Wednesday, July 23, 2008

With the Right Tools, Fear Is Not a Factor

I have a confession to make. The touch of a wiggling fish against my thumb or any digit of my hand used to creep me out. Don’t get me wrong; I landed them, but in the past you would have caught me on any given day holding a taunt line staring down at an acrobatic fish doing better somersaults than any circus de soleil performer I had ever seen. It just took me a bit more time to remove the hook. However, when I watched Roland Martin or Bill Dance, who have to be 50+, boldly “lip” a Large Mouth bass just as easily as my grandmother would pinch my cheeks, something within me would awaken. After watching these seasoned veterans of the sport gracefully handle fish, I would hear a voice from inside say “You can do it!” Fast forward a couple years to the present, and I realize that I can. It just takes the right tool. A main tool of my fishing gear is a “fish lipper”. It is a great way to not only avoid touching a game fish directly (if you have issues like me), but this lipper also protects the fish as well.

As I recently discovered, bass and other fish have a protective slimy coat that protects them in the water from bacteria and other potentially harmful organisms. If handled incorrectly, this coat could be removed, which could bring danger to the fish. Now, this would be no problem if you were keeping the fish, but if you plan on fishing any of the NYC public lakes, be advised that the lakes enforce a strict catch and release policy. A lipper comes in very handy.

Another tool that no fisherman should go without is a reliable pair of pliers. These serve as line cutters, hook removers and bait augmenters on every occasion. Fishing without this tool can be very irritating. If you thought I had a problem lipping a Large Mouth, imagine me trying to remove a hook from that fish’s mouth while lipping it. It’s not a pretty site.

There are many tools on the market for aspiring fisherman. Some are necessary while others are not. If you plan on fishing NYC lakes, I recommend a good lipper and pliers; they will save you time and discomfort.

Tight Lines!

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Casting the Shade: Fishing Techniques for Enticing Bass in Cover

If casting is an art form, I am the equivalent of a giggling five year old stabbing my fingers into paint. I suck. And I play at it. It was not until I walked the shore of Prospect Park Lake that I realized the beauty in the arc of fishing line being swung at its limit or appreciated the silent whipping sound of fishing line cutting through air on the way to its target. Standing there, spell bound, I watched these great fishermen constantly recreate these works of art, and I realized that great casting is not simply how far you can throw, but it is something much more personal. Okay. I have my lure of choice, which is in this case a Senko plastic worm. It is rigged Texas style (see 7/20 post), and I have found a perfect target for this sunny and hot day, the shade. All I have left to do is cast to the spot, right? Wrong, there are many different ways to cast your lure. There is the overhead cast, the side cast, the underhand cast and the skip cast just to name a few, and the World Wide Web is filled with many well written tutorials to help you learn them.

However, as an avid surfer of fishing techniques on the web, I would like to suggest to you that knowing how to execute these casts is way different then mastering them, and no other target area, in my opinion, demonstrates this than shade and cover.

Cover may be any type of organic or inorganic structure that provides shade and security slightly above or in the water, and the best lakes have plenty and different types when it comes to bass fishing. Take the two pictures in the article. They are but two different types of the many different structure areas found in Prospect Park Lake in Brooklyn, NY.

Now let’s analyze the picture on the right. I uncovered this nice shady area around 3:30 pm on a very sunny and sultry day. I approached the shore quietly, checked my worm to see if the hook was hidden and I executed a side cast to the very tip of the shade, and I was happy. Or at least I was happy until the 25th time when I once again did not feel the nibble of a bass. I moved on.

An hour later I came back to the same shore line, and I encountered another gentleman there. He was older and more quiet then his young counterparts in the park who are eager to question “have you caught any?” a million times. He simply smiled and with one motion retrieved his snaking fishing line and lure to his hand out of the water and skip cast his bait with just enough angle and bounce that it dug deep beneath a hanging fan of weeds to the real shade. And I would have been more surprised, but I was still trying to figure out how he was able to muster such a swing, and whip of his line without taking a chunk of my face with it. I was that close. He sighed, waited and repeated the procedure again. I just enjoyed it; he seemed to enjoy the cast himself. He must have cast a million times to perfect that swing and control. Somewhere around the third cast his line zigged and then zagged, and he brought in a nice two pounder, and we both continued to smile.

First, I’ve since read up on techniques about skip casting and realized that there are variations to anything taught, and secondly, I’ve learned to become a more patient and observant caster, taking pride in the procedure and process and not just the fighting of a fish as a reward.

Tight Lines

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Looking for the Bite: A Common Sense Approach to Locating Large Mouths

This past weekend the local fishing lake hosted an annual fishing contest for children to the age of sixteen. It’s called the Macy’s Annual Fishing Contest and it takes place every year mid July. I and every fisherman I know try to avoid Prospect Park lake during this time every year. Our common sense tells us to avoid the crowd. Where there are more fishing poles there will be less of a chance to hook into that dream fish. Well as I accidentally learned this past Saturday, fish take this commonsense approach to seeking comfort as well.
Stressed by the monotonous chores a Saturday morning could bring to any house hold, I decided to seek refuge on the shores of Prospect Park with my trusty fishing pole. I must have been really irritated and frustrated at home because when I arrived at the lake it was 10:00 am, the sun was beating almost every piece of shore line in view and the Macy’s Annual Fishing Contest attendees and their children were running around with bamboo poles. I came on, potentially, the worse day of the year, so without even dropping my line I decided to walk around the park. I saw the crowd by the boat house on the lake and went the other way. There was too much noise. I walked a little farther in the park and saw several spots to fish along the shore line that were empty, some with shade and others with out. Which of these areas do you think I chose? The sun was mighty that day and even with my hat and shades on I was still beading sweat. I chose the shade and not just any. I sought the darkest shade nearest the shore that was closest to the park’s exit point just in case those noisy kids decided to leave their party.

I walked under a very low hanging tree that I had to bow down to squeeze into and even bumped my head loudly upon a branch. The branch shook, and some small branches and tree trash fell into the lake. I didn’t think anything of it, but when I looked directly in front of me in the water I saw a very big bass swimming away. I was amazed, and I realized two very important lessons about shore fishing for bass. Firstly, quietly approach the area you plan on fishing, and lastly and most important, seek the common sense approach to locating large mouths. If the sun is very bright, and beaming thereby creating a hell like situation, what would you do? I would seek shade to cool off, and so do large mouth bass. If you are seeking relaxation, a place to cool off, would you seek noise and excitement? Neither would I. I would try to find the quietest place I could that had a great exit route. I bumped into that tree next to a piece of shore that had shallow water that quickly ran into deeper waters in a wider part of the lake. The bass had an exit point.

Of course as the weather and setting changes for the fisherman, the same situations change for the bass, so we would have to change our common sense approach to locating the fish for the changing scenario. However, on that day before I left I targeted really shady areas, under hanging trees, underneath lily pads, and even inside of bushes that half grew in the water, and as a result I picked up several bass by using this common sense approach to fishing. I also picked up my gear and left at 12:30 pm because my common sense told me that it was getting way too hot for my comfort level even in the shade, but I had a great time, and I’m sure the fish were still there in the cover cooling off when I left.
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Set Up For Prospect Park Largemouths!

Maybe you already have your fishing equipment or maybe you just hopped off the train with a large pole and an even larger smile. Whatever the case may be. The proper set-up of your new equipment will translate to catching fish at Prospect Park, Central Park or any other NYC lake because the fish are definitely in there waiting. In the following post we will review a basic rod and reel, fishing line and rigging set-up that will have you wrestling with a NYC large mouth in no time.

A great way to begin this easy process is to know the basic parts of your new rod and reel. The image on the right is labeled to show the basic parts of your equipment.
1. The fishing rod may be one piece or two pieces and carries the weight of the fish and tackle during fishing.

2. The fishing reel (the right image shows a spinning reel) houses the fishing line and allows the angler (fisherman) to reel the fish in to the shore or to cast the line out.

3. The rod eyes are located along the fishing rod and serve as line holders and guides which in turn distribute the weight of the rod equally.

4. The reel bale looks like a "metal u" and surrounds the fishing spool. When pulled vertically open, the fishing line is allowed to freely come off the fishing spool. We cast (the action by which an angler throws, skips or places a bait or lure) with the reel bale always open. The bale is closed and will not allow line to freely come the spool when the "metal u" is horizontal.

5. The fishing spool holds the line on the reel.

Set Up Procedure:

a. If you rod has two pieces connect them while making sure that all the rod eyes are aligned.

b. If your reel is not already attached to your rod, place your reel into the appropriate area found at the bottom of your rod. This place is called the reel harness. You may have to loosen the screws to make the reel fit snugly. You must tighten the screws once the reel is in place to secure the reel to your rod. You never know what you may pull up from the lake and the last thing you need is for your reel to slide out of place.
c. Now, we must place the fishing line on the spool. (If your fishing line is already on the spool, you are set for now, but still pay attention as you will eventually have to replace and restring your spool one day.) For this procedure you will need a small bucket or empty boll of water and of course your string and reel and rod.

1. Your fishing line will more than likely come on a circle of some sort. Find the loose end of your line, open your reel bale and attach the line to your spool. I use a basic double knot; other people may use clinch not as demonstrated at
No matter what you use, make sure that your line is knotted tightly to the inside of the spool. This will allow for the line to not spin while you are winding it on.

2. Once you have a tight not, drop the rest of the line into a bucket of water. Close the bale. Place the bottom of the rod between your knees or thighs. Allow one hand to loosely guide the string that's coming out of the bucket while the other hand reels (winds the cranks). Fill the spool to about a little more than half the capacity of the spool. Overfilling leads to alot of tangles when you are first learning.

3. Cut the line from the water when you feel that you have enough on your spool. Open your bale. Take the new loose end and thread it through the eyes of your rod. Once you through the last eye on the tip of your rod, pull and additional foot and a half of string through. We will use this extra line to tie the hook on.

4. Now there are many ways to tie your fishing line to your hook, and there are many websites that provide tutorials on how to tie this knot. I especially am fond of Grog's animated Fishing Knots because you can slowdown or speed up the learning process. Try the uni knot. It works well with all types of lines and lure. If you are having problems loading the animated page try these other fine sites:

5. Okay, take a breather. We are almost set to hop on the bike or bus to Central park. There is just one more thing. We must rig the hook to the bait. Our hook should be a wide gap worm hook and we will be fishing with fake worms. You should know that there are many different ways to rig a plastic worm. This post will focus of one that is a little more difficult to learn but will save you headaches in the long run. We will be rigging our plastic worm to be weedless. In many NYC lakes that hold trash or other objects on the bottom of the lake, a weedless worm will not get snagged or caught much in the water because the hook will be buried in the worm itself. The following websites can explain this way better than I could, and I suggest that you check them out. Remember though, you do not need any additional equipment than what you have right now. Some sites will call for a "bullet weight" or a specialized screw hook. For now you don't need them. I caught the above bass using just a Texas rigged worm, and you can do the same. Here are the websites:

6. And now we are done. You are set up for not only Prospect Park fishing in NYC but anywhere else, and remember as you fish from the shore that the fish are there waiting.

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