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by Jim Porter

An old friend of mine, the late Charlie Brewer, once told me, "Jim, good fishing is nothing."

That was right after I first met Charlie, and he was setting me up for my initial lesson in fishing his now-famous Slider lure. I didn't understand the comment, but came to realize very soon that 'do-nothing fishing', in the way Charlie practiced it, was a great way to catch a LOT of fish.

But, the real meaning of the term 'nothing' and its effectiveness in fishing did not become really clear for 30 more years. A year after Charlie Brewer's passing, I think I now have figured it out.

Fish are dumb as rocks. You can dispute that comment all you like. But, any creature who tries to eat something that looks like a TinkerToy, viciously strikes at hunks of scrap-iron, swallows pieces of plastic with metal hooks attached ---- please, be serious; he ain't too high on the intelligence ladder.

Fishermen, on the other hand, are 'smart'. We spend small fortunes and the kid's shoe money trying to find that one 'magic' lure that will answer all our prayers. That one bait that fish cannot resist. We know what it must look like, too, and we know its characteristics. It must be brightly colored, with all sorts of shine and flash. Chances are that it will be a bust if it doesn't make a lot of noise; so, we expect rattles, clackers, or maybe a few bells and whistles. It is so easy to handle that it can be fished by anyone. BUT, only you and I will catch those fabled big stringers with it. Yep, like the lost fountain of youth, we strive to find our magic lure somewhere in the realm of reality, but tempered by still knowing it is only fantasy.

I may have actually seen mine recently. I received an email touting a lure that 'calls' fish. All it needs is a flashing light like Joe GradeSchool's sneakers and it would have it all. Of course, your magic lure may also show up in the Sunday paper with a photo of a mounted fish apparently about to engulf it and claims that it may be banned from organized tournaments. Or, we may find it on an obscure TV channel as a Paid Advertisement period at 2:00 AM on a Sunday night when insomnia strikes us.

But, back to reality.

'Nothing' fishing is not a lure . It is really more of a tactic, or method of presentation. There are a lot of lures that lend themselves to the 'nothing' approach. The most versatile are soft plastics, but topwater lures and some crank plugs can also be used.

In a nutshell, 'nothing' fishing is using a fish's lack of smarts against himself.

All predators have basically the same trait towards obtaining food. They have an inborn instinct to lie-in-wait, stalk, or just plain chase their prey. Injured prey is even better. It's an easy catch. They do not have to expend energy to catch it. They absolutely cannot sit still and watch what might be prey slowly move past them. Whether hungry or not, they have to try and get it.

The common house cat is a good example. He comes from a species that is a good hunter, and prey is constantly on his mind. Your cat gets fed very well, as does mine. But, they still seem to like to kill mice and other small animals. A cat cannot stand to watch a string being dragged across a floor, so he just has to suddenly grab at it. He can't eat the string; it doesn't even look like food. But, you can bet your lunchbox Twinkies that cat will try and catch it. Do you remember what the cat does when he DOES catch the string?? He looks at it, turns a claw over and looks at the other side, smells it once and drops it.

That is PRECISELY what a bass, and nearly all other predator fish, do. They react to a movement, whether seen or heard. They do a quick calculation to determine if the effort to catch it is worth the return in food value. If it appears to be something slow or just easy to catch, they will grab it and do their examination. If it is not worth having, a cat drops it and walks away. A bass will simply mouth it, determine if it is something edible or not, and either swallow or spit it out. The bass isn't too swift at this process, it appears. I have found pieces of wood, small rocks, and the old rip tabs that once came on beverage cans in their bellies. I have had them regurgitate soft plastic lures when placed in the livewell and have even seen soft plastic lures protruding from their anal opening. So, right away we know that their taste and smell capabilities aren't so great.

In the application of 'nothing', I like a 7-inch plastic worm, a 4/0 sproat hook and no weight at all. The worm I normally use is a Zoom Trick Worm, for no other reason than it is a dense worm and will sink. My hook selection is made strictly by weight, in that I want enough weight added to the worm to get a sink rate of one-foot every four, or so, seconds. That's my formula and its works. You can use whatever soft plastic lure you like and select your hook to obtain a similar sink rate.

A Sluggo-style jerk bait is also good for the 'nothing' approach, but those style lures are invariably very buoyant and a big hook, alone, will not sink them well. A small piece of flat lead solder wrapped around the hook, in conjunction with a thick-bodied hook, will usually work fine. I do not recommend a split shot or any added weight that would be at the head of the lure. The sink style we want is a flat type, not a nose-first dive.

Armed with this set-up, go find a dock, a brush top, or a grass bed. Even better, at times, is the face of a concrete seawall or some steep rip-rap. Now, toss the lure right against the cover and immediately drop the rod tip and line to the surface. What you are looking for is some slack line that you can watch for movement, plus you want to keep the wind from bowing the line. Forget the lure; just watch the line. The strike will be soft and subtle. The line may twitch, move very slightly, or it might jump right off the surface of the water. At this point, DO NOT set the hook! This is most important. DO NOT set the hook when you SEE the strike. Tighten up quickly until you can feel the fish (he won't let go; he's too dumb and wants that prize he has captured). When you can feel the fish, then strike. You will rarely ever miss hooking the fish. He holds on because he feels the slight resistance from the weight of your line and he will turn away from that resistance. That is usually when you feel the fish. You don't feel the strike; you feel him tugging gently to test that resistance he senses.

Another great way to use the weightless worm is to just toss it out and reel it back. Reel it as slow as you can to keep it moving and just at, or below, the surface. You don't even want a wake to show on calm water. Occasionally, the bass will blow it up like on a topwater lure. But, most times he just takes it gently and your only indicator will be a slight tugging sensation. DO NOT set the hook yet. Point the rod at the fish, take up the slack until you feel him well (he won't turn loose), and then cross his eyes. Again, you rarely miss getting the fish.

This slowly sinking plastic lure technique is extremely effective. And, the hotter the weather, the better it is.

You can also apply 'nothing' with slowly sinking or suspending crank plugs. Just get them down close to some cover or good structure and let them stop - and let them stop - and let them stop. The ONLY reason to move them is to come in for another cast because you did not get a strike. I assure you the fish, if he is anywhere close, has seen your fake intruder come into his area. And, he WILL grab it, sooner or later. Topwater lures work much the same way. Sometimes, bass will attack a moving surface lure. BUT, most times, an extremely slow approach is always better. Well, try just letting it sit still until you can't take it any more. Then, let it sit another 30 seconds. It will amaze you how effective this can be. It's hard to discipline yourself to fish this way, until you start to be successful. Then, it gets real easy!

'Nothing' fishing means you have to accept that fish react the way we have explained and slow down your fishing methods. The slower the lire, the easier it appears to be caught. Predator fish simply cannot pass up something for 'nothing'. Once you start to catch fish this way, it gets easier and easier.


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