by Chad LaChance
As a TV Fishing Show Host and Professional Guide, I get a lot of emails filled with questions. Most often they are technique or lure related (“what’s your favorite lure for?”), sometimes they’re location related (“where can I catch a family-sized pile of”) and sometimes they’re business related (most commonly “how do I get sponsored?”). I answer all of them personally and try to match the sender’s level of courtesy and enthusiasm. You know what nobody ever asks? How can I make my fishing more enjoyable? Funny thing is, that’s really the root of why we fish, at least for sport.
I presume that when folks send those emails, that’s actually their goal, to make their fishing more productive and therefore more enjoyable, since the two go hand in hand. They’re hoping to improve the enjoyable part by being more productive with my answer. Well, I’m going to cut to the chase; you don’t even need to ask – I’ll just tell you several things that will make your fishing more productive.
Let’s look at bank anglers first; after all, there are more of you! A very easy way to make your fishing more productive from the bank – and we’ll include streamside fishing in this category – is to organize the load. What I mean is carry your tackle more efficiently. Bank fishing is a pedestrian undertaking; making your tackle easy to carry is key. My preference is a Plano Softsider Tackle Bag. Because I can easily swap out the Plano plastic boxes within it to facilitate the day’s fishing, I can carry tools in side pockets and I can sling it over my shoulder/across my chest for hands-free transport. These bags are available in a bunch of sizes to match your level of tackle addiction. Since you can now carry your stuff and fish at the same time, you can easily cover more water and you always have your stuff in reach. Another benefit of shouldering your tackle is that you can now carry more rods on your walk (which allows you to better match specific conditions) and unlike with a backpack full of tackle, you can access your stuff while it’s shouldered (think wading).
Another way to increase productivity for bank dwellers is to utilize very high quality polarized sunglasses. Let’s face it, you don’t have sonar “fish finders” on the bank, but you do have eyes and any info they can give your brain regarding cover or vegetation, bottom content, current, bug/baitfish life or fish themselves will help you. Great polarized glasses will help your eyes do their job. I wear Costa glasses with a green mirror glass lens on rivers or from the bank. They increase contrast in browns and greens while eliminating glare making those aforementioned items that are so fundamental in fishing easy to see. I consider my glasses as one of the most important tools I have, especially on running water.
I have a couple of things that will help boaters be more efficient and therefore enjoyable. One of them is an item I think every boating angler really should have on board, unless you don’t care about money; a plug retriever. I’m not talking about the retrievers that dangle from rope and are barely usable, I’m talking about Frabill’s 15’ telescoping model more akin to a golf ball retriever than fishing tool, but what a tool it is! The rigid telescoping handle allows you to reach out away from the boat if the plug is in very shallow water or up on the bank. Of course, I’d never cast into a tree, but in case you do, the retriever will prevent you from paying penance up there too.
There are very few hard plugs – which are typically some of the most expensive lures – that dive deeper than 15 feet, so you can get almost all of them back from bottom snags. When I look back over a season of guiding, I can’t tell you how many times Frabill’s retriever has saved our lures, but suffice it to say it has paid for itself dozens of times over. It collapses, stays on the boat deck and is easy reach anytime we’re fishing jerkbaits, crankbaits, etc. Want to be more productive? Don’t donate lures to the lake when you can easily get them back!
Speaking of Frabill, consider their Conservation Series of nets whether you bank or boat fish. What makes these nets cool is that they have a flat bottom that allows the fish freedom of movement while in the net. This allows the fish to move and breathe while you “rest” them in the water as you remove the hook and/or ready your camera. These nets really excel at reviving tired fish; you can hold them in the water and let them relax rather than the old school tail hold method or having them bound up in the netting. Conservation Series netting is coated to preserve the fish’s slime coat and they’re offered in a huge range of styles and sizes to fit your needs, including some that are very treble-hook friendly. There’s even a couple sizes with folding hoops for easy storage. These nets may not improve your catching directly, but they will minimize your impact and speed fish handling as well.
The last thing I’ll toss out is to carry a pocket multi-tool (originally made popular by the Leatherman) in your tackle. I never used to carry one. Then I tired of either searching for a tool or not having it at all and I bought a Berkley model. I use it all the time for everything from reel repair, to (gasp) removing “birdsnests”, to who knows what else. I keep it handy and it keeps me fishing.
Nobody ever asks about tackle transport, sunglasses, plug retrievers or tools, but I venture that if you did consider these items the way you do other aspects of fishing gear, you could indeed increase your productivity. And I promise you that watching a fish swim around in your net just prior to release will make you enjoy it more, too!