As a youngster, one of the worst lure fishing tips I ever got was “Kid, if you want to catch fish on lures you gotta start thinking like a fish does!”
You’ve probably heard this throwaway line yourself once or twice. The self professed lure fishing gurus puff out their chests and hold up their catch proudly.
“Yep, I have the ability to think like a fish. It’s my gift!”.
They say it as though lure fishing is a battle of wits with a clever, tactical opponent. And these wise fishing sages have somehow unraveled the complex mind of a fish, putting themselves three moves ahead. Meanwhile, the average lure fishing punter is still ten moves behind…..
Why Thinking Like A Fish Won’t Improve Your Lure Fishing…….
If you reckon thinking like a fish is the key to successful lure fishing, think again. Even largemouth bass (one of the more “intelligent” freshwater fish species) don’t have that much of a brain. The brain of a 10 pound LMB weighs in at around 2/3 oz. The average human brain is almost 75 times bigger.
And yes, the human body is more complex and needs more brain power just to keep things running. But the cognitive (thinking, learning, memory) part of the brain is massively bigger in humans than fish.
So, to truly think like a fish you’d need to switch off 95% of your cognitive brain. Dare I say it? I think I know a few lure fishermen who have actually done this!
I’m Not Saying That Fish Don’t Think Or Learn – That Would Be Dumb!
Of course they learn! That’s what makes lure fishing such a great challenge. And to be fair, I’m being a bit tough on the “think like a fish” brigade. I get where they’re coming from. They’re just a little off target, that’s all.
To give a human example: We’re not born knowing that kettles are hot, or even that heat causes pain. We learn it. So when I was a kid I got a nasty burn from a hot kettle. With no past experience to warn me otherwise, I just touched the hot kettle without a second thought. A painful burn kept me thinking about it for quite some time afterwards though.
The next time I touched a kettle I was much more cautious, of course! I checked if it was hot first – something that quickly became a habit. Of course, now I don’t have to think about it, I just do it. And I move about the kitchen subconsciously avoiding getting burned.
What’s any of this got to do with lure fishing?
Well, the way habits develop is the same for all animals, including fish. It’s why lure fishing can sometimes be a frustrating and fruitless affair. Especially on hard-fished waters where catching fish on lures can be like drawing the winning lottery ticket. Here’s how it goes:
- The fish sees your lure and suspects it might be food, a threat, an invader or just something to investigate. Now, if the fish hasn’t seen a lure before it’s got no reason to feel threatened, right? So it will probably attack out of instinct, without thinking too much. That’s why lure fishing is so much easier in lightly fished waters.
- By the time you’ve returned that fish to the water it’s had a new and rather unpleasant experience. And it now associates the look, sound, vibration, action, smell and/or feel of your fishing lure with an uncomfortable outcome. So on the next encounter the fish will most likely hesitate and think (yes, think) before attacking. It might not even be the same lure, just one that reminds the fish in some way. By now the fish is wary, cautious and much harder to catch.
- Then there’s the final step – the one that makes lure fishing in pressured waters so damned tough. By repeatedly reminding the fish with the same lure it will get to the point of not even noticing that a lure is there!
How Fish Learn….. From Each Other!
We fishermen are funny creatures. Sometimes we observe important fish behavior but never give it a second thought. Let me give an example that most of us have witnessed when we’re fishing with lures, but never made the connection……..
“An individual fish fish doesn’t need past experience to know it should reject your fishing lure. Why? Because fish can learn from other fish”
I know it sounds like some corny, low budget, “Planet of the Fish” movie plot. But it’s not.
When your fishing lure swims past a school of fish and one or two of them light up, others will probably follow. Suddenly the whole school can be competing to take your lure. And you’re in lure fishing paradise.
On the other hand, it only takes one or two fish to exhibit negative body language then the rest of the school will probably switch off too. That sure can be tough. Fish that have never even seen your lure may have already learned not to take it.(3)
This kind of group learning is more common with social, schooling species, of course. But studies have shown that it happens with relatively solitary species too. And once again, it varies tremendously between species. I remember once catching 40 fish on lures by anchoring up and peppering a single small snag with a crankbait for hours. Clearly, fish weren’t teaching each other lure avoidance on that day!
But that was on pristine, lightly touched waters where catching fish on lures is a lot easier. I can also recall many more lure fishing sessions when the whole school went off the bite after we’d caught just one or two fish. The only option was to go find another school and repeat the play all over again.
The “Dark Side” Of Catch And Release Lure Fishing – Highly Educated Fish
Let me say right off the bat: I’m a HUGE fan of catch and release lure fishing. A massive fan, in fact. I want my great, great grand kids to experience lure fishing in the real world, not just on an Xbox. And as an aquatic scientist I’ve spent my life ensuring fish are here for future generations.
So catch and release rocks! And to be honest, it doesn’t really have a “Dark Side”….. but I got your attention, didn’t I?
Here’s the thing: Catching and releasing fish on lures does make them wiser. It’s a real fast way to teach fish not to eat the more common lures. Every fish returned to the water has an education in what lure to avoid. And it’s an education it could be passing on to it’s fellow schoolies.
So the more we practice catch and release, the wiser fish get to our lures. Any wonder lure fishing gets harder and harder in places where there are lots of fishermen? The solution, of course, is not to stop releasing fish, but to get smarter and less lazy about how we go about targeting fish on lures.
Why “Normal” Human Logic Is Useless Against Fish……
It’s kind of funny, when you think about it. Here we are, a bunch of grown men and women, sitting around trying to outsmart a creature that has a brain the size of a pea!
But you know what’s even funnier? We don’t even understand ourselves….. so how can we understand an animal that’s so vastly different from ourselves?
Case in point: A few months back my wife suggests we finish the week with some Friday night drinks. Sounds great. We’d had a hectic week and the idea of unwinding with a cleansing ale was very appealing. I arranged for a few of our closest friends to come over around six. “Bring something to throw on the barbecue” I told them.
Friday comes, I’m caught in traffic and don’t get home until around six thirty. When I arrive the party is in full swing, there’s music on, guests everywhere, laughter. But I’m getting a distinct chill from my wife….. hmmm.
It turns out she’d meant “drinks for two”. And when the first of our guests arrived they’d found her stretched out on the couch, lights dimmed, you get the picture. The intimate dinner for two she’d spent all afternoon preparing was in the fridge, as stone cold as the reception I received.
Anyway, I caught a lot of fish that week. Not much else to do when you’re locked out of the house……
So what went wrong, and what’s any of this got to do with lure fishing anyway?
Well, most of us are eagerly striving for better lure fishing by second guessing how fish might react. The truth is, I can’t even second guess what my wife thinks or feels – And she’s the same species. And we’ve lived together a long time……. I’m most married men can understand!
The fact is, fish often don’t behave the way we expect they will – because we have the wrong idea of how we think they should react. They have different instincts to us. And they don’t see, hear, smell or taste things the way we do, either. (3)
Having an understanding about what might cause them to inhale or reject a fishing lure can help us to avoid making wrong assumptions when we’re lure fishing.
There Are 5 (+2) Senses That Can Inhibit Fish From Inhaling A Fishing Lure….
Whenever I get asked for lure fishing tips, I avoid the subject of tackle, casting techniques and lure actions. Sure, all of that stuff is important for catching fish on lures. But there are even more fundamental, more primal things to know. If you can understand a little more about fish and how they differ from us can really improve your lure fishing.
For starters, most human beings have 5 senses that get us through our day, right? Sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Some of us have a mysterious sixth sense. My wife knows when I’ve overspent on a fishing rod long before she sees the credit card statement….. I’ve never understood how that works. But I’ve experienced the consequences enough times to know it’s real.
We naturally assume that fish have use same 5 senses in the same way we do.
But that’s just plumb crazy! The animal kingdom is chock full of creatures that use their senses differently to us. Many of them even have weird senses that we can’t comprehend – and fish are definitely among them.
The fact is: Fish have at least two senses that humans don’t posses. Not only that, but they have very different priorities when it comes to using the senses that we do have in common. So let’s explore that.
Lure Fishing Tip #1: Fish Can’t Always See…. And It Usually Doesn’t Matter
For most humans, sight is the most important sense with hearing, smell, taste and touch somewhere behind. Only when conditions make it hard for us to see – do other senses become our primary.
So my first big lure fishing tip is this: Fish don’t rely on vision like humans do. In fact, few animals do:
- Bats use sound for high speed navigation and hunting, even in pitch dark. Try it for yourself and see how you go….
- Whales and dolphins use sound for communication, navigation and hunting. Sound travels far further underwater than any animal can see.
- Many animals use smell before any other sense to find food or detect danger. I know a few blokes who can sniff out a pub from a very long way off. But we mostly don’t have the amazing sense of smell of dogs, pigs, bears…… well, pretty much any wild animal really.
- Moles use a sense of touch that is incredibly fine tuned. They can find food in the darkest places.
- Seals can detect fish over 100m away in murky water using just their sensitive whiskers.
- More than any other sense, crocodiles, alligators and spiders use vibration to detect, stalk and trap prey.
- Dolphins, echidnas, platypus, sharks and rays all use electrical impulses to find food items they can’t see.
In Other Words, Many Animals Prefer To Use Senses Other Than Sight.
And this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Ants are incredibly sensitive to vibration, cockroaches and crayfish can feel the movement of tiny particles, flies taste with their feet, mice hear frequencies five times higher than humans, mosquitoes hunt by the smell of carbon dioxide, moths smell pheromones from up to 5 kilometers away, snakes can detect the body heat of a mouse 40cm away…..
These are all things that no human can do, because our senses aren’t developed enough.
But despite all of these examples, lure fishermen still assume that sight is the most important sense to fish foolishly assume that fish!
Why do we make that assumption? Because our heads are firmly stuck where the sun don’t shine, that’s why! Just because we’re dependent on eyesight, so we just assume that fish are too. We’re assuming, not thinking.
Anyways, I’ll get off my soapbox. But I’m here to tell you, sight is often it’s the least important sense to fish. Not always, but often. Which kind of makes all that fussing about trying different lure colors seem kind of foolish, doesn’t it?
Lure Fishing Tip #2: The truth about lure colors and fish vision
I get into fights over my views on fishing lure colors. There is so much misinformation, so deeply ingrained…..
Many folks have their favorite colors that they have confidence in. And they don’t always like it when you pull evidence that runs against their views. Actually, as an aquatic scientist this is something I’ve spent quite a lot of time researching. And since I’ve written a popular eBook on the subject I won’t go into full detail here… I’ll just give the short version.
I love it when some old timer tells me “I only use pink. I’ve been lure fishing here my whole life and that’s what works.” If I ask the last time he tried a green lure, I get back “Never! I have a box full of pink ones because that’s what works around here”. Hmmm. I’ve had conversations like that too many times to count.
Guys, it stands to reason. If you use one color 90% of the time, you’ll probably catch 90% of your fish on lures will be caught on that color……
Another common comment is “That’s just scientific BS. Fish eyes are different to human eyes, they see different colors”.
Well, err yes. That’s correct. But think about this: my best buddy is red-green colorblind, so he sees the color differently to me. Still, if you put us both in a room lit with a blue light we’ll both see the same thing. Shades of blue.
My point is, it’s often the fish’s environment that determines what colors they see or don’t see, not their eyes. If the water is dark, murky, full of silt or plankton the fish can’t see colors so well. Full stop. And it doesn’t matter one bit what their eyes are capable of seeing.
Lure Fishing Tips #3: Can Fish See In The Dark? How Do Fish See At Night?
Let me give you the quick answers to these common questions from lure fishing noobs:
Q1: Can fish see in the dark?
A: Sort of. But it’s not like they have night vision goggles or anything. They can’t see in total darkness, but their eyes definitely pick up shapes and silhouettes better in low light than ours do. But in low light they see fewer colors than we can. The point is, fish don’t need to see in the dark and catching fish on lures at night is often easier than it is in the day. Check out tips on night fishing lures.
Q2: How do fish see at night?
A: Unlike us, fish can survive easily without seeing anything. So the better question would be “How do fish find food and avoid bumping into things at night?” Answer: they’re much better at using their other senses than we are.
Ok, let’s go into a little more detail. Once again, if you want the full story you might want to check out my ebook on fish vision.
It often surprises newbies that lure fishing after dark can be so effective.
My eyes – and probably yours too, see all of the colors between red and violet just fine. But on a very cloudy day, in a dark room, at twilight or in a heavy fog it’s a different story. Then colors become dull or even non existent and all we see is shapes and shadows.
For example, a mate’s girlfriend arrived late to a dimly lit nightclub one night. She did a little twirl and said “Well, what do you think? I’m wearing my new dress!” He replied “Which one? The red one or the blue one?”
I couldn’t tell either. And it had nothing to do with alcohol consumption. Well, not much to do with it……..
If you look at a fish’s retina under the microscope, there’s a massive number of rods cells and only a small number of cone cells. You’ll find these two cell types in the eye of every animal on the planet. Rod cells are super sensitive to light, but can’t detect color. Cone cells are the opposite – they’re the ones responsible for color vision. The more cone cells you have the better you see color….. simple as that.
This tells us something very important. Fish are much better at seeing things in low light than people. But people are much better at seeing things in color.
Once again, this varies with species. Coral reef fish usually have more cone cells and can probably see a ton of colors that some other species can’t, including UV. But species that evolved in muddy ponds or in the deep oceans, often have less developed color vision.
So the whole lure color thing is just a red herring?
Look, I’ll come clean. I have thousands of lures in thousands of colors – and I couldn’t imagine lure fishing without a good selection of colors to choose from. And there’s no question that color can be important……. sometimes.
All I’m saying is: most people over estimate the importance of color in lure fishing. And more importantly, they underestimate the importance of a whole bunch of other things. Things that can actually have a lot more impact on their fishing results.
Lure Fishing Tips #4: Moving On From Fish Vision…..What Can Fish Hear?
Hell, we’re already in myth busting mode. So why not shoot down some myths and misconceptions about what fish can hear? We’re on a roll!
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the question “How can fish hear if they don’t have ears?”
Well, fish absolutely do have ears, you just can’t see them because they’re internal. Apart from making it easier for them to hear, internal ears don’t catch the water when they swim….
Yep, fish can fish hear. And they’re super sensitive to underwater sound. They use it for navigation, hunting, avoiding predators, communication, finding a mate and more. And you’d be right if you figured that sound is an important consideration for catching fish on lures.
Many of us imagine the underwater world to be a quiet and peaceful place, but think again! It might seem that way to us – but our ears aren’t adapted for hearing underwater. Go figure.
It’s actually a chorus of sound down there – and one of the tricks of lure fishing is to get your offering heard above the din.
Fish ears are adapted to the underwater world. So not only can fish hear a ton of sounds that we can’t, they can also tell which direction a sound comes from. Human ears can only do that above water. Plus, fish remember sounds pretty well, too – especially ones that came with a nasty surprise!
Fishing Lures Are So Noisy These Days…..
When did lure fishing become so noisy? Go into a tackle store and pick up one of the four gazillion hard body lures hanging from the walls. Hold the hooks so they can’t rattle and then give the lure a shake. What do you hear?
The vast majority of hard body fishing lures are hollow plastic with one or more internal chambers. Inside the chambers are steel ball bearings to weight the lure for balance, action and casting. Of course, metal balls in a hollow plastic body give a fishing lure a pretty loud and distinct rattle.
The manufacturers often market these loud rattles as good for lure fishing. But are they really? Or is sound just a by-product of the manufacturing process? Is it actually clever marketing to deflect attention away from a deficiency? Could rattles be just another way of educating fish not to eat fishing lures?
As usual, the answers are not so straight forward. Everyone has an opinion and yet very few people seem to have given it any serious thought……
Just because your lure is loud, doesn’t mean fish can hear it….
Fishing lure manufacturers almost universally make a HUGE mistake when it comes to rattles: They focus only on volume.
Volume is just one aspect of sound that affects lure fishing. And in many respects it’s the least important. After all, sound travels better, further and faster through water than air. And we’ve already established that fish have super-sensitive ears and can hear exceptionally well. A rattle really doesn’t need to be loud for a fish to hear it from 100 feet away……
But there are two other, very important factors that affect your ability to catch fish on lures – but are rarely given any thought. Frequency (pitch) and Tone.
First, let’s look at what happens when you get the pitch of your lure rattles wrong…..
“It’s A Huge Mistake To Focus On The Volume Of Fishing Lure Rattles….. Pitch And Tone Are Probably More Important”
Have you ever seen a “silent” dog whistle? They’re awesome! We can’t hear them, but dogs sure can. And just like any whistle, the volume is dictated by hard you blow. A gentle puff gives a quiet sound. But blow hard and your dog might go running for cover! The point is, no matter how hard you blow, no matter how loud it is, human ears will never hear the whistle.
Because human ears detect sounds in frequencies from around 20 to 20,000Hz. And a dog whistle is usually in the range 23,000 to 50,000 Hz. They’re outside of our hearing range. Dogs can hear from 67 to 45,000Hz, so it’s well within their range.
Lets bring this back to lure fishing! For a fish to hear a rattle, the frequency of the sound has to be in their hearing range. Otherwise they can’t hear it…… no matter how loud. Take a look at the chart on this page….. there are lots of sounds we humans can hear, but fish can’t.
As usual, there are lot of species of fish, so the audible range varies quite a bit. But most fish can only hear from 20 to 1000Hz. For example, largemouth bass are believed to only hear in the 100-600Hz range. A few, like minnow, crp and herring have a much higher range. But most fish are quite limited!
So actually, it really doesn’t matter that a lure sounds loud to us. It only matters whether fish can hear it.
Lure Fishing Tips #5: The Massive Difference Between Sound And Noise
OK, so let’s say your fishing lures make a sound that’s within a frequency that fish can hear. Tick! One hurdle overcome.
Now you need to consider the other factor that 99% of lure fishermen don’t even begin to think about….. tone.
Let me illustrate with another human example. You’re walking down the street. As you pass the local watering hole you can hear a band playing. They sound great. They’re playing music you like. So even though you weren’t planning on stopping for a cleansing ale, you might anyway. That’s the whole reason why publicans put on bands – The sound attracts patrons.
But what if the band is garbage? What if they’re trashing your favorite songs, really badly? Poor sound mix, below average vocalist, amateur presentation. In that case you probably would’t stop for a drink. In fact, they probably cleared the pub already. Walk on by.
Now, back to lure fishing! There’s a big difference between sounds that fish can hear and ones they’re attracted to. If your lure makes a noise that fish find unpleasant or unnatural it could well drive them away. And the louder the sound the further you’ll drive them from.
But if you get just the right sound you could attract their attention long before they see your fishing lure.
So what kinds of sounds will help us catch fish on lures?
There’s no simple answer to this. The “music” my kids listen to is just noise to me. And the music I liked as a kid was just noise to my parents! So different fish are probably tuned in to different sounds. No one ever said that fishing with lures would be easy!
If your lure fishing is mostly targeting an aggressive, territorial species then an unpleasant noise could spur an attack out of sheer annoyance. Maybe in that scenario louder really is better! Annoying fish into striking is a legitimate lure fishing technique.
When you’re chasing more wary species in still waters then a more subtle, even “silent” fishing lure might do the job better.
When it comes to the rattles I put in my own fishing lures, I have a preference for larger, single “knocker” style rattles. Larger rattles tend to give a lower pitch sound, making them more likely to be within the fish’s hearing range. And the sound is cleaner, rather than a mishmash of frequencies you get with multiple smaller rattles.
Lure Fishing Tips #6: There’s An Unspoken Problem With Rattles In Fishing Lures…..
Most of us have a song or piece of music that invokes an emotion or reaction when we hear it. This happens because our brains create a linkage between certain sounds and past events in our lives.
For example, how do you react to the music of an ice-cream truck? You probably focus on it, trying to figure out whether it’s getting closer. It might create a desire to eat.
But if you’re driving along and you hear a police siren or a gunshot behind you the emotion and reaction could be quite different. You’ll probably feel anxiousness and you might switch into self preservation mode.
All animals, including fish, attach emotions to sounds. So one of the great challenges in lure fishing is to make your lures sound like ice-cream trucks – not gunshots!
The sound emitted by a lure is determined by the number and type of rattles, body shape, lure size, construction material and so on. And there’s plenty of evidence that fish recognize specific lures just by the sounds they make.
So when a fish is caught and released (or hooked and lost) on a particular lure it develops a negative association with the sound of that lure! The fish will probably switch to avoidance mode the next time it hears that sound. And since sound travels a long way in water, fish can be scared off a lure they can’t even see!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just one reason why lure fishing can be so difficult on pressured waters. It’s also why many tournament pros pull out the “silent” custom lures for the last day of a competition. They have a better chance of catching fish on lures that don’t turn fish off from long distances!
Lure Fishing Tips#7: Can Fish Smell A Lure? Read This And It Will All Make Scents (sic)…..
Moving on…… lets talk about odors – or as I like to call them “Common Scents”.
It’s interesting how people over-exaggerate the ability of sharks to smell blood. Yet, they’ll still ask “Can fish smell stuff?”
Uuhm….. Of course. In fact, they can be super sensitive to smells.
It’s been shown that some species migrate back to their place of birth using tracer chemicals. These chemicals are as dilute as a thimble-full in a billion liters of water….. but enough for fish to smell, recognize and follow them. (3)
Did you ever wonder why sharks and pelagic fish swim in a zigzag fashion along a scent trail?
It’s because their brain is wired to detect which of their nares (the fish equivalent of nostrils) receives scent first. So by zigzagging they can follow a scent trail until they find their prey.
Whenever possible, I avoid getting soaps, sunscreen, fuel and other odors on my hands before and during fishing with lures. Lot’s of guys do this. In fact, many lure fishermen avoid getting soap anywhere, anytime…… but that’s a discussion for another day.
Can fish smell these chemicals, or even a “human” smell that may have transferred to a lure from your hands? Sure! Some fish navigate back to their home streams using the smell in minuscule amount of chemical in a vast ocean.
The truth is, they probably smell some things better than others. Well, it depends on the species, and it depends on the chemicals. They’re thought to be very sensitive to water soluble chemicals such as the active ingredients in insect repellents and sunscreens. On the other hand, there is evidence that fish are almost completely unable to detect oily substances such as fuels.
A sense of smell is important for self preservation
Personally, I just prefer to leave nothing to chance. Here’s why: Imagine you’re super hungry. Starving. And you spot a steakhouse across the road. By the time you get to the door you’re drooling at the idea of a juicy steak with all the fixings. You can see the chef in the kitchen busily frying up steak. You open the door expecting to be hit by the smell of a succulent, sizzling steak – but instead you get the smell of jet fuel. Or sewage. Or maybe paint stripper.
Did you just lose your appetite? No matter how hungry you are, self preservation takes over.
Fish are the same. Let’s say a fish is homing in, about to smash your lure to oblivion. At the last second, just as it was about to cream your offering, it smells sunscreen. Odds are, the fish will reject your lure, leaving you with palpitations – but no hookup.
Would the use of scent necessarily change this scenario? Perhaps. The worst case is, the scent doesn’t help – but if you’re using a natural, water based scent then the odds are it won’t do any harm.
Using Scent To Help Catch Fish On Lures
3 Bonus Lure Fishing Tips:
Making Sense Of Scents
1. Oil based scents stick to lures longer, but are less effective as attractants. Oils float to the surface as they wash off your lure.
2. Water based scents disperse better in the water, leaving a clear trail for fish to follow. They also contain amino acids and bile acid, which are stronger feeding cues than fats.
3. Using scents is like seasoning steak. Too little = bland. Too much = overload. Use them often but sparingly.
So from my ramblings above, you’ve probably twigged that a decent scent could really improve your lure fishing, right? It might mask any unnatural odor your lure has picked up. And it could make your fishing lure leave a scent trail that fish can follow – just like a hunting dog tracking down its quarry.
There are a couple of natural chemicals that can really switch fish into feeding mode. One is amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. The other is bile acid, which is excreted by fish after feeding. The presence of bile acid is a clear sign that other fish have been feeding, which can stimulate a bite.
For me, fish and crustacean scents are the natural choice – literally. They’re loaded with amino acids. And they’re derived from sources that fish naturally feed on, so it’s a no brainer.
I’m not a great fan of scents like garlic, aniseed, vanilla that don’t naturally exist in waterways. A lot of folks swear by them, but I’m fine with being shouted down on this. Here’s why:
Once again, fish can start to associate an unusual smell with an unpleasant event. Plus, there’s evidence that fish learn to associate these smells with less nutritious prey and then start to avoid them. I don’t know how true that is, I just prefer more natural options. You can read more about that at the links below.
Lure Fishing Tip #8: Making Sure Your Fishing Lures Aren’t In Poor Taste!
Can you imagine if you couldn’t help but taste everything you touched?Going to public restrooms would be pretty traumatic, wouldn’t it? So would taking out the garbage, degreasing an engine or cleaning fish. You’d even be cautious about just shaking hands! And dating….. let’s leave that one well alone.
So spare a thought for the humble catfish. Its entire body is devoid of scales but covered with masses of taste buds. Yep, we humans only have about 7000 taste buds in our mouths. But catfish have around 27,000 of them all over their body. They literally taste everything they come into contact with. Ewww.
Granted, catfish are an extreme example. But most fish have this same ability to some extent. They have taste buds around their mouth but also on their faces -especially the cheeks-, their fins and lateral line. Everywhere but the tongue (the one spot we humans do have taste buds).
So when you hear stories about a fish spitting fishing lures that don’t taste right…… think again! Those lures probably got rejected for some other reason. Fish have usually done their tasting before the lure is anywhere near their mouth.
My theory is that this is the precise reason so many fish get hooked on the side of the head. They may have been tasting the lure while deciding whether to eat it.
Lure Fishing Tip #9: The Lateral Line…. It’s A Fish’s Sixth Sense
OK, now we’re moving into a mysterious but important topic……
Fish have some senses that most fishermen don’t properly understand. That’s natural because we don’t have these senses ourselves.
Before we go into detail, let’s have another story to illustrate the concept (I sure hope you find these little anecdotes helpful).
I drive a beaten up old fishing truck because I don’t want to give a hoot about getting off the beaten track. Recently I was driving my brother in laws luxury SUV. I was amazed at the number of sensors. Drift too far towards the center line….. Beep. Get too close to the car in front….Beep. Reverse into a car park….. beep, beep, beep. Passenger has a runny nose…. beep. Exceed the speed limit – GPS screams it to the world. Wonderful.
Personally, I just wanted to switch the thing off.
The engineers made this vehicle hyper-alert to the surroundings. Every time the thing beeped, I jumped – yet I was nowhere near being in danger. I’ve never had this technology before – and still, I haven’t had an “at fault” car accident in 30 years. But this infernal early-warning system was constantly alerting me to “dangers” that didn’t exist.
My guess is that fish were designed by the same engineers as that SUV. They have the same hyper-sensitive sensory system. And they detect everything that goes on around them using an organ known as the a “lateral line”.
The lateral line runs down both sides of most fish species and can detect the tiniest of vibrations in the water. It’s like when a light breeze blowing over the hairs on your arms – you notice it and detect which direction the wind is coming from. Fish do the same thing – times a million.
3 Reasons I Wish I Had A Lateral Line
1. I could feel an object in front of me by the pressure waves, avoiding collision even in zero visibility.
2. I could walk in unison with a crowd of people without ever bumping into anyone.
3. I could feel sounds that are too low pitched to hear.
Ever wonder how a school of fish moves in unison? They all turn simultaneously. I’ve never seen a situation where they start crashing into each other because someone forget to turn. (5)
That’s because they’re not thinking about it. They’re on an automatic, instinctive program. They’re sensing the movement of other fish in the school and instinctively changing direction to keep in sync.
But that’s just one example of the power of a lateral line.
Did you know that fish can track prey, just like predators on land can do?
Any time an object moves through the water it leaves behind tiny, microscopic eddies called vortices. Bigger objects leave bigger vortices. It’s like an invisible trail. And fish can detect the pressure changes and minuscule water currents within these vortices to follow them to their source. They can do this up to a minute after the object has passed them by. (7)
But wait! It gets better.
The lateral line also contributes to the fish’s senses of smell and taste! So if the object causing the vortices is made of something edible, fish will know it. And they know which direction it was headed, too. All without even seeing the item…….
In my book that’s yet another big tick in support of using water based scents on lures. If your fishing lure leaves behind scent-infused trail, fish are able to track it down incredibly easily, even in low light or murky water. But if it smells like sunscreen, well, they probably won’t bother to follow it.
And if that’s not enough, the lateral line is also sensitive to very low frequency sounds. It’s like the fish have a second set of ears, just for hearing what their first set can’t!
Tip #10: The Shocking Truth About Electrolocation……
Electrolocation is the ability of some fish and a few other animals (mostly aquatic) to detect prey using electric fields. In some cases, such as electric eels, the fish produce an electric field, which gets disturbed when something enters it.
In other cases, the fish simply detect the tiny electric field that exists around all living animals. Nerves firing and natural process in the gills cause these weak electric fields. In theory, fish detect these fields when they’re close to bait – and use them to determine when and where to strike……
So electrolocation isn’t thought to play a part in attracting fish from a distance. But in some cases it might play a part in convincing a fish to strike a fishing lure.
In recent years a few companies have started producing devices intended to mimic the electric field of baitfish. Some guys swear by them, others dismiss them. I guess in lure fishing if it gives you confidence then by default it gives you an edge. Even if it’s false confidence.
“Catfish, sharks and rays are the only angling species I can find that are confirmed to use electroreception”
But I’ll be upfront here…… I’ve tried one brand of electrolocation product designed for lure fishing and I really wasn’t convinced. Admittedly, I haven’t done any kind of statistical, rigorous investigation. But I certainly didn’t notice any real difference to my catch rates that would give me extra confidence. Anyway, that’s my personal experience.
I’ll admit I was skeptical from the start though. Hey, I’m a scientist, I question everything!
Electrolocation is well known and studied in sharks, elephant fish, platypus, electric eels and a few other species like catfish. But it’s a specialized sensory system. I’ve never seen any scientific evidence of electrolocation in any of the common lure fishing species.(7)
Keep in mind that in the freshwater fish, the eletroreception range is thought to be a little over 2 inches (5cm)…… hardly likely to make a huge difference to catch results. I’d have thought once a fish was that close to my lure most of the convincing would already have been done…..
Anyway, I’d love to be proven wrong on this. But I reckon there are more effective, proven ways of nailing fish on lures than imitating electric fields. So if you’re a great fan of electrolocation technology, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your experience.
Custom Wooden Lures And How They Give You An Advantage Over Fish
You’ve read this far – and that’s great! Hopefully it means that you’ve found this article interesting. So while I’ve got your attention, let’s see how all of this relates back to designing and making wooden lures. Because at the end of the day, we want to use this information to catch more fish. Or a better class of fish, right?
Today, millions of guys around the world are into lure making. MILLIONS! It’s a groundswell – the number of fishermen involved is rising steadily.
Now, reasons for hand making lures are as varied as the fishermen themselves. Some want to save a buck. Others get a high from catching fish on lures they made. Many just want a hobby during the closed season or when the weather is bad. A healthy number are making a buck selling their lures.
Let me tell you MY reason for spending a large chunk of more than 3 decades making lures: BETTER LURE FISHING. It’s as simple as that.
After reading the above article, you can see that I’ve dedicated my life to understanding fish. I don’t just follow what other fishermen are doing unless it makes sense to do so. My lure fishing is a combination of personal experience, science, research and lots of experimentation.
I’m a pretty busy guy and it would save me a bunch of time if I just bought all my lures (I do still buy some). So ask yourself “Why would Doc bother to make lures if bought ones were just as good”? The truth is, I wouldn’t.
“My obsession is not really with lure making – it’s with LURE FISHING!”
Wooden lure making is a gateway to better lure fishing:
- Homemade fishing lures each have their own signature sound, vibration, action, appearance and so on. This makes it very hard for fish to become educated and vastly improves results on hard-fished waters.
- Wooden lures have a tendency to emit subtle, lower pitched sounds that are easier to hear and more natural sounding to fish. Fish learn to reject unnatural sounds and vibrations fast, so this is a big advantage.
- Making my own fishing lures gives me complete control over every aspect of the design. I can tweak them to suit my precise needs and use them to deadly effect.
The bottom line is, by making my own lures I get to enjoy better lure fishing than I otherwise could. Full stop. What more reason could I possibly need?
Interested In Learning To Make Wooden Lures?
Lure making is not rocket science. Most folks can learn to make some pretty good quality lures in a weekend or two. After that they get to enjoy a lifetime of better lure fishing!
If you’d like to give it a go, why not check out my free “Wooden Lure Making 101” eBook? Just click on the image below and I’ll send you out the download links. You can be learning the fine art of lure making in just a few minutes.
1. Fish Sensory Systems
2. Fishing With Confidence
3. Dissecting Bass Behavior
4. Knowing Bass: The Scientific Approach To Catching More Fish (Dr, Keith Jones)
5. Fishing Different (Jake Bussolini)
6. Electrolocation And Bass (Aaron Lesieur)
7. How Fish Track Their Quarry, Even When They Can’t See It (John Matson)
8. Electroreception (Cornell)
9. Fish Taste And Smell (BassBuzz)