An Apprentice is the best kind of soft-baiter. They have generally come up from the convert ranks after having a few successful soft-baiting missions or after catching a personal best fish using a soft-bait. Apprentices are anglers who will want to take their fishing to the next level and will start to purchase mid-range soft baiting gear. More importantly, they will start the journey of finding out more about important aspects of soft-baiting like tying leader to braid knots, tying loop knots for jig heads and different styles of soft-baiting like deep water, wash fishing and dragging.
The Crusader can be a frustrating kind of soft-baiter. These anglers have usually mastered the basics and enjoy regular success but then become like an evangelical minister proclaiming that soft-baiting is the only way to fish.They may almost get preachy, claiming to have pioneered certain techniques, despite soft-baits having been around since the late 1940s. Little do they know that there is a lot more to the art of soft-baiting than just catching a few good fish when they are biting well. Crusaders will often blame unsuccessful days on anything but their ability to actually find the fish or present the soft-bait in a manner that will invoke a strike. Crusaders are the kind of anglers that have a go-to colour and weight of soft-bait and always fish around the same areas. Failing to catch fish is a big dent in their ego.
The right colour and correct jig head fished on the appropriate gear is what you strive to achieve.
The Tech Wizard is at an interesting level of soft-baiting as he or she has mastered all the skills required to achieve constant success in a variety of situations. Tech wizards will be able to spout the model number and brand of every top-of-the-line rod and reel combo and tell you all the features and benefits. The tech wizard’s tackle bag is usually impeccably tidy and they have every little gizmo and gadget an angler would ever need. They are often very accomplished at all forms of soft-baiting and really do excel at catching good fish. A tech wizard will often be a great person to teach a convert how to fish as they will be very good at supplying the start to finish solution. The tech wizard will know all the different rigs and likes to talk about them with great authority.
I have witnessed a few Zen Master soft-bait fishermen in my day. The Zen Master is truly accomplished and will catch fish in areas where you would not expect to find them. The Zen Master possesses skills that only come with hours of time and practice, including accurately casting so the soft-bait will fall at the right angle to suit the drift, working the soft-bait in a fish-enticing manner and being able to detect a bite even before any vibrations are sent through the line. Like a true master, the soft-baiting Zen Master is somewhat minimalist. The tackle bag will only carry the items needed for success and every part of their tackle will be functional. The soft-baits in their kit will not be a random selection of tail colours and sizes; they are strategically chosen to suit a variety of different conditions, the same applying to jigheads and leader.
‘Big bait, big fish’ works with soft-baits as well.
Zen masters will carry two soft-bait set ups: a light and heavy version. The rods will be well constructed and have guides that help reduce wind knots. They’ll be super sensitive yet powerful enough to handle really big fish. Their reels will be good quality with drags that are super smooth and filled with premium quality braid. When fishing, a Zen Master may look as if they are doing the same as everyone else but it is those subtle little changes they make that sees them hooking into fish. It can be hard to see sometimes, but those subtle differences make all the difference. The way they control their line’s and soft-bait’s descent, how they impart action on the bait, and the angle at which they hold their rod all play a part.
Next time you head out for a soft-bait, give your mind a bit of a massage, think about how you approach your soft-baiting and see if you can release the Zen Master within.
These moments are what a Zen Master visualises.
February 2022 - Adam Clancey
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
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