Catching big fish

You ever notice how some anglers always seem to catch big fish? Whether it’s trout, bass, walleye or musky, they’re the ones who regularly connect on the biggest of the big, the kind of fish you’ve always dreamed of landing. Once. Just one. Please.

Well, there’s a variety of reasons why some fishermen seemingly land big fish with amazing regularity, while you, instead, take to the water in what I call “I wish” mode, wishing you’d finally catch a true trophy fish, regardless of the species.

Those big-fish guys might be spending a lot of time on the water, essentially tipping the odds in their favor that sometime, somewhere, they’ll connect on a big fish.

Or, let’s face it, they might just be darn good anglers. Better than us. Getting down to the finer details of fishing, catching more fish and bigger fish than us, and more often as well.

But the real reason that’s often overlooked. and perhaps the biggest reason why some anglers catch big fish all the time, is that they’re targeting big fish.

It’s true. Count me as one of those “I wish” anglers, because I haven’t made the commitment to take to the water – any water – and search only for the biggest of the big fish, whether it’s smallmouth bass, brown trout, northern pike or even muskellunge, which inhabit the Susquehanna River less than a mile from the home office. I fish, and take what comes on that particular day.

But some anglers go well beyond that. They fish for big fish and only big fish. They’re setups and lures and bait choices dictate that only a big fish pays attention. When they get a hit, they know it’s worth the effort.

I know a veteran ice fisherman who uses live suckers approaching 16 inches in length when plying the waters of Great Sacandaga Lake for big pike. When his flag pops, he knows it’s a big fish on the end of the line.

Musky hunters use huge lures with hooks that look like they belong in a butcher shop to hang beef. Even trout fishermen, especially fly fishers, pitch big streamers that immediately separate the routine trout from the meat-eating predator.

It’s not easy to make the commitment. Chances are it will mean many fishless days and nights (fishing at night often brings encounters with the biggest fish). It removes, I would guess, 90 percent of the fish from the catching equation. You will lose more often than you win.

But, oh, when the hookups do occur and things go right, you’ll be rewarded like never before in your angling history. Whether it’s a quick photo and release and a replica mount later, or taking one home and on to the taxidermist, there’s an incredible rush of adrenaline, according to the big-fish anglers I’ve spoken to. Many of them will never go back to traditional fishing; they are confirmed big-fish addicts, living for that single hookup that changes your fishing season in a matter of minutes.

So next time you see a photo of someone holding a big fish, don’t automatically assume they’re a fisherman just like you but one who just had a little luck on their side that day. Chances are pretty good they know what they’re doing, and the fish they’re holding is one they’ve been fishing for specifically.

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