FISH THAT END UP in the frying pan are impossible to catch.
That thought hit me as Toledo Bend guide Jerry Thompson took me to an obscure stand of timber in the lake seeking out monster crappie.
“There are some pretty nice fish in here sometimes, and they hold up tight to the structure,” he said.
Thompson was dead-on.
A few minutes later, I landed a two-pound-plus white crappie that succumbed to a shiner on a modified free line with a 1/8-ounce split shot weight rigged six inches above the hook.
Crappie guides can consistently put clients onto big fish on their personally placed brush piles. However, as people start figuring out their locations, the fish get picked off and the big ones become scarce.
By targeting a location where most anglers fish for largemouths, we were able to catch several nice crappies including the behemoth white.
Fishing pressure is, in my opinion, the most overlooked factor in fishing success, especially in catching big fish of any species.
Flounders are a glaring example of this, as the vast majority of legal-sized flounders caught are destined for an oven. Add the fact that the flounder is a territorial species. These fish inhabit a fairly small home range once they migrate into bays, so you can see how pickings can get slim in certain highly pressured areas.
There is some scientific evidence that some fish that are hard to catch under any circumstances. These fish seem to be genetically programmed to be super cautious of lures, fishing line and humans in general. Each time they are presented with lures and bait and experience the sound of boats overhead, they seem to get even more elusive.
A study conducted by Gary P. Garett of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) at their Heart of the Hills Research Station supports the theory that certain genes help make some fish more selective than others.
“Two generations of selective breeding for vulnerability to angling in largemouth bass revealed that this trait is inheritable. Fish selectively bred for angling vulnerability were more likely to be caught multiple times than were those bred for wariness,” Garrett wrote.
Citing researchers Brown, Aldrich, Bowers and Martin he said that largemouth bass are rapid learners, particularly when negative stimuli such as artificial lures are involved.
“Learning is an important factor when fish are caught and released, because previously experienced fishing pressure appears to be inversely related to angling vulnerability.”
How does this apply to your angling here in Texas and beyond?
Start to think about the spots that are most frequented by anglers and then areas that see little pressure. The most popular locations are those that have the right components to produce fish, but they are definitely not the only areas.
Consider branching out to find fish that are rarely targeted. For example, I know that monster bass inhabit deep, open water that is rarely targeted on Sam Rayburn. If I were to heed my own advice that is the next spot I would look for a lunker largemouth.
If you frequent Toledo Bend, Falcon or Fork, look at alternatives to your favorite locations. If you target bass in the same coves that get hit constantly by tournaments, learn the main lake cover and structure in deeper water where few anglers fish.
If it’s crappie you want, target brush or timber in areas far away from the most popular ramps where most crappie anglers launch. Think outside the box and understand that pressured fish are always harder to catch than those that rarely see a hook.
Email Chester Moore at [email protected]