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Q: What is the best tactic for fishing in the spring?

- John Ludwig, Wentzville, MO

A: Sight fishing is the battle of the brains

Xray image of a human head

This is the time of the year when we celebrate the opportunity to catch spawning fish. It’s an important time for bass anglers — a limited, once-a-year opportunity. In fact, I think most bass fishermen should trade in one of their holidays from other times of the year and celebrate Spawning Day in spring or late winter, as the case may be. That would be well worth giving up a Labor Day or Presidents Day or even a Valentine’s Day if you can swing it.

Of course, there are some who don’t give love to sight fishing. The casual observer may see it as unfair, in that you are most times looking at an oversized fish that is addled by procreation and basically pinned to a spawning bed. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, of course. You could be someone like me whose eyes are ike two malfunctioning auto focus units on a cheap camera. I couldn’t see a 20-pound albino bass in three feet of gin clear water. And even if your vision is 20/5, you still can still spend days on end trying to get a single fish to bite.

In covering the the Bassmaster Elite Series, we usually have one tournament a year when sight fishing comes heavily into play. It’s fun to watch. All of those guys can sight fish and do it well. But some of them are just about supernatural at this very specialized game.

To me, it’s a battle of the brains. There’s the fish brain, which is very primitive and is set up to respond to stimuli and little else. Those fish that have inherited the ability to respond to only the quality stimuli are the ones who live long enough and eat well enough to make it to the six-pound-plus range. When they are not on beds, fulfilling the age-old purpose, they are far too wily to catch. Spawning time is more or less your only shot at them.

Then there’s the human brain, which needs a bigtime advantage because we are far too underequipped physically to even get close to catching a bass. Luckily we have something that no other critter has. It’s called the pre-frontal cortex. That’s the part of our brain that enables us to look at a situation and get an idea what the outcome might be if we did a certain thing. It’s what we used to invent the hook and line, plus a few other valuable items.

The good sight fisherman makes use of this brain tool in the chess game against a bedding bass. But the great sight fisherman uses the tool even better to win tournaments. He goes beyond the fish battle and uses that highly developed brain to do things like calculate how much time he can spend trying to catch a certain fish and also how well his competitors might be doing in similar situations. He can do this because also in his head he has a huge storage capacity for data from past experiences and the ability to access and process those files really fast.

In the end, the angler who has his advanced, human style brain hitting on all cylinders is the one who wins the trophy.

So there you have it, kids — the key is to fish hard, wear sunscreen and build up your pre-frontal cortex.  


Previous Articles by Tommy Sanders


Q: Why can't I take a banana with me when I'm fishing?

A. You said the word banana. I’m throwing you out of the magazine because you are an obvious bringer of bad luck.

Photo of a bunch of bananas

Here’s why:  200 years ago, sea captains in the tropics would occasionally bring crates of bananas on board to supplement the ship’s food supplies.  These crates would harbor the occasional snake or spider.  When the captain found a snake in his chest of drawers or a spider in his drawers, there would be hell to pay.  No more bananas on the boat. And that’s the origin of the famous banana superstition. Read More

We Lost A Lot: Remembering Jose Wejebe

Photo of Jose Wejebe

The human mind will go through some incredible contortions when it’s confronted with something it cannot and does not want to come to terms with.

It will grasp for things like disbelief, denial, and the hope that somehow what’s happening is all a bad dream from which you will soon awaken. That’s the way it felt for all of us who knew the one and only Jose Wejebe. That’s the way it still feels, a few weeks into the aftermath of his passing. We lost a lot.

We met Jose 20 years ago at an event called the S.L.A.M. tournament in Key West, Fla., a celebrity event that paired famous sports and media figures with a local saltwater guide to make up a two-person team..Read More