The ‘One Percenters’ Of Successful Fishing: Best Fishing Tips & Techniques

by Anaconda team member and gun angler Matthew Taylor

The ‘One Percenters’ Of Successful Fishing: Best Fishing Tips & Techniques

Many fish species have an impressive ability to associate unnatural sights and sounds with danger. Here the author is targeting fish in ultra-shallow water - one of the most important situations to use stealth tactics.


Members of the fishing community offer lots of reasons for a bad days' fishing. While some argue fishing is simply a game of luck, others blame the weather or even the quality of their gear. Ultimately, consistent fishing success hinges on a combination of many factors, some of which are almost uncontrollable. Instead of discussing the specific habits of popular sportfish, this article will explore the finer, often-overlooked and highly controllable factors involved in targeting any fish species. For any avid angler, it is important to understand how getting the small things right plays a big role in getting more bites and landing more fish.

The tips and tricks shared in this article are those I have learned through my own successes and struggles. One-off and repetitive failures are undoubtedly the best learning opportunities for anglers. Always remember: there is a likely reason why you aren't catching fish or they keep escaping mid-fight - it's probably caused by something far less significant than you think. I've seen it time and time again - anglers will fish in the right area and even use the right lure yet still fail to catch anything. This is a frustrating situation, but it is one that anglers can usually avoid by changing a small aspect of their target method. This is what I refer to as the "one percenters" of successful fishing - the minor factors that play a huge role in becoming a consistently successful angler. Let's delve straight into a few of the common ones.

Yellowbelly

A 'finesse' approach will undoubtedly reward anglers with better results both in the fresh and salt. This monster yellowbelly is proof of that!

The Little Things

As Aussies, our 'it'll be right' attitude is one that carries us through many situations in life. Unfortunately, this sense of optimism is one that provides little help for anglers unless it is coupled with the right mindset. To become a more successful angler, I place a huge emphasis on the importance of hard work, practice and above anything else, paying close attention to the little things.

Let's face it - fish are typically highly vigilant in avoiding potential sources of danger. Most fish species understand they aren't the apex predator, and for that very reason, lures or baits that appear unnatural will have a highly detrimental impact on your catch rates. On top of that, when a fish is hooked it will usually do all it can to escape. As hard as you pull one way, a fish will defiantly attempt to pull harder in the opposite direction. This places an immense amount of pressure on your line and hooks. If there is a weakness in your tackle setup, chances are that a hard-pulling fish will exploit it. Surprisingly, the exact same weaknesses exist in the tackle of a large proportion of anglers which inevitably leads to all-too-regular tales of 'the one that got away'. By identifying the common weaknesses in tackle setups and understanding how to make lures more naturally appealing, you will undoubtedly land a lot more fish.

It's hard to believe so much debate surrounds the topic of lure colour selection. While some anglers believe colour doesn't matter in the slightest, others won't even leave home without a tackle box completely devoted to the same coloured lure - often in the exact same weight and size! I'd like to think I fall somewhere in the middle. Don't get me wrong, I can personally vouch for the fact that on certain days using the wrong colour is the equivalent of waving a white flag in the air and letting the fish win. At other times, it seems like the fish will eat almost anything that touches the water. So, an important question is raised - how and when should anglers make their lures more visually appealing? While there is no hard and fast answer, I can vouch for the fact certain colours will offer better results than others in specific situations.

In my own experience, lure colour should be carefully selected based on water clarity, sunlight levels and prominent bait species living in the fishery. For instance, I opt for darker colours such as black, brown or purple in both dirty water as well as low light conditions as they cast a silhouette easier for fish to see. In the same conditions, I find the fish also respond well to colours such as chartreuse, red and orange. On the other hand, I'll typically use shiny, lightly coloured lures while targeting fish in bright conditions coupled with clear water. The vision of most fish species is at its best in this situation, meaning it is important to make lures look as natural as possible. The appearance of common baitfish species can be replicated by using combinations of white, silver and gold. If you are trying to imitate a crab or yabby, you will likely need to use black, brown or dark blue colours. As you can see, there is a lot involved in lure colour selection. Of course, if you happen to come across a fish feeding frenzy (or perhaps you initiate one), they will likely eat anything you cast at them. While I've barely scratched the surface on this topic, the general advice I have provided will undoubtedly help you to hook more fish.

Barramundi

Barramundi have a renowned ability to destroy terminal tackle and exploit any weaknesses in a tackle setup. The author undoubtedly wouldn’t have landed this fish without upgraded hooks and split rings.

Hook selection is a subject that deserves far more attention from fishing writers than it generally receives. Think about this - if your hook choice continually results in lost captures, any other efforts to fool and catch fish are ultimately wasted. Larger and more aggressive sportfish such as barramundi, threadfin salmon and Murray cod require highly specific hook choices. These species can easily bend or straighten light gauge hooks and other terminal tackle, meaning it is essential to upgrade to (at the very least) 4X strong hooks and split rings. By making these changes, I can honestly say that you will convert a far higher percentage of bites to captures. It'll cost you a few bucks up front, but in terms of the time and money it takes to catch these elusive fish species, it'll pay off in the long run.

Another strategy well worth considering is 'double ringing' your lures. This involves using two split rings to attach lure hooks, reducing the amount of leverage a fish can naturally generate and the likelihood of the hooks ripping free or becoming otherwise dislodged. At the same time, it is important not to go overboard in terms of hook selection. Using thicker and stronger hooks while targeting species such as bass or bream will (in most cases) result in less captures. The reality is that smaller fish typically bite in a more subtle manner compared to their larger counterparts. They lack the power in their attacking strike to warrant the need for heavy-duty hooks. Fine-gauge hooks are most appropriate for targeting smaller species that don't pull huge amounts of drag.

On sportfish of all sizes, don't be afraid to opt for a weedless lure while fishing in heavily structured areas. This will vastly reduce the number of lures you snag and lose. By the same token, you will save a lot of time by tying less knots for new lures or leaders. We all know the longer lures are in the water - provided all the other stars align - more fish will be caught. Many anglers also use swinging assist hooks and single lure hooks to improve their catch rates. Both of these options offer improved snag resistance and allow anglers to capitalise on a large percentage of half-hearted bites. Understanding when and why to use different hook styles can go a long way in becoming a more successful angler.


A Game Of Stealth

Stealth is undoubtedly one of the most straightforward yet widely misunderstood aspects of fishing. In all truth, it's a concept that simply involves trying to limit any unnatural sounds and movements that could potentially spook fish. Before I go any further, let me address the elephant in the room. There's a common misbelief that anglers should observe absolute silence to stand any chance of catching fish. Personally, I think it simply pays to use a bit of good old common sense. Let's face the facts - only a minimal amount of sound transmits through the air then through the water's surface, meaning it is highly unlikely a normal conversation will spook fish. This is where an understanding of how sound travels becomes important. Sound travels at a little less than 1500 metres per second underwater. Noting that a boat's hull sits under the water's surface, noises such as a slammed hatch or even a tackle box dropped onto the deck will reverberate directly through the hull and into the water. Across a variety of species, I have personally witnessed the negative influence of foreign and very sudden sounds. Remember, each and every noise may cause fish to enter a highly vigilant mood in which they are focused solely on survival as opposed to the potential meal right in front of them.

Heavily pressured fisheries are undoubtedly the most important places where anglers should understand how fish respond to unnatural sounds and visual stimuli. My own baptism by fire to this concept occurred during an early attempt at catching Australian bass in a local impoundment. Late in the afternoon, I'd caught one meagre fish while the anglers in the boat right beside me were landing fish after fish! This can be one of the most frustrating situations any angler can find themself in, yet it also represents one of the best learning opportunities. For me, it showed there was something I could change in my own angling technique to catch more fish. As it happens, I had previously met the anglers who were fishing nearby. After a few quick questions, I discovered the setups we were each using were almost identical. We were even using the exact same lure. Here's the important difference. While I was using an 8lb braided line (for reference, this is typically regarded as fairly light line) and was struggling to catch much at all, the other anglers had opted for a 3lb braid and were catching plenty of fish. After that trip, I began using lighter line and immediately saw a marked improvement in my results. The question is this: why did line size have such an impact on my results and what does it have to do with stealth?

Many fish species have a remarkable ability to learn new behaviours in response to repeated exposure to sources of danger. To use my previous example again, I'd argue most fish in that specific lake would have experienced a game of tug-of-war between angler and fish at some point in their lifetime (likely multiple times). The growing popularity of catch and release practices also means a large number of fish will be caught at least once or twice. In the moments before a capture, particularly with schooling species, several fish may detect a foreign element present in their natural environment - in other words - fishing line. For anglers, it is our goal to make it more difficult for fish to sense our lines and downsizing is one of the best ways to do that. Lighter line offers the advantage of being more difficult to see while its smaller surface area generates less friction in the water, making it less likely the fish will become aware of potential danger. While taking a more finessed approach with your line choice is one of many simple ways to improve your game of stealth. My biggest recommendation is this: be aware of the small aspects of your fishing technique that might cause fish to spook. It'll take you a long way as an angler.

Real Drag

During the late stages of fighting a fish, it is often a good idea to loosen your reel’s drag. This will reduce the likelihood of pulling the hooks and potentially losing a fish of a lifetime.

The Right Mindset

The undoing of many anglers can be the direct result of their own mindset. It is very easy to keep doing the same things over and over again throughout a day simply because it worked on a previous trip. This could include fishing in the same spot or even using a 'go-to' lure for hours on end. In both cases, the result is typically the same - no fish captures whatsoever. It is an all-too-common situation - anglers go through the motions hoping their sheer persistence will eventually result in success. Here's the thing - there is typically a far better approach to use. However, the challenge is working out the exact technique to catch fish in that situation. Once again, this is where it pays to be open-minded and pay close attention to the clues offered by nature. In many cases, this may be as simple as identifying the species of baitfish swimming next to your boat and then tying on a lure that looks very similar. The clues aren't always this small. Sometimes your success may depend on taking notice of natural factors such as wind direction or even the sun's position in the sky. I've personally witnessed changes in these factors result in fish moving to highly specific locations, as well as influencing what lures they want to eat.

As an example, I have experienced some memorable days on the water targeting fish near rock walls directly exposed to the afternoon sun. These spots have a slightly higher water temperature than elsewhere in the fishery, and for that reason, bulk amounts of fish can often be found there during cool weather. While the fish may still be present in the same location in summer, they will retreat to deeper water often near the thermocline. This is just one of many examples I could provide where paying close attention to the natural environment has dramatically benefited my own results. I can confidently say that an ability to identify and react to natural clues - no matter how insignificant they may appear - is a small yet important skill that will allow any angler to become far more consistent in their endeavours.

Fishing is an incredible sport. Almost anyone can take part in it and likewise, it can be taken to almost any level. By the same token - regardless of level of skill or experience - any angler can make small changes to their technique, allowing them to get more bites and catch more fish. The little things really do add up and the more you get right, the better the rewards will be.

Aquatic Environement
I encourage any angler to practice paying close attention to the small elements of aquatic environments. Any aspiring angler should understand that natural factors often directly influence where and how to catch fish.

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