Fries my brain - blanking when there's actually a stack of fish in front of you
Wow has this been playing on my mind since I got back from Ireland the other day - and nope, it's not the fact that on one particular session we all blanked. No, I can accept that, indeed I would imagine that blanking must happen occasionally to even the best anglers out there - what has been frying my brain big time is the fact that we all blanked yet there were a heap of bass in front of us, and I can't help but wonder how many times this actually happens. You blank, but there were in fact a few fish around.
But how do I know that there were in fact a stack of bass in front of us, and why on earth didn't we catch some of them? We watched as a sport fishing boat drifted up and down almost where we were casting, and I think on every drift at least one of the anglers on that boat hooked into a bass - while we stood there like a bunch of lemons, up to our tits in water and wrenching arms from sockets as we cast again and again but to no sodding avail. If there had been no boat there then we'd have taken the blank on the chin with something along the lines of "weird how we have been catching bass there for much of the week but on this particular day they did a disappearing act" - but you can't do that when you seeing all those bass being caught right in front of you, and holy frigging cow has this rammed a number of things home to me. It's made me really think about what we might have done differently.
First off I think we had all fallen into the trap of having caught a bunch of bass there by bumping Fiiish Black Minnows in the current that week (and we often do catch on these kinds of lures at that spot), and therefore we were all carrying Black Minnows and little else with us. I know I did this. I've hammered fish there by casting out, letting the Black Minnow hit the bottom, and then fishing it with a controlled sink and draw, but not on that day - and we found out later that the lads on the boat had been freelining small live mackerel. I am surmising from this that the bass were pretty much preoccupied with the plague proportions of mackerel, as indeed you would expect with all that food around, and as much as we have killed by fishing on the bottom there before, it is my understanding that bass chasing mackerel are not doing so on the bottom.
Match the hatch - which we didn't do, indeed it was one of those cases that when you've finished fishing (blanking), you then think of about a hundred things you might have done differently. In the grand scheme of things it matters not that we blanked, but it's the fact that we didn't even hook one single fish when there were in fact so many of them around, that's what does me in. I know that after my next blank session (who, me?), it's going to linger with me that either there were actually some potentially interested fish around and I simply wasn't good enough to catch them, or was the particular place I was fishing truly devoid of any fish? At times there are of course fish around that simply aren't interested in feeding, but at some time they're going to switch on, or move on and feed elsewhere. Right place right time as per usual.
In some respects this is fishing through and through, but with lure fishing especially we can carry a fair amount of options pretty easily. I think back to that blank session in Ireland and what I know now about how the bass were feeding, and I think about dead-drifting big senko type soft plastics in the current - letting them drop through the water column with the odd twitch etc. How about a pure mackerel imitation like that MegaBass Zonk colour which came out recently? How about the blue-back Black Minnow with a Shallow head on that means the lure's going to drop slower through the water column? How about slowly working a surface lure across the current? Live baiting would of course be an option, but for where we were, I think that's best left to the boat angler.
Sure, it fries my brain that we blanked while there were so many fish in front of us, and it makes me look at myself as an angler and how I might be better prepared next time with at least a small selection of lures other than the ones that have historically worked so well for me there. It might be the case that next time I fish there, bumping Black Minnows slays once more because the mackerel are no longer around, but it's my fault for not carrying extra lures when to be honest I usually do - and as I said the other day, if it doesn't fit in this contraption here then it doesn't come with me.
There will always be a part of me though that can't help but sit back and smile about what happened to us, because for all that we think we know or learn, for all the wonderful fishing tackle we can get our hands on, and for all the good information that is so freely available to us, fishing is still about trying to get one up on Mother Nature - and at the end of the day we're going to fail sometimes. On the one hand it bugs me that we could possibly have caught a heap of bass - or were they only going to hit live mackerel regardless? - but on the other hand I can't help but feel that we need that kicking from time to time to keep us grounded and striving to get better at fishing. Surely that's a good thing? Have a good weekend and may you be in a position to catch the fish that might actually be there in front of you..........