"VERSATILITY KEY TO FISHING SUCCESS" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton Sometimes its the little, subtle changes we make in our fishing tactics that lead to success. Bill Dance, Americas Favorite Fisherman, is a regular on my weekly radio show and during a recent interview, he commented about how staying versatile and adapting to ever changing conditions has helped him catch fish on many occasions. I remember pre fishing a tournament on Sam Rayburn back in the seventies. The Texas rigged plastic worm pattern was holding steady and just about everyone was throwing 6 inch worms, and catching fish. On the day of the tournament, I noticed the bite had slowed, big time. Something was wrong and I began experimenting with everything from shallow diving crank baits to topwaters. Then, I downsized the Texas rig to a 4 inch worm and wound up winning the tournament. Sometimes just a little change is all it takes to continue catching fish. says Dance. Just last week, I joined Cedar Creek guide Jason Barber for a few hours of fishing for hybrid stripers, white bass and catfish and watched Barber tweek our tactics throughout the fishing trip. Jason fished the BASS circuit and Im sure he learned the importance of changing and adapting to conditions during his days of competitive fishing. I drove down the night before and spent the night in a comfortable room at Big Chief Landing. At first light, we were on the water, heading to a submerged hump that Barber says had been providing a good early morning white bass top water bite. Jason followed his GPS coordinates to the hump and shut the big engine down. I noticed an occasional shad breaking the surface but no accompanying swirls of surface feeding white bass. No need for top water baits here, says Barber, take a look at this graph, the fish are suspending just below that big ball of shad, just under the boat. They will probably go for a white or chartreuse slab, though." We switched from top waters to lead slabs and began vertical jigging the baits below the boat. After a couple minutes fishing with no strikes, Jason began making long casts and pumping the bait up off bottom, then allowing it to fall. He quickly boated a couple of heavy white bass and I changed to his technique and followed suit by getting a strike on three consecutive casts. The subtle change from vertical jigging to hopping the baits along bottom make the difference. Granted, jigging the baits under the boat was the ticket on previous trips but, for whatever reason, and there WAS a reason, the fish wanted baits bouncing near bottom this morning. The fun and challenging aspect of fishing is attempting to decipher exactly WHY fish do what they do. Most of the fish we were catching near bottom were larger white bass. Could it be the bigger fish were laying below the cloud of bait and picking up injured shad that drifted to bottom? Could our hopping bait presentation have tricked them into thinking our lead slabs were darting shad, separated from the school and easier to catch? Photo by Luke Clayton After boating plenty of white bass for an upcoming fish fry, Barber announced it was time to go prospecting for some of the lakes plentiful hybrid stripers. I know several areas where these hard fighters hang out. Well graph a couple of areas and see if we can mark them. Trolling deep diving crank baits (DD22s) has been the most productive method of catching them. Jasons sonar lit up like a Christmas tree when we approached an isolated hump, not far from a deep creek channel. See all those big inverted Vs hanging on the side of the hump, says Barber, just below the baitfish? Thats hybrids and they are stacked vertically, in a feeding mode. They should go for one of these 1.5 ounce slabs, worked vertically and allowed to flutter back down to bottom, I said as we both studies the graph. Probably not, but its worth a quick try. he said as we quickly tied on the bigger chartreuse slabs. It quickly became obvious the fish werent interested in the slabs. We vertical jigged, then cast and hopped the baits near bottom. The hybrids simply werent interested. Jason tossed out a marker buoy and once we drifted out of the fish, he started the big engine and we made a big circle, downwind of the school of fish. I began replacing the slabs with a couple of deep diving crank baits and we soon had them down, trolling at about 2.5 to 3 miles per hour, 15 feet below the surface. Have you ever pulled a DD22 through the water close to the surface and watched the wiggling action? These things are absolutely lethal for catching suspended fish or fish holding close to bottom in water 20 feet or less. Tying a little spoon trailer 3 to 5 feet below these crank baits has become the craze, says Barber, but why make things more complicated than they have to be? These crank baits will do the trick without the added time, and expensive of adding another trailer lure. That fact became crystal clear when my rod bowed heavily toward the surface and I thought I had hooked a log. The log began making long runs in the typical, bulldoggish style of the hybrid striper. We proceeded to pull several hybrids from that school and Im convinced the fast moving trolled crank bait was the reason for our success. Who know why this pattern really entices strikes from the hybrids, but could it be the fact that the fish think the shad is quickly moving out of their strike zone and they had better catch it while they can? Cant say for sure but its as likely a solution as any to just why the fish will hit a fast moving bait but snub their noses at a slab or spoon. A few catfish fillets would be well received at our fish fry and Jason knew just the spot for catching fryer size channel catfish in the 1.5 to 3 pound range. Theres a shallow flat about 4 feet deep just out from that little island. We should be able to catch plenty of catfish." I had a bucket of Magic Baits new STICK IT punch bait and we promptly had the catfish attracting concoction on #6 treble hooks on short Carolina rigs near bottom. We picked up a few fish but missed more than we caught. Lets fish this bait under floaters in the shallow water, should be able to detect the strikes better. Instructed Barber. Sure enough, we instantly began putting fish in the boat. Sometimes the only indication of a strike would be the slight wobble of the floater. Again, being versatile and adapting to changing conditions had paid off. Dont be afraid to change tactics when fishing, especially when the standard pattern isnt getting your line stretched! Contact guide Jason Barber through his web site (www.kingscreekadventures.com), or call 903-603-2047. For lodging while fishing at Cedar Creek, contact Big Chief Landing (903-887-7480) or www.bigchieflanding.com. Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton Radio at www.catfishradio.com. Check out lukeshotspots.com for current fishing and hunting videos.