Guer­rilla Tac­tics DOUG PIKE

Saltwater Sportsman - - Table Of Contents / Departments - ILLUSTRATION BY STEVE HAEFELE BY DOUG PIKE

Ev­ery bay has its share of fish­er­men who run shore­lines in search of oth­ers who al­ready found ac­tion. It’s called “fish­ing the bent-rod pat­tern” in some ar­eas, “bird-dog­ging” in oth­ers. Ei­ther way, these guys couldn’t find their own fish in a pet store.

And if they see any­one in your group hooked up, they’re com­ing in hot and of­ten stop­ping so close that they spook the school.

When we saw boats bear­ing down on us years ago, some friends and I had a plan of ac­tion. Any of us ac­tively fight­ing fish im­me­di­ately free-spooled reels and slacked lines. One guy would shoul­der his rod and start walk­ing to­ward the boat, and a third man would feign pick­ing out a deep back­lash. That was enough “noth­ing” to send most free­loaders off to shadow some­one else.

Con­versely, if we were done with a spot, we’d of­fer a wel­com­ing wave. Once the hawks were out of the boat and well dis­persed, we’d spool up, pack up and mo­tor away.

That’s de­cep­tive, true, but we judged our trick­ery was not as bad as bunches of waders idling in to ask how things were go­ing.

An­other proven way to dis­tract an­glers is with false mark­ers. This ploy has lost some efficiency with the lon­gago in­tro­duc­tion of GPS nav­i­ga­tion, but it’ll still fool most in­ex­pe­ri­enced fish­er­men and some vet­er­ans.

Few things ap­peal more than the dream of find­ing a “se­cret spot” in open water, a place where some un­seen bot­tom anom­aly at­tracts and holds fish. An old guide from high on the East Coast told me he used to turn plas­tic soft-drink bot­tles, string and rocks into ir­re­sistible stops for peo­ple who didn’t know where to fish.

On his way across the bay, he’d sling one or two of the mark­ers over the side in fea­ture­less, wide-open water. From a dis­tance, while fish­ing with clients, he’d place bets on how long it would take for a boat­load of guys to stop and fish around that jug. It sel­dom took long.

Some­times, he said, he’d use a broad Sharpie to write “Made you look!” on the jugs. That had to sting.

One of my fa­vorite de­cep­tions al­most cer­tainly was the re­sult of a lunchtime ac­ci­dent on a run­ning boat. In many bay sys­tems, sea gulls or terns are sure­fire in­di­ca­tors of game fish chas­ing shrimp or small bait­fish to the sur­face while try­ing to es­cape hun­gry fish com­ing at them from the bot­tom. That feed­ing ac­tiv­ity pro­duces small, oily slicks that can lead us to a va­ri­ety of game fish.

Po­tato chips and corn chips have the same ef­fect, ex­cept for the pres­ence of any fish or shrimp. As you ride across the bay, sling ran­dom hand­fuls of chips into the air. When they hit the water, their oil cre­ates tiny slicks.

When the gulls see those slicks and chips, they start div­ing and pick and peck un­til ev­ery last chip is eaten. The scene is nearly iden­ti­cal to birds work­ing real feeds, enough to con­vince al­most any fish­er­man to in­ves­ti­gate. That might be all the head start you need to be first onto some real ac­tion across the bay.

At the ramp, on the phone or on­line, most of us will tell any­one who asks ev­ery­thing we know about what’s bit­ing and where. On the water, rod in hand, we tend to be a bit less ea­ger to share.

Most places worth fish­ing these days are over­crowded, or so say fish­er­men who think they were first ever to fish there. If you can’t beat the crowd, some say fake it out.

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