Attention to detail can make a big difference
Often the difference between catching no fish and a few fish or the difference between catching a few fish and a ton of fish is not very noticeable. The anglers that are the most attentive to the smallest of details are the ones who normally have the biggest and best fishing stories to tell.
This kind of attention to detail is not the most relaxing kind of fishing to participate in, but for those willing to put forth the extra effort and energy will normally see that the results do improve.
I will give you just a few examples of ways extra attention to the minutest of details can make a measurable difference in the day's catch.
The first would be the basics of what fishing line to use. Most anglers have one or two rod and reel combo they try to make work for every situation. This compromise will lower your catch and is one of the most common short cuts the casual angler will take.
When I am shore fishing on the docks which surround Lake Okabena, I will be targeting crappies and bluegills which hide in and around the poles and wheels and in the shade created from the structure. When I do this, I use a rod and reel combo designed for this species and type of fishing. It has 2-4 pound test and a very light action rod. This does two things: It makes the little artificial jig and plastic tail dance ever so lightly because the line weight is very thin and the light action rod makes it easier to tell if I have a bite.
If I tried to use a heavier combo that had a heavier rod and stronger/thicker line, the results would be less bites and a more difficulty identifying the bites I did get. The heavier line reduces the lures action and the longer/stiffer rod is less sensitive to the little tap you feel when panfish inhale the jig.
When I am really serious I will make a very strategic dance on each dock. This is a series of close attention to details all designed to maximize my success. I will start fishing as shallow as possible, in as little as 12 inches of water. When I catch a fish I move the hooked fish toward the shore to avoid spooking the other fish which might be close. I work my way toward the deeper end of the dock each time moving toward the shore with a hooked fish to create the least amount of disturbance possible. When I have fished in and around the entire length of the dock with let's say a green jig, I will cut it off and tie on another color.
I figure that every fish that was going to bite on the green one will have done so in the first few minutes. I can often catch several more fish with a different color jig that would not bite on the green one. I work the dock in the same manner with the new color and when I have worked the entire dock again I will move on to the next dock. I always fish under or very near the dock.
Many anglers will be sitting on the end of the dock with their bait worked anywhere from 10 to 30 feet out into the lake. The fish I am targeting are right under their feet. If there are any little kids that have been pounding up and down the dock I will just move on. Any fish that were there in this very shallow water environment are long gone by the time I would show up. As I am leaving, the anglers which were there when I got there will all tie on the jig color that I just got done using and, normally, on to a rod with much heavier line. They will then catch very little over the next hour.
Getting good at tying a quality fishing knot is vital. There is a piece of tackle called a snap swivel. It is a chunk of hardware which allows you to remove one jig and put on another without having to retie the knot. It absolutely destroys the live bait or artificial lures action and reduces the number of bites you will get. Taking the time to retie the knot and avoiding any unnecessary attachment hardware is worth the time and effort.
One other detail that misses most casual anglers is the fact the hook size and bobber size should match the bait size. A really little crappie minnow on a big walleye hook has a less realistic action when suspended below a bobber or when set stationary on the bottom. The same can be said for bobber size. A crappie trying to pull under a big bobber will feel the resistance and let go of the bait. The bobber has to be so small as to just barely float the hook and bait. You can add weight to a larger bobber, but the end result needed is a neutrally buoyant float.
I have a saying that if the fish are biting so good that they are virtually suicidal and will bite on anything, then this attention to detail is not necessary. Fish biting so good as to qualify for this term is a very rare occurrence. You can take these little details to whatever level of perfection you desire.
I can have a great time at the lake regardless if I catch fish or not, but I can tell you that catching fish is more fun than not catching them. After a while these seemly minute details become habit and quite effortless. The very best shore angler I have ever studied under is a mechanics teacher by the name of Wayne Grantz.
I learned a lot from him when I occupied his auto mechanics program at the Prairie Lakes Vocational Center back in the late 70s, but every time I saw him heading home on his moped with a batch of fish caught from the same area I had just covered, he shared one little fishing tidbit at a time and over time I did become a better angler. He has taken up fly fishing, so the fish in our area lakes can breathe a little easier now.
I learned a lot from Wayne and his teachings added this saying to my repertoire. You can learn more from other fishermen or mechanics instructors in a day than you can teach yourself in a decade. If you use some of these detail tips, you might just make those same fish a little more nervous and have a few more fish fries.
I have one additional tip. The longer the stretch of calm winds and bright sunny days, the more fish that will be seeking shelter in the shade under docks. The water is generally a few degrees cooler in the shade, so this is a great heat of the summer tactic. Time your dock fishing efforts to coincide with this weather pattern and those should be better than average days at the lake.