“They’re not biting.”

If, during the course of this season, you’ve taken up my challenge and made serious attempts to get out and take advantage of what you’ve learned here, chances are great that you, or someone else has uttered these words.

In the business world a paradigm is an obvious, or not quite so obvious challenge to the future growth of the company. The ability of the employees to overcome their “business as usual” attitude and rise to the challenge and change their course of action can determine whether the business stays in business. Breaking free of that comfort zone can be stressful and even disastrous. Luckily for you and I, this is not life and death when it comes to the art of angling but, nonetheless, must be noted and dealt with to the best of our abilities.

Our first challenge it to realize that our results are not what they could be in order to keep us interested and entertained. The sooner the better so that our growth can continue. The next realization should be the paradigm before us. That is, the fish are obviously ‘biting’ something, and at some time or they would starve. As a matter of fact, the fish’s metabolism is at its peak at this time of year and they are feeding voraciously, putting on pounds. So, why don’t they strike what I’m throwing? Trial and error can be beautiful things when results are gained that foster gratification. How do we offer better ‘trials’ with the least amount of ‘errors’ that tend to dampen our enthusiasm?

Well, this is where it becomes a bit more difficult. It’s akin to teaching you to hit a target. To instill the proper training in order to hit a target with a rifle chambered in .22 LR would be much more tedious than showing you how to light the primer of a howitzer loaded with shot pointed in the general direction. The first is too tedious for words and the second teaches nothing.

Let us start then by focusing on only a few elements that can offer you a springboard from which you can ad lib or embellish as much as you want the further you progress.

Presentation is our first and foremost key component in our efforts. Top; middle; bottom and everywhere in between and where we focus our sights, so to speak, can determine whether we get in the ‘zone’. It’s what we call that two-foot strike zone. You see most predators of the fishy variety will not expend energy in order to gain energy. They will not travel more than a couple of feet to strike something, whether out of provocation, or hunger. So, that floating Texas rig nudging the bottom can be deadly one day while the very next you’d better be ripping a Jitterbug across the surface. I believe that fish are moody. Scientifically speaking there are no hard and fast rules let alone, empirical evidence that this or that must be utilized when the water is such and the weather is this or that, or the sun is this high in the sky. This is NOT to say that mental notes are a waste of time. Remember, we’re fighting paradigms here and getting stuck in a fishing rut is to be avoided at all costs.

The next component is speed; fast, medium, slow and even stop, or drop: all of these can effect a reaction from our target. I cannot count the times where I became snagged to something and after some effort was able to break free of the obstruction. This ‘stop-and-go presentation created by that intermittent snag had caused strikes that at times came close to rattling my teeth. The point here is–before giving up on a bait, or lure, altogether try and mix it up a bit. Your efforts might surprise you.

Finally, choice of lures…and you already thought this was becoming tedious? I have been accused of keeping it too simple when it comes to lure selection. I can only say in my defense, I know what I’m after and really don’t care to catch anything else. If I fail to gain results, so be it. A prime example? Last summer, my brother and I took his son trout fishing. I used a small minnow imitation while they threw night crawlers. My nephew was quite elated that he was out-fishing his uncle. I missed some massive strikes when failing to get a proper hook set and he has that up on me. You could literally watch the fish react to the bait and by this frustration it became a very long day for me. The big ones become wise to your offering quite quickly; you get one chance with these guys and I missed every time. My nephew got his five fish limit and released several times that number. Every dog has his day.

I remember reading an article years ago. Some men were fishing a regionally notorious bluegill pond the day after a big tournament they had won. No matter how they rigged their selection of baits, the monster bluegills refused to look at their offerings. Two boys showed up and with a sack of crickets proceeded to show the tournament champs how easy it is to overcome a paradigm. Their laughter was sobered by two boys with cane poles and bobbers. The key to bait selection then? Variety. If the crawler on a circle hook attached to a drop-shot below a bobber is shutting down is it time to go home? I can’t count the times I’ve said, “Just one more cast.” What if you removed the bobber? What if you removed the weight? What if you switched to a jig head with a tandem spinner? My guess is that surely you could induce one more strike with just one more cast. The variety offered in a myriad of approaches should foster hope while utilizing just one bait. Now throw in a second bait; the opportunities to your approach just became uncountable.

Which second bait? OK…we’ve mentioned crawlers and minnows, crickets as well. Have you ever thrown hellgrammites; or crawdads; or leopard frogs? Short of cutting open the gut of your catch, there are so many ways to test the water and we have barely scratched the surface, here. Variety of baits and variety of efforts in presenting them will keep you busy for hours and gain you results that overcome your fishing paradigms as quickly as they occur. This time of year the competition for the fish’s attention is myriad. Now, factor in fishing pressure and other elements to their mood outside of your control and you are beginning to understand why folks take fly-ins to the upper reaches of Canada to get results worthy of the hard earned money they plopped down for the privilege.

Back here in Iowa, why not mix it up a bit? Don’t get caught in that rut you’ve created for yourself, stare down your paradigms and step outside that rut. We’ve all heard the term, “Thinking outside the box”. We anglers are prime examples when we allow ourselves to get creative with limited resources and invent variety in our presentations through approaches we have overlooked because we were just to put off to tie that extra knot.

If you actively change your methods constantly: tie that extra knot or switch that bait all together for something that may leave your colleagues in stitches, you are well on your way to improving your results once you confront and then, overcome your own fishing paradigms. It is as simple, or as complicated as you want it to be. My only hope for you is that your paradigms never cause you frustrations that leave you in despair…that you will always, through the knowledge you’ve gained, be willing to say, “Just one more cast”.