Change it up – tips to turn your results around by Sean Thompson

We all know that at times the fish just don't appear to be there, or they simply won't bite. Sometimes anglers fish on regardless in the hopes that fish will arrive or the magic bite switch will be turned on any minute, because a fish prediction calendar tells them it will be. Other times the fishing action might be hot to trot, but for some reason you miss out. Some anglers might simply dismiss this as pot luck. The thinking angler will instead turn their mind to the environment around them. They'll use all their senses and modern technology and think about what's happening, or perhaps not happening. They'll use this information in an endeavour to change it up, trying a new lure, bait or location, or simply a different time. It's these anglers who can turn their results around, most of the time. To start off, being well prepared for a fishing session or trip can mean a number of things and be the difference between the dreaded 'donut' and a good session. Not only will you start the session with more confidence, but if the going gets tough, you'll have the tackle, know-how and tools to change things up. Check out Figure 1 for a checklist of things to prepare. WHAT AM I DOING WRONG? While it's one thing to be prepared and have plenty of options up your sleeve, it's another to know what you're doing wrong in the first place. Asking yourself the simple question 'what am I doing wrong' is critical to turning your results around. In fact, sometimes the fish may be biting their heads off, but just not on your baits and lures! There is normally a reason and you want to work it out fast before the fish move on. Let's consider a couple of scenarios and investigate the sort of questions you can ask yourself to determine what you are doing wrong before exploring how you can change things up. While it might not seem it at the time, if others are catching fish and you aren't this is a lot better than the fish not biting at all. This is because you can go through a process of elimination to work out what you're doing wrong, what they're doing right or if the successful angler's fishing spot is different in some way. Figure 2 is a checklist of things to ask yourself when others are catching fish but you aren't. Other times while fishing by yourself in an area, or even with others about, you might find the fish aren't biting or just don't seem to be there. In addition to the questions mentioned above, there are a few other questions you can ask to determine why the fish aren't there before you change location. Check this list questions out in Figure 3. CHANGING IT UP Once you've asked yourself these questions and worked out what you might be doing wrong, or what others are doing right, you're ready to change things up. That is, you're ready to fine-tune your methods, ready to make a move or, in the worst case, come back another time. If the fish are biting, obviously it pays to persist in the area. That doesn't mean you keep doing what you're doing if it isn't working. Try and work out why others are catching fish and you can't. If you can't, try something different anyway. If you work out that successful anglers nearby are fishing different water to you (in colour or surface or underwater features), it might be time for a move. If there is no room within a courteous distance from other angler(s), then look for that same structure elsewhere. For example, on a recent trip to Fraser Island, my mates and I were targeting different areas for flathead around one of the creeks on the western side. We were fishing the usual haunts - creek mouths, drop-offs, back-eddies and entrances to drains - and drawing a blank. Then one of the boys landed a number of fish in quick succession in some tannin-stained water. This flicked the switch for us and as good as our spots were, we found the baitfish and the fish. They had taken cover out of the very clear water as the sun got higher in the sky. We moved and sure enough caught fish in similar spots. Another option to change your results is to use some berley. You can do this from a boat, the beach, a lake or even from estuary flats. Use it liberally but don't overfeed them and you should bring the fish to you. A great little trick to fire the fish up without overfeeding them is this mixture; fill a large bucket 1/3 full with sand then add a 300g packet of unprocessed bran, water and 100ml of tuna oil. Mix this concoction up and disperse a handful or two at a time. It will bring baitfish and the fish to you without overfeeding them. If you don't have access to this, cut up some pilchards in small pieces and mix it with sand. This is a great option off the beach. A change of lure colour can also turn things around. In very clear water, use light greens, blues and whites. In dark water use bright or very dark lures to create a silhouette effect. Changing your lure size can also help at times. I love using small soft plastics on light jigheads on the estuary flats, as they can catch everything from whiting to bream to bigger fish like grunter and flathead. Big fish will also still take small lures. If you're lure fishing, apply one of the many great scents on the market, like Pro-Cure, Squidgies S Factor or Ultrabite (to name a few). I apply scents to my plastics and hardbodies every 8-10 casts and I find I catch more fish after reapplying a scent. Whether it's the scent or my confidence, it works. Another mistake anglers can make is that if they have caught a few fish in an area they are loathe to move even if the action slows down. When I'm fishing the flats or in a boat looking for whiting or flathead and I'm no longer catching fish, I will fan a few casts in the area before moving on. Importantly, don't just fish 'no man's land' or water with no structure when you move; be patient and move to the next likely bit of structure. You may have the advantage of technology like a GPS/sounder. If your location is devoid of bait or fish, move! Look for bait or fish on the sounder and then start fishing again. Be sure you don't spook the fish by motoring over the spots you're about to fish.