A Game Plan for Avid Anglers By Jason France on June 1, 2017
Success Tips for RoadKing Readers on the Go
By: Joe Bucher, Eagle River, Wisconsin
The most successful fishing trips usually begin well before you hit the road. It’s all about developing a solid game plan. The more you know before actually hitting the water, the more successful you’re likely to be. With this in mind, I suggest spending some of your idle time at a TA-Petro travel center scouting for online info. How? Smart phones, tablets or laptops are great for gathering lots of data. As a traveling angler, you’re just a “Google” away from where, when and how to tap into local fishing success.
Simply ask questions by city, town or region. For example, what are the best fishing waters near Nashville, Tennessee? Within a few seconds, an entire list of lake options are bound to pop up including maps, guides, marinas, and boat landings. A few more clicks into individual websites and some initial leads are sure to appear. This will often lead to additional searches for popular local fish, tackle recommendations and guide services, as well as boat landings, public fishing docks, and marinas. You might even find several YouTube videos featuring angling techniques popular to that locale. Once you begin a fishing search of this kind, you’ll likely be amazed at how much info exists.
It won’t take too long to start getting a feel for what kind of fishing opportunities exist close by. Personally, I also take the time to visit the promotional websites of professional guides, lodges and marinas, since most have photo galleries that can be very revealing. They clearly depict species, size expectations, and best times of the year. It won’t take you more than 15 minutes or so to get a pretty good overall picture of what you can expect from your first outing on that particular water.
If your budget and time allow, booking a trip with a local guide is sure to shorten the learning curve a great deal. Basically, this takes the rest of the guesswork out of the mix, connecting you with good fishing immediately. Even a one-day investment in a good guide is sure to provide you with knowledge of the tactics most apt to produce a good day on the water during that time of year. In addition, many guides’ fees also include all the tackle, which simplifies things a bunch and minimizes your commitment to gear. Ultimately, that initial guided trip will give you a far better idea about what specific gear to purchase for any future visits to that area.
If your time is limited and a guided trip is just not possible, an online search for shore fishing or dock fishing locations is another route to take. More detailed info on shore and dock casting spots is sure to be revealed with one trip to a local fishing retailer. Sometimes, the best preliminary approach is to slip into a busy local tackle store and humbly ask a few questions. Make sure you check out the bragging board of fish catches. Nearly every little fishing shack has photos pinned to the wall, plus a few fish mounts hanging.
Listen intently to any customer gossip. People typically talk about their catches or fiddle around with gear at these locales. If you can get into a conversation with the guy or gal running the place, there’s no telling what you can learn. Spending a few bucks at such spots usually opens up tight lips. More often than not, this simple step puts the right baits in your hands, and with a little more luck or a good gift of gab, even a few good spots to wet a line.
Many RoadKing readers fish regularly and are sure to have plenty of their own tackle. If you’re one of those ardent anglers who own plenty of gear, it’s certainly a good idea to travel with a few rod/reel outfits and a good overall selection of tackle items, so you’re ready for any angling opportunity no matter where or how it presents itself. In fact, it’s a good bet that many of you who prefer to fish for your favorite species are apt to seek out certain waters, as well as carry specific tackle. I personally know lots of truckers who are bass fishing crazy, yet there are plenty of you who would rather just catch a mess of panfish. Some of you may be tuned in to big catfish and night fishing, or maybe you like to chase big muskies. So, gearing up is sure to vary a lot depending upon the fish species you prefer. Add the saltwater scene to this equation, and the possible tackle matchups are almost endless.
By and large, one simply can’t go wrong keeping both spinning and bait-casting equipment on board your rig. The spinning outfit takes care of nearly all of the finesse- style applications, including small lures, live baits, and more subtle technique approaches. Yet, a bait-casting outfit is recommended for what I call the power game tactics—launching spinnerbaits, crankbaits, topwater plugs, and even big soft plastics. I’d recommend carrying an extra spool of line for each rod/reel outfit, just in case you run into a tangle on an outing or break off on a snag while shore fishing. By the way, the new high-performance braided lines work extremely well on both spinning and baitcasting outfits and store far better than traditional mono or fluorocarbon lines that tend to develop coils and kinks after any exposure to sunlight.
When it comes to setting up a tackle box, I’d highly recommend a soft-sided bag with multiple pouches to store hooks, line, leaders, floats, snaps, sinkers and even single-hook spinnerbaits. The inner works of a typical larger soft-sided bag contain individual clear, hard plastic boxes that can be used for a host of lures. Collectively, today’s RoadKing trucker could carry a huge selection of tackle items inside several bags or even a large sealed container without too much trouble. This master stash can then be tapped into depending upon the conditions, species, and situations you face on any given trip. These hard boxes are easily switched out according to the needs of any specific trip with all of it then being stored inside your single master soft-sider.
Let’s Get Specific
Typically, these larger soft-sided bags accommodate at least six to eight inner hard boxes. It then becomes very simple to categorize each box with a strong selection of specific items. Essentially, I’d dedicate individual boxes for crankbaits, topwater plugs, minnow baits, jigs, soft plastics, and terminal items. Once you know the specific tackle needs of any given trip, you can easily change out some of these boxes and load up additional boxes that accommodate the species you’re most likely to encounter on that outing.
For example, if you’re heading out on a chartered trip the next morning, and the guide suggests the main bite is bass on crankbaits off windy reefs, and there is virtually no chance of tagging any fish on topwater, it makes far more sense to double up on crankbait boxes and pull out the surface bait selection. Conversely, if you’re on a Lake Erie walleye charter, a box full of bass tackle serves no purpose. Instead, slide in appropriate boxes with jigs, rigs, and loads of terminal items. Still again, if the target is panfish, such as crappies, why bring along all these lures? Switch out these lure boxes for more terminal gear including floats, sinkers, hooks, line and small plastics. This is precisely why the soft-sided bag concept is ideal for the RoadKing angler with an additional sealed container for a larger selection of gear inside your truck storage.
Finally, don’t overlook tools in your traveling tackle bag. Long-nosed pliers for unhooking fish and repairing damaged lures from a big fish battle are essential. Frankly, this is one of my most important tools for any fishing outing. I rely on them a great deal for rigging, lure repair and certainly for unhooking fish. A scissors that can cut braided line is also a must. Inevitably, you are going to have to cut line and retie throughout any fishing excursion. Rigging, fixing, and unhooking are frequently overlooked in tackle prep. Don’t leave home without these two items, but also add a multi-tool to the mix. A good Leatherman® style multi-tool has pliers, scissors, knife and a few other features that will come in handy when needed.
The traveling RoadKing angler can potentially tap into a wide range of fishing situations for sure. Whether you just plan to hook up with a guide and rely on his or her gear, or like to bring along your own tackle for spur-of-the-moment opportunities, preparation is the key to success. Spend a little time visiting the web and developing a game plan, and I’m certain you’ll catch far more fish once you hit the water.