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Violating the rules of thumb

by: Dan Swanson 7/7/2013
I wasn't sure if this blog would be about when rules of thumb aren't rules or if it's about the stuff you learn with experience, or as my Dad used to say to me (and still does) "it's what you learn after you know it all that counts."  So, I guess what I've learned is that rules of thumb are just where you start and you adapt to the situation.  Othertimes, you should pay attention to the rules.  Often it takes me a while to figure out which one.

Here are some examples:  The first has to do with bottom bouncers.  I  follow the rule that you use 1 ounce of weight for every 10 feet of depth to keep the bouncer running at a 45 degree angle.  So, 1.5 ounces for 15 feet, 2 ounces for 20 feet...and so on.  This rule applies for slow speeds around 0.8 to 1.2 MPH.  I use more weight when I'm going faster, which is rare when pulling crawler harnesses with spinners - but I do go faster sometimes.  I also use more weight on my front rods than I do on the back rods.  For example, I'll use a 2 ounce bottom bouncer on the front rods and a 1.5 ounce bottom bouncer on the back rods.  The 45 degree angle rule is broken either in the front of the boat or the back of the boat depending on speed and depth.  By doing this I get more spread on my rods and am less likely to get the lines from the front of the boat tangled with the lines in the back of the boat.  I carry weights from 1 ounce to 4 ounces.  I can also tell if I'm spooking fish whether I'm getting bites under the boat in the front or only away from the boat in the back.  I can use lighter weights to get away from the boat or even put my bottom bouncers on planer boards if it's not too snaggy.  

Related to this is a change in the type of sinker.  If I'm going really slow, less than 0.8 MPH, the spinner on the harness or slow-death hook isn't going to spin or move much so I take it off and run a bare hook or hook with a bead or a float.  This is live bait rigging (AKA - Lindy Rig).  So, I now go away from the bottom bouncer and use a slip sinker, egg sinker or no-snagg sinker.  There are many fisherman that use really light bottom bouncers.  Bouncers work fine, they just don't fit into the way I like to live bait rig.

How about bait casters versus spinning reels?  If I'm casting or jigging something light (smaller than a #5 Shad Rap) I use a spinning reel.  In every other case I use a bait caster.  It's not a hard and fast rule.  I do prefer the spinning reel with bigger baits if I'm casting into a strong wind.  I know many who use spinning reels for everything and bass anglers that use a bait caster for everything.

So, here's where I should have paid attention to my own rule of thumb.   My rule of thumb on using snaps with crankbaits and spoons is: if it has a snap ring on the front tie direct, if it doesn't have a snap ring use a snap or a loop knot.  I must say I hadn't stuck to this rule.  I do always use a snap or a loop knot on those baits that don't have a split ring.  But I often times will use a snap on baits that have split rings.  I really don't feel a light snap (not a snap swivel) affects the action of the bait and it's way more convenient when trying to figure out a pattern.  However, once I get a pattern dialed in I tie direct - less points of failure and more likely to have a fresh knot.

The last couple of years I've been fishing the jerkbait more often.  I fish the jerkbait on a fast or extra fast St. Croix rod.  I almost always use braid with the jerkbait (the exception is in the spring when braid, at least for me, moves the bait too much - another rule of thumb?).  I tie a short fluorocarbon leader between the braid and the bait mostly to keep the bait from tangling in the braid.   I really don't like tying direct to that leader as it gets shorter and shorter with every tie.  Replacing it often just takes too much time out of fishing.  So, I've been using a snap - a really good quality cross-lock style snap.  

I've lost count of how many jerkbaits my clients or I have lost while doing using snaps.  The bait is gone on the cast, I check it after reeling in and snap is open. Huh?  Did I not close the snap when I put that bait on?  I put on another bait and carefully close the snap.  Sometimes I don't lose another one the rest of the day and sometimes it's gone in a couple of casts.   In all cases the snap was open. What's going on here?  I started thinking about the extra fast rod, no stretch braid and a bait worked very aggressively, I  suspect the bait is popping that snap.  So, I try different styles of clips and different brands.  Nothing works.  

Even though it took me a while and cost quite a few baits I learned a lesson. I will tie direct when working a bait aggressively.  I just need to get faster at tying the back to back uni knot.  I'll probably still use snaps when working on a trolling pattern.    

So, the moral of the story is when problems arise, quickly go back to the rule of thumb.  I'm sure there are those of you who already knew all of this and I'm sure there are plenty of you that have your own set of rules of thumb when it comes to fishing.  I'd love to hear them.  One of the things I love about fishing is the opportunity to always learn new things.
Blog content © Dan Swanson
Member comments
FISHRANGLER, CO   7/7/2013 9:17:57 PM
Good tips Dan. The snap come open when your customers reel the lure all the way to the tip of the rod, the first eye on the rod will undo the snap if it catches it correctly.
Tiny Stevens, CO   7/7/2013 10:47:32 PM
Great read and advice Dan! Always appreciate the advice and help from someone whos been around the circuit and in and out of the fishing circles! Do you find a lop knot gives more freedom or action to your jerkbaits? Is it the Rapala loop that you use? Thanks Dan! Tiny
Dan Swanson (Dan Swanson), CO   7/8/2013 6:29:36 AM
True about the possibility of the snap coming open if reeled into the eye and it certainly could be one of the causes, but it happened to me as well and I'm careful about this. I've never had it happen except in the situation above. On the loop knot, I use the Rapala knot when there isn't a split ring on the bait. It will give more freedom of action. A tight knot can change the action, but sometimes that's what you want. Of course, you can always add a split ring.
JKaboom, CO   7/9/2013 5:23:51 PM
Great BLOG chalked full of great info thank you :)
FXA0, CO   7/10/2013 12:03:48 PM
Good rules of thumb. I have been losing jerkbaits with locks too and it seems to happen more frequently when I am fishing more aggressively as you said. I was thinking that it's just because I didn't put my lure in properly, but your theory about the lure prying the lock open makes sense.
Dan Swanson
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