20 Best Fishing Tips (Part I)

When I asked┬áto think back over my fishing lifetime and come up with the best tips I’ve learned over the past 70 years that I could share with readers, I thought, “Whoo-boy, where do I begin?” There have been so many years, so many trips and learning moments. But it all came together and here they are: my picks of the most helpful gleanings from our grand sport of fishing.


After each day’s fishing, go over your “tools of the trade.” Clean and lube your reels. Check rods for fractures or worn guides. Run the last two feet of line between your lips to test for flaws, and break it off if you detect the slightest nick. Replace lost or damaged lures. And go over a checklist to be certain your boat, motors and trailer are in shipshape condition.


When the plastic worm hit the market in the early 50s, it just lolled around until a Texas fisherman came up with the idea of rigging it weedless on a single hook, with a slide-sinker for casting weight. That’s when it took off to become America’s No. 1 bass lure.

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Here’s how to make it work twice as hard and, at times, catch twice as many bass. If it does not produce in various covers, use a toothpick to peg it one foot above the lure. Fish this on a weedy bottom where the sinker can kick up sediment to catch the eye of a bass. If the worm hangs in bottom cover, keep raising the slide-sinker until only the sinker is contacting the weeds. Use a slow, rod-tip-lifting retrieve. This causes the sinker to rise and the worm darts toward bottom as if feeding.


Today’s finest rain-quits all have one shortcoming the pantlegs direct the water flow into your shoes, making for soggy feet. Take along gallon-sized plastic bags, pull one over each shoe, tuck under your pantlegs, and presto…dry feet!


Big impoundments w rivers can be 8 big puzzlement the first time you fish them. Where to begin? What to use? Do as the pros do and get a topographic map; it will show you all the points, bottom contours and levels, and deepest holes. Study it and plot your starting point for the day. Fish a different section each time you go. After a half-dozen trips you should know the nature of the lake and some dependable spots where your favorite fish hang out.


When I was young people learned to fish from relatives, a fishing buddy or on their own. It was a good but drawn-out process. Today there are many information sources available, such as this magazine, newspapers, radio and TV fishing programs, bass clubs and angling seminars. Soak up all the how-to information and species-related data you can find. The more things you try the more proficient you’ll become.


These can be some of the easiest fish to catch-or they can leave you blanked. When they are playing tough, try this: Use a No. 12 fine-wire, short-shank Aberdeen hook tied to 2-pound-test, eight-foot monofilament line with no sinker. Impale three maggots on the hook and secure the line to the tip of a 15-inch stainless wire, which can be found in a hobby shop. Bury the wire butt end in a long cork. Dunk the maggots vertically off a boat, dock or bank. Keep the bait moving slowly in small circles and watch the tip end. It is so ultrasensitive you can detect the lightest pickup by the up or down movement of the wire tip. No need to set the hook; just maintain leader tension and lead the bluegill into a small net.


Those eight “whiskers” on a catfish are actually very sensitive organs for locating food via taste/smell neuromasts. Appeal to them with this tactic: Buy a couple pounds of bloody chicken livers at your local butcher shop or grocery store. Place about a dozen in a burlap bag, which you then place inside a tough plastic bag.

Use a rolling pin to mash the livers thoroughly, then let them “age” in the sun for a few days. (for transporting, tie the plastic bag tightly to contain the smell.) Now go to the nearest catfish hole, put a rock inside the burlap bag and let the bundle sink to bottom, where it will give off scent and oils chat will bring catfish finning in for a feast. After a few hours, bait a No. 2 Eagle Claw hook with a chunk of liver and lower it close to the burlap bag. The action should be memorable.

Caution: Catfish spines are sharp and poisonous and can inflict nasty wounds. Guard against them by snipping off the dorsal and two pectoral fins.


You’re catching fish in a state that has a length minimum of 12 inches, and you have no ruler. Just reach into and extract 1$ bill, which measures 6 1/8 inches long. Then use a pen or tape to mark your rod for a quick, handy reference.


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Canepoles made fishing history and caught tons of fish. But long ones were too heavy to handle and were stiff in action. Enter modern graphite. A 12-foot pole weighs only a few ounces and is so sensitive it transmits the feel of light pickups by nibbling fish. Equip it with a 30-pound-test braided line, which has the diameter of 6-pound-test monofilament, giving it strength with less visibility. Secure a line the same length as the pole to the tip. Add a 76-ounce jig with a white curly-tail body, and you are rigged for America’s most popular sportfish, such as bluegills, crappies, catfish, trout, white bass and perch. With the 12-foot pole equal line length, and an out-stretched arm, you can reach hangouts 27 feet away. The jig can be fished from shores around ponds and lakes, wading streams and from a boat. The technique is simple: Ease the curlytail jig into every nook and cranny where-fish might hide, from top to bottom. Swim it around very slowly. When streamfishing, use the 1/16-ounce lure in slow-flowing waters. Increase the weight to a 1/4-ounce in faster flows, and keep it nudging bottom.


Ask 10 fishermen about line color and you’ll get 10 opinions. 1 once believed the least-visible line was best. But after making a fishing film for Du Pont in the crystal-clear waters of Florida’s Silver River, 1 changed my mind.

My companion used a clear line while I used a brilliant Orange/red experimental line. You could see it all the way to bottom, 15 feet down. At the end of three days, Powell had caught 35 bass to my 30. From that day I have believed that color makes very little difference in catching bass.