Going Against the Grain

There are good fishermen and there are great fishermen, and there are those who rarely catch anything and say, “Oh look a pretty sunset.” (photo snap) These are the folks who pride themselves on beauty shots instead of bass shots. To be a great angler sometimes you have to go against the grain, buck the conventional wisdom and blaze your own trail to bass. The world of bass fishing is loaded with information that without question will lead you to a few fish, but if you want to get your “string stretched” think outside the tackle box.


Faced with new water generally means the nervous caster will stare at an electronic device hoping for the answer. Common sense will send you to traditional spots. Armed with the information that largemouth bass are object oriented and smallmouths relate to deep water most people want to run the shoreline in search of a few fish. Most of the time I opt for secondary cover for largemouth. It’s been my experience that big bass will use secondary structure to make trips to shallow water to feed and then retreat to secondary objects. This also allows them to migrate quickly to deep water during drastic weather and water changes or seasonal migration. This theory also lends itself to energy economics, the fish doesn’t expend excess energy making the longer trips.


One natural advantage to kayak fishing was limited range that forced you to thoroughly work the water. With the culture switch acceptance of electric style motors and pedal power now some have joined to create the race to be there first. Reality is if you get there faster but don’t know what to do once you arrive there seems little benefit to speeding.
Bait choices and presentations are where the widest range of going against the grain exist. I remember years ago watching a famous fisherman rigging up a root beer colored small straight tail worm to fish the tanic acid stained waters of a Florida lake. As the bait entered the water it seemed to me that it disappeared in the murky water. When I asked my Florida friend he explained that the subtlety of the bait was the key to fooling fish on this lake. He was right! Subtlety can be achieved though color, size sound (or lack of it) and retrieve speed. Ask the top notch fishermen about muddy water and most likely you’ll get schooled about using black or darker shades of baits and working your lures around heavy cover. Sometimes the fish in those places will be set up below the mudline and can be caught using smaller deep diving crankbaits or Carolina rigs. Typical? No. When throwing buzzbaits, one of my favorite BIG bass baits, I pick the size of the bait and more accurately the blade by the amount of wind on the water that day. The more wind and surface chop the bigger the blade I use. Where others pitch jigs with rattles I shy away from noisy jigs and prefer to go silent.


Sometimes its observation skills that will bring more bass to your grip. When I spot schools of shad after my initial cast to the school my next cast goes to the deeper waters. The reason, I’ve never seen shad schooled up that don’t either go deeper when you cast at them or head for the middle or both. When retrieving a spinnerbait try to use a more erratic retrieve, a stop and go or kill it next to cover. A steady retrieve will catch fish, an erratic retrieve will catch trophies.
Much of this mind set comes from my intention to target BIG bass. Even in traditional bass tournaments many competitors went out to get their five fish limit and then seek out the “kicker” fish. I always set my sights on the big bass first, the legal twelve to fifteen inch fish are easier to find then the five plus pounders. My view, I’d rather catch A FIVE, then five.


Following the leader just means you’re being lead to fish certain baits, a certain way, in certain places. To catch more big bass sometimes you have to go against the grain.

Comments on “Going Against the Grain”

  1. Tim Witzigreuter
    September 2, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Another great and informative article by a legend. “Going against the grain” reminded me of how I sometimes approach the bite. I call it old school. Lots of fishermen seem to be throwing the latest and greatest baits and I think the fish become aware and shy away. Joey’s tips and tricks are always put in my memory bank for those finicky reluctant fish. Thanks for another great article and reminder.

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