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Think like a fish

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Many an eager fisherman’s approach to fishing is to simply chuck his lure out there and hope to catch a fish, and it is thought that catching a fish or even a big one is luck. I call this "chuck & hope", and it is my belief that whilst one can get a lucky fish, it was only because unknowingly you put the right lure in the right place at the right time and in the right way.

There should be a technical or scientific approach to the way you target fish.

Hopefully you will have a better understanding of what to look for and what to throw when and where. This subject could fill a whole book; so I am only going to write a series that will allow you to think about what you are doing, and apply some thought and logic to your fishing, which in turn will hopefully allow you to catch fish more regularly and consistently, rather than by luck.

There are many factors that influence fish feeding behaviour, and so each and every day would provide a set of new challenges as no two days are alike.

Mostly, fish think about food all day, and all night, it is programmed in their DNA and so instinct to them and so it goes without saying that Fish will behave in a certain manner instinctively. This means that you need to learn about what Fish eat, learn about how what he eats behaves, where it lives, when and where is breeds and so on, because where you find the Fish’s food, there you will find Fish also.

If you understand the instinctive behaviour of fish, you will find that it will respond to a lure in an instinctive way, we call this a reaction bite which is usually triggered by something very simple like a specific movement of a lure, a specific colour, or coloured area on the lure, or even a spot, eye colour, or contrast colours and so on.

I have found that many a person is falsely under the impression that the fish are being fooled into an exact imitation of their food source, which can also be the case under certain circumstances, but the reality is that they are actually being triggered by their natural instinct to react to a specific item that they are tuned into. Most animal behaviour is like this, and they instinctively know some things without ever having to learn them, it is after all already pre-programmed in their DNA.

We have a pet Macaw at home, and raised her up from a baby, and so she is completely human imprinted and has never been influenced by another Macaw. Yet she knows what a snake is, she knows what a bird of prey is, not only what they look like, but even their sounds, and she knows that they are danger. We never taught her that. She behaves in certain ways; that all Macaws I have seen behave in exactly the same way. Why? It is because she is programmed that way. Exactly the same goes for Fish, they will behave in certain ways because they are Fish.

Most lures on the market are focused towards this reaction, and so will imitate and even enlarge the trigger. Bait fish, crustaceans, and many other food sources that Fish feed on are masters at camouflage and so when you go under the water you need to really look more than twice to start seeing what is actually going on, and in the end what you will find is that what you see is only a small portion of the food source.

Bait fish for example can almost become invisible in the water and when you see them you usually only see a part of them, it could just be a flash, or the eyes, or a certain marking, colour or line and once your eyes and brain get accustomed to this you will start to notice more and more what is around you, and learn to see what you are looking for by identifying certain characteristics, which are the triggers that will initiate the reaction of the Fish.

Some bait fish go into certain breeding colours, and the fish will hone into this colour and all you need is a lure that will imitate the same colour shape and movement of that hot spot on the bait fish.

I was asked once why fish go for chartreuse lures, when you get no chartreuse fish. The answer is easy; most fish have chartreuse in them on their scales depending on what angle the sun shines on them, and so they will flash in the water, and so the chartreuse lure is merely exaggerating that colour only and not the whole fish, thereby setting off the instinctive behaviour of the Fish. This kind of bright colour works extremely well in turbid water, where as in clearer water you will need to be more subtle, like perhaps just a small stripe or dot. Many crank baits and jerk baits for example have a red spot under the "chin" which is supposed to represent the gills, and is most definitely a trigger for Fish. Some lures may even represent a bleeding fish, and many have two tone colours.

That is why some lure work on some days, and others work on other days.

Most bait fish are darker on top, and lighter underneath, which is why two tone lures work so well, as this is part of the bait fish’s camouflage. Many Bait fish will have a stripe over their eyes to hide them, and some will even have a spot on their tail to represent a false eye.

In my opinion, the form and movement of your lure is everything, the colour and size will be of secondary importance, and then come feel, sound and lastly smell.

The form, which is the shape and size of your lure is a very important factor, and you need to consider what you are trying to represent, and do not forget that what you may be trying to represent may only be a part, or an exaggeration of a trigger. For example think about the size of the bait fish around, then check to see if they are isolated or swimming in schools. These are very important factors to consider as if the bait fish are isolated from each other then you would need to have your size and trigger exactly the same as the bait fish. If they are swimming in schools, then you need to make something about your presentation slightly different.

Why? Think about humans, if I handed you an orange you would take it and eat it, but if I passed you a bowl of oranges then you would select one, maybe the biggest, the roundest, the best colour, but you would spend some time if even only a moment thinking about your choice. Fish are the same, suddenly they come across a school of bait fish, and then they have trouble deciding which one to select, but if there was one standing out a little from the school, then he would most likely go for that fish (your lure).

The difference could be size, colour or even movement like an injured fish for example.

The movement of you lure includes the speed at which is moves, the way it moves, and what it does when it pauses. The movement is very important, as this is a common trigger; watch and see how insects and baitfish move in the water, sometimes they even stand still, sometimes they dart and stop, and then dart again. Find out at what depth the food source is located, as that is where you need to have your lure.

An outdoors person who loves, respects, admires nature and God’s creation with a passion, Mike has been fishing since the age of 7yrs old where he started in Durban harbour. Mike is in his sanctuary when out on the water surrounded by nature, away from the hustle and bustle. Visit his web site at


Colours that you see on the surface, will look different in the water and change as you go deeper and there is less sun for the colour to show, colours like red will disappear completely and actually become invisible, where as purples will hold their colour much deeper, check the depth and colour spectrum. Some colours will cause an instinctive reaction from Fish in certain seasons; others must match the colour of the bottom, like a green worm in green grass and so on. Predator fish are not colour blind, they can see colour very well. Colours can also be exaggerated, like a bright colour in turbid water.

Lures that feel like the real thing will get the Fish to hold on longer and fool their sense of touch, other lures like crank baits will instantly feel foreign to them and they will immediately try to get it loose.

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