Iíve always been one to question the accepted principles, especially when they apply to fishing. Maybe itís a generational thing, I donít know, but Iíve never been one to go along with the norm based on a bunch of fish psychology.
A case in point: I was recently intrigued Ė flabbergasted, really Ė by a hardcore fishing podcast that discussed the merits and flaws of fluorocarbon line. A podcast, of all things. But this one was based on hard evidence as tested by an impartial panel and the results werenít what Iím led to believe.
More on that in a minute. I come to pose a question in principle: How many of us are basing much of our bass fishing on the supposed knowledge of other experts? A look to the past may prove quite enlightening; even embarrassing.
Letís start with recent happenings. Not long ago, red hooks were all the rage. I vividly remember nearly every competitor in the Bassmaster Classic utilizing red hooks on crankbaits less than a decade ago. They took the industry by storm.
Yet, out of the 362 returned entries when searching ďcrankbaitĒ today on the Bass Pro Shops site, less than 5 percent feature colored treble hooks. The few that did were nearly all intended for species other than bass. What happened?
Sounds and ďhydrodynamicsĒ continue to intrigue us, as well. I recently found a Bassmaster Magazine ad from 1976 that promoted sound-emitting devices in lures, a concept still being tossed around today. Yet, 40-plus years later, the theory struggles to take hold. I wonder why.
Letís dig a little deeper. Raise your hand is you still use pork. I bet you millennials donít even know what Iím talking about. Iíll try to explain this without sounding foolish: In the not-so-distant past, it was accepted knowledge that pork rinds Ė hard, lifeless slabs of pig skin Ė were more natural when used as jig trailers than soft plastics. But only in cold water.
Somewhere, somebody convinced someone that a slab of pig fat was lifelike in water as cold as ice, and that became gospel. The fact remains that both the pork and the plastic caught fish, and still would today in any water temperature.
How about lizards? At one time, these were the ONLY bait to flip and pitch around the spawn. Bass hate lizards, we were told, and will go to any extreme to rid the lake of them.
Now Iíve seen a lot of critters, spending as much time as I do on the water. Iíve caught giant mud puppies below the ice and captured creek salamanders as a kid. And Iíve never seen a lizard of any kind while bass fishing, or in the throat or stomach of a bass, many of which I used to fillet. But I cannot discount the effectiveness of that olí six-inch Zoom Lizard in green-pumpkin, the tail dipped chartreuse, of course.
More on lure colors. Weíre told that dark colors are best in dark water. But why? Have you ever compared a bright white plastic lure to a black version in muddy water? The white is vastly more visible. Iím told itís a silhouette thing Ö
I remember being taught early on that suspended bass were impossible to catch. The reason was linked to their swim bladders. When a fish is at a chosen water depth, the compression on their body is a given amount and variations in that compression could kill the fish.
I remember thinking how strange that idea seemed when I first hooked a smallmouth 60 feet down, and five seconds later, it jumped. And in todayís game of educated, electronic anglers, suspended bass are caught as easily as those hugging the bottom, often easier.
Back to our opener. While I spend very little time listening to online radio shows, I needed something besides bad news recently and I stumbled on a fishing line debate started by Salt Strong Fishing. This group prides itself on independence. The principle behind the programming is to enlighten listeners on productive fishing methods and equipment, and to do so without the burden, or bias, of advertisers.
Working from this concept, the group performed a number of tests on fluorocarbon fishing line to see if it lived up to lofty claims by line manufacturers.
In a nutshell, the podcast informed me that, when compared to a popular, inexpensive nylon monofilament brand, fluorocarbon line was inferior in knot strength and abrasion resistance (dozens of tests were performed), and appeared just as visible as the mono underwater, in a variety of conditions.
Another surprise: Lines marketed as fluoro ďleaderĒ performed identically to lines coming from bulk spools. Yet they cost twice as much.
Donít shoot the messenger; Iím just reporting back what I heard. However, on a personal level, I will say that I rarely use fluorocarbon leaders when fishing for giant bass, as heavy mono does a better job for my needs. And many of my saltwater buddies gave up on carbon long ago for wresting up big snapper and grouper, as knots are a pain.
In know, Iím rocking the boat. But why not? The real key to fishing is developing and mastering our own sets of principles. To do so, itís important to occasionally step back and think a bit for ourselves.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)