Just Relax, You’ll Catch More Fish

Post-SunfishBy: Matt Johnson

We live fast-paced lives. Everything is
go, go, go. Speed is often considered
something of importance, whether it’s in
reference to sports, completing tasks,
get to and from locations, and even
productivity on the ice. How fast can you
move from spot to spot, how fast can you
drill a series of holes, or whatever the
objective. However, it’s time for an
abrupt stop. A halt on your fishing
tendencies. It’s time to relax and
focus—because it will help you catch
more fish.

How and why exactly will slowing down, relaxing, breathing, help you catch more
fish? Well, we play into the mood of the fish, and we give ourselves time to
focus on the details of the catch. Why do you think a golfer takes a moment to
channel their focus before making a shot? Or what about pool player? They
do this so they can make the best shot, to make sure the don’t make mistakes,
and ultimately to achieve the best outcome and to be successful. This way of
thinking can easily be applied to ice fishing, especially when it comes to the
battle between you and the fish.

So, just how do we implement a little relaxation and focus into ice fishing? Well,
we do it by slowing down and paying attention. We fine-tune our approach
when dropping a lure down to the fish. We swim the lure more than we “hop”
the lure when the situation calls for it. We pay attention to subtle changes in
line movement, absence of weight, changes in jigging sequence, and any
unexpected wiggles of the spring bobber. We train ourselves to notice the little
things, because we allow ourselves to slow down, relax and focus.

A great way to do this is to start using spooler style reels if you haven’t already.
I prefer the ones where you need to still pull the line out by hand, rather than
pushing a lever or button and the lure drops quickly down to the fish. I like
stripping the line by hand because it allows me to 100% control the speed at
which the lure falls to the fish. I can now force myself to slow down and focus,
and as importantly—work the entire water column. It’s amazing how many fish
we miss because we “bomb” the lure down the fish. We see that red mark on
our Vexilar and we shoot it straight down, only to miss the potential of a better
opportunity on the way down if we just took a little more time.

You also want to focus on slower movements while jigging. Now, I’m not huge
on doing nothing (dead-stick approach) when it comes to ice fishing. I
understand there are certainly situations that call for it, but I’d rather just
drastically slow down my sequence rather than do nothing. It’s amazing how
fast and aggressive we like to move the lure under the ice. I can’t imagine that
the fish don’t get headaches trying to keep up with the movements that we
present below the ice. Slowing down—but not stopping—will give you the best
of both worlds and can sometimes be the single-most change that it takes to
catch more fish. Swim the lure and make it glide or quiver. Lose the quick
hops, darts and shakes. Sure, when the bite is aggressive, they will crush it,
but oftentimes we find ourselves dealing with negative or neutral fish while ice
fishing. Slow down and focus on the movements of your lure to properly entice
the fish.

Pay closer attention to your Vexilar—it tells us a lot more than we think. Watch
what the fish do in reaction to what you do. Pay attention to what works and
what doesn’t, how quick the fish shy’s away from a jigging sequence or how
interested it becomes. Make mental notes of the wins and losses. Duplicate
the successes and change the rejections. Don’t go insane (which be definition
can mean to repeat something over and over knowing you’ll get the same
negative result). Your Vexilar is your fish’s mood indicator. Rely on it and learn
from it. Slowly work the lure away from the fish, even if it seems interested.
Then watch your line, spring bobber or rod tip as the fish closes in. Feel for
absence of weight. This is where slowing down and focusing can make you a
better ice angler. Use the tools to your advantage.

The bottom line here is that we can all relax a little. We can all slow down and
focus on the smaller details and adjustments that need to be made. We can
leave the fast-paced life for when we’re off the ice—at least when we’re in battle
with the fish. Run-and-gun to find the fish and locate the school, but then take
a moment to breathe and slow down when it’s time to engage with those marks
on your Vexilar. You’ll be surprised how a little bit of concentration can turn into
big rewards. Here’s to a little bit of R&R and a lot more fish!

Good Fishin’,
Matt Johnson

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