Everyone has secrets. But good anglers, it seems, keep more than their fair share.
The friendly competitive nature of fishing makes it so. Every fisherman wants to “one-up” his buddies in the catching department, so when a great fish-catching tactic is discovered, the angler keeps it confidential.
My Uncle Guy was one such fisherman. He hung out at the pool hall, where the men had a weekly pot for the biggest and most crappie. Often as not, my uncle won that money.
I fished with Uncle Guy many times on the east Arkansas lakes he loved, and was surprised one morning when he asked me to take an oath of secrecy.
“I’m going to show you how I catch all those big crappie,” he said. “But you have to swear as long as I’m still breathing, you won’t tell another soul.”
His secret was simple, but its effectiveness was astounding.
When he caught the day’s first crappie, he pulled out a dinner spoon and scaled the fish over a coffee can. He then added enough water to keep the scales moist. Every so often, he’d take a big pinch of scales and toss them near a bush or treetop. Then he’d drop his minnow-baited hook in the spot where he’d pitched the scales.
I can’t say for sure why it worked, but something about those sparkly scales fluttering through the water was irresistible to those crappie. They’d rush straight toward the cloud of scales and gobble up our minnows. He called this method of fishing “scaling.”
Had my uncle possessed the secret formula for Coca-Cola, he would have shared it quicker than that crappie secret. And true to my word, I never told a soul until after my uncle died.
Anglers possess many secrets like that. Everyone has moments of weakness, however, and occasionally, someone lets his guard down and spills his guts. Should you desire to hasten the process of revelation, a special gift, cash or a bottle of branch water shared by a campfire works wonders for loosening tongues.
Forthwith, a few fishing secrets thus obtained.
An old friend taught me this recipe for a great inexpensive bait that will catch eating-size channel catfish better than almost anything. Buy a package of cheap hot dogs. Cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put the pieces in a zip-seal plastic bag. Add 2 or 3 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic and one package of unsweetened strawberry Kool-Aid. Add enough water to fill the bag, zip shut, and refrigerate overnight. Put a piece of hot dog on your hook when you’re ready to fish; then hang on. You’ll have cats chasing dogs in no time!
Here’s another catfishing secret. Put a small square of sponge on a treble hook. Then soak the sponge in anise extract, and cast it out. Catfish love the taste and aroma of this licorice-flavored liquid, and if they’re hungry, you’ll soon have one hooked.
I got this tip from an old gray-headed bream aficionado who always seemed to catch more bluegills than me. When I finally convinced him to share his secret, I thought at first he was joking. “Add a piece of
banana peel to the cage you keep your crickets in,” he said. “This gives the crickets a flavor and aroma that bluegills find irresistible.” I tried it. It works. Try it yourself, and see.
During warm weather, night fishing often produces more bass. And some of the best night-fishing lures are topwater crawlers like the Arbogast Jitterbug and Heddon Crazy Crawler. You’ll catch a lot of lunker largemouths and smallmouths by just casting and retrieving a crawler. But you’ll probably miss a lot of fish that swirl at your lure but don’t get hooked. A friend showed me a way to remedy that on a bassing-with-the-bats trip several years ago. One angler casts a crawler and starts retrieving. His fishing buddy casts behind him and works his crawler just behind the front runner. A bass that swirls at the front lure and misses will strike harder at the second lure and get hooked. Rotate positions
occasionally so both fishermen get in on the action.
A friend who owns a trout dock on the Little Red River taught me years ago that some of the best baits for trout are the larvae of bee moths. Fishermen call them waxworms, and they are frequently sold at docks and bait shops. Impale three or four of these waxy-colored grubs on a fine-wire hook, and leave the ends wiggling enticingly. Then squish a miniature marshmallow on your line just above the hook. The marshmallow serves as a float. The waxworms are now buoyant. Trout can see them. And you’ll catch the trout.