Dr. Mike's Fishing Tips
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Equipment Tips

Learn to use your equipment well and broaden your horizons

DRAG SETTINGS: The biggest mistake made by anglers is to have their drag set improperly. Most manufacturers recommend that your drag be set at one-third of your line's test weight. This means that a reel holding 15 pound test line should have the drag set to let out line at 5 pounds of pull. To set your drag run the line out through your rod's guides, tie a loop in the end, then use the hook on a fish scale (the tool, not the fish body part) to pull on the line. When the weight shown on the scale is one-third of your rated line weight, the drag should be letting out line. If not, adjust the drag until it does.

AVOID TANGLES ON YOUR SPINNING REEL: Spinning reels often get bird's nests and tangles, which are usually caused by one of three mistakes. The first is putting the line on the reel improperly. The line should go onto the reel the same way it comes off the spool, taking advantage of the curve the line has memorized from being stored on the spool. Lay the spool FLAT on the ground (do NOT hold it vertically) and start winding the reel. If tangles begin, turn the spool over. The tangling should stop and your reel should be tangle free for the future, as long as you don't make the other two mistakes. The second mistake is to overfill the spool. Spinning reels should never be filled past the front spool lip, or too much line will come out during casting and -POOF!- you'll have a big mess of tangles. The third most common mistake is to crank the reel while a fish is taking out line. While it's OK to crank a baitcaster while a fish makes a run, a spinning reel is not designed for such a mistake. During the fish's run, cranking a spinning reel literally twirls the line around and around, twisting it up like a rubber band and resulting in lots of kinks and tangles.

FILLING CASTING AND CONVENTIONAL REELS: Improper filling of casting and conventional reels can lead to tangles, just like on a spinning reel. Again, it is important to put the line on the reel the same way it comes off the spool. This time, the spool of line should be vertical, with the hole horizontal and perhaps with a pencil through it. The line should be coming off the top of the spool, NOT the bottom. Fill the spool to the fill line, which is a painted or etched line on the spool, and you're done.

SETTING CAST CONTROLS ON CASTING REELS: There are 2 primary methods for adjusting the cast controls on casting reels. Try them both and stick with the method that works best for you and your reel. One method is to adjust the control so that it just barely stops the reel from falling when you push the casting button. To do this, loosen the cast control a little and push the button. The lure should start falling. Quickly adjust the cast control until the lure stops falling. Remember to make small adjustments. The other method is to set the control so that there is no overrun when the lure strikes the deck. To do this, push the casting button and let the lure fall to the deck. If the spool keeps turning and lets the line overrun, adjust the cast control and try again. Make small adjustments until the spool stops the instant the lure hits the deck. With either method, you will need to re-adjust the cast control when you change lures, especially if the lure is a different weight.

CASTING A CONVENTIONAL REEL WITH NO CAST CONTROLS: Some people are afraid to try using a conventional casting reel with no cast controls because they fear that they will end up with bad line tangles. However, anyone can learn to cast a conventional reel with a little practice. Conventional reels are typically very rugged, simply made and have a lot of line capacity, so anglers targeting large, strong fish often use them. To cast a conventional reel, push the casting button or lever drag, place your thumb against the line on the spool, swing the rod from behind you to about a 45-degree angle in front, let go with your thumb for a split second, immediately touch the thumb gently against the spool to keep the line from overrunning and tangling, and apply more pressure as the lure touches the water. The extensive use of the thumb has led many instructors to describe experienced conventional reel anglers as having an "educated thumb." Anglers who take the time to practice and educate their thumbs will broaden their skills and may find that they enjoy the strength, simplicity and line capacity of a conventional reel.

CASTING A FLY ROD: Beginning fly anglers should learn the roll cast, the pick-up-and-put-down, and the shooting cast. For all 3 casts, it is helpful to think of oneself as standing in the middle of a clock, facing the 9, with the 3 behind, the 12 overhead and the 6 underfoot. The roll cast uses about 20 feet of line and is very good for casting in tight spaces, especially with trees or bushes behind. The angler slowly brings the rod slightly to the side and up to the 1 o'clock position, then quickly pushes the rod forward to the 9 o'clock position. The result is that the line rolls past the angler's side and forward out onto the water. The pick-up-and-put-down uses about 20 to 30 feet of line. With the line spread out in front, the angler brings the rod quickly up to the 1 o'clock position. The springing action of the rod flings the line out behind the angler. The angler pauses just long enough for the line to straighten out behind in mid-air, then quickly brings the rod forward to the 10 o'clock position. The springing action of the rod flings the line out in front of the angler. The angler then lowers the rod to the 9 o'clock position as the line settles onto the water. The shooting cast is essentially a pick-up-and-put-down cast, but the angler has extra line pulled off the reel, part of which is held in the non-casting hand until the rod reaches the 10 o'clock position, at which point it is allowed to shoot forward as the line springs forward and unfolds in the front cast. For more distance, some anglers like to move their shoulder toward the rear in the back-cast and move the shoulder to the front in the front-cast, while still following the 1 o'clock to 10 o'clock pattern. A tug on the line during the back cast and again at the beginning of the front cast (called a double-haul) can put a little more spring in the rod to fling the line a little harder and gain more distance. It is wise to practice casting on a treeless lawn without having a fly tied to the line. It is also wise to both practice and fish with protective sunglasses.

POLARIZED SUNGLASSES- All anglers will better protect their eyes and be able to see underwater fish better with good quality polarized sunglasses. Polarization cuts surface glare due to the alignment of particles in or on the lens, which can actually help an angler see underwater. Since polarization makes sunglasses special, glasses that are polarized usually bear a special label when they're on the rack. However, not all polarized sunglasses are created equal. The better polarized sunglasses have a ground-in polarization that results in a top-notch, optical quality lens with no distortions. Cheaper polarized sunglasses only have a sprayed-on polarized finish that results in lens distortions that will cause eyestrain and can even damage the eyes. Like polarization, optical quality lenses are special, so if they're optical quality there will usually be a special label or information in the accompanying tag or pamphlet that says so.

HOMEMADE BASS AND TROUT ATTRACTANT- Sometimes fishing "scents" can be manufactured at home that will perform as well as or better than store-bought scents. One such scent is made by mixing Cod Liver Oil, garlic and salt. This is usually done in a small container with a small, flip-top opening. The ingredients are poured into the container and shaken. This type of cod-garlic scent may need to be kept in the refrigerator if it is not used within a few weeks. It will harden up in the refrigerator, then liquefy when it is warmed up again in the angler's hands. Another way to make this scent is to buy Cod Liver Oil softgel capsules. These are put in a small container and garlic powder and salt (or garlic salt) are sprinkled into the container as well. The garlic and salt flavors will soak into the softgels. The softgels can then be taken out one at a time and stuck on a lure's hook or punctured and squeezed onto or into a lure. Both largemouth bass and trout love this cod-garlic scent. (This tip is offered in loving memory of Dave Lowe).

The author uses a wide variety of fishing equipment, often during the same fishing trip, and has taught beginning flyfishing.

eat. sleep. fish. repeat.

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