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Bill Prater
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Let's argue: Does size matter?

Blog by: Bill Prater 8/20/2021
Part of Series: Fishing for Beginners

One of the many great things about ultralight gear is, it doesn’t matter whether your intended catch is a whopper or small over-achiever. If you match your gear to the size of your expected target, you’ll get more enjoyment out of most fishing encounters, get lots more bites, and won’t fall asleep waiting for the bite of an occasional master angler candidate of one specific species. You’ll have a legitimate shot at darned near every type and size of fish that swims in places like water-deprived eastern Colorado.

Here in our little part of the fishing world, chain stores tempt us with an enormous selection of heavyweight rods, reels and baits. I contend you needn’t be tempted by a 4/0 hook fixed to a giant yellow baby duck, foot-long plastic worm or imitation rat. A 1- to 2-inch soft plastic minnow or bug imitation (aided where legal with a thoughtfully chosen scent), will attract every species that swims in the streams and irrigation ponds and lakes around here. 

Granted, this sage advice won’t hold water if you’re going after a giant lake trout in the high country with legends like Bernie Keefe, or if you’re a member of that secretive society of nighttime cat fishermen that prowl our shores after midnight. And darned if I can say (or really give a darn one way or another) whether it applies to walleye. But for most water and most fish I’m aware of, yes, size matters. Smaller is definitely better.  

If I were to give advice to a next generations of anglers, it would be this: “To succeed in one of the more important things in life, you don’t have to throw a lure the size of a full-grown bluegill or a stocker trout.” (Okay, sometimes that stocker trout thingie does make sense) 

Truth to tell, the older I get, the smaller the line, hook and bait I use. Granted, folks like tournament anglers who stick to the bigger stuff eventually catch big specimens of their species of choice. But crafty ultralight fishermen catch some too - while we’re also catching additional species, large and small. I’ve long been told - and once believed - that ultralight gear meant an eighth ounce or so of lead attached to a tiny hook, size 1 or size 2. Now I typically use an ultralight or medium light weight spinning rod to throw soft plastic, mostly on a 1/16th ounce jig, and much smaller if I can get away with it in this damned Colorado wind. Trout Magnet, for example, sells a terrific 1/64 oz jighead, on a size 8 hook, that works well with a 1-inch Gulp Minnow or a tiny grub sold almost exclusively as bait for crappie. 

None of this probably makes sense on the enormous fishing holes in places like Florida or Texas. Fish grow bigger and faster there, in a different climate where fish don’t have to compete for water rights with irrigation companies. Truth to tell, warm water species and trout swimming around places like eastern Colorado don’t often grow as fast or as large as we’d like. That simply means we should match our gear to our fish. And give more consideration to catch and release and selective harvest, though that’s a subject for a different day. 

Want to argue? In the words of Charles Barkley in his book about basketball and life, “I may be wrong, but I doubt it.”

Blog content © Bill Prater
Blog Comments
chodeman, 8/20/2021 5:56:53 PM
I whole heartedly agree that if you want to catch fish small baits work great in Colorado. my uncle Bob told me 40 plus years ago "Big Baits equals Big Fish" and I must admit he was right. As you mentioned, when laker fishing I like pounding a Canyon Plastics 7" tube with a 2oz jig. Walleyes nothing works better than a good long (5"-7") stickbait being trolled at dusk in shallow water, Pike....Big anything works, Smallies well you can catch them on small plastics but nothing like a 9" worm! Now if you are chasing rainbows you can pretty much put a cat turd on a hook and catch a stocker, and the big ones will bite small baits, but other than trout and panfish, hard to beat big! Just my opinion.
Bill Prater (fishthumpre), 8/20/2021 6:39:07 PM
Got 2 words of wisdom for you: Ned and Rig. Okay, a few more: smaller water, largemouth, smallmouth, catfish, white bass, crappie. Tho I will concede that the weed growth we get in most small bodies around here can foul things up. Which is when I’d recommend going even small - put that buoyant Ned rig on a 1/32 oz mushroom jig, toss it next to a weed bed, and let it float slowly down out of sight…
Trailerman, 8/20/2021 6:53:35 PM
So I’ve noticed that being on fish is the real problem we all need to be thinking about. If your on fish the big bites work and so do the small baits. Am I wrong that it’s less about the bait and more about location?
Barnacles, 8/20/2021 7:04:45 PM
Good piece Bill. No argument from me. If I could only have one rig, it would be the ultralight with a 1/16 curly tail grub. Everything will eat it, including big fish. My average outing is about a half day & I want to catch something. I've always got my wiggle rat, rubber ducky, and midges within reach if circumstances demand it. Still laughing about "secretive society of nighttime cat fishermen". We'll let anyone in with a 6 pack and a lawn chair.
Bill Prater (fishthumpre), 8/20/2021 7:58:12 PM
Oh yeah, Trailerman. Toughest thing about most of our fishing water is the frustrating way it changes over the seasons. I just read the post about Douglas, falling fast and zero visibility. I imagine blue Mesa and Navaho fish are gonna be vulnerable for awhile with the drastic drawdowns planned or underway there, but at some point those fish will be tough to find no matter what we tempt them with.
Matt, 8/23/2021 2:32:48 PM
Good stuff. Going smaller is a good way to catch more fish. I just can't bring myself to do it when hunting muskie! Actually that's not true... I have sized down in recent years in Ontario, and have caught some nice muskie. To convince me to do that it took several pike/bass anglers accidentally catching big muskie on smaller baits. But I still much more enjoy chucking big stuff!
devon234, 8/23/2021 3:59:57 PM
i dont necessarily agree with the the argument you need big lures to catch big lake trout. of course it depends on the forage of that particular lake. where i go for lake trout sure the big lake trout are around for the rainbows or suckers but at the same time there is crawdads and minnows swimming around so they are eating those as well. its the same as a 20 inch trout feeding on bugs. it is all about the energy required to consume the energy that they are receiving. all fish are opportunistic and as such will eat numerous things.
SPECTRE, 9/8/2021 5:18:14 AM
I have to say that experience has taught me that this is a true line of thought. I've caught one monster lake trout (20.8#), and that was on a 1/16 oz. pink rooster tail being trolled for normal sized trout. I've also caught one pike over 30", and again, on a 1/8 oz. Joe Fly trolled for trout. These same size lures (Up to 1/4 oz.) have yielded me MANY very large rainbows and cutbows.

Other Blogs in the Fishing for Beginners Series

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When (and if ) you should lie about fishing by B. Prater 06.13.21
The trouble with writing an occasional fish story is, most readers won’t even agree on what kind of fish to catch, much less what to do with it afterward. (Eat that carp? or Let It Live to Bite Another Day?
The Loveland Kids Fishing Derby is back! by B. Prater 05.09.21
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Get kids interested and excited to fish! by J. McFarland 03.22.21
Want your kids having fun fishing and not bored out of their minds? It's up to you to make it happen and here's a way to get started. Start here and see if your kids don't want to go more.
Stop complaining, and start fishing by B. Prater 03.12.21
The ice is disappearing right under our feet, but determined anglers can find ways to find late winter/early spring fish. We just have to work a little harder for it than folks in warmer climates.
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