Sunday, September 2, 2012

A New Hope

Eventually, there will be a time when you're out fishing and you just aren't catching anything!  It's really not that big of a deal, you know?  The worst day fishing is better than the best day at work, am I right?  Nonetheless, getting skunked is a bummer.  It's gonna happen from time to time, but you have a secret weapon, you have (or at least you should have) a rarely used Mepps spinner!  I like to keep at least two at all times, a shiny one, like silver or brass, and a brightly colored one, like Firetiger (orange/yellow/green).  The Aglia comes in sizes 0-5, and is the best known Mepps spinner, but there are other lesser known models that are super effective (like Charizard using Inferno on Paras) for some particular species.  The only setback to Mepps spinners is the price.  They usually run about $5.00 for a number five, and they get cheaper as they get smaller,  and assortments of five will cost over $20.00.  There's a reason they're this expensive, they work!  And really, that's a fairly average price for most lures.  Sometimes you'll find some off the wall color on sale, like my pink one pictured below.  Don't question the color, just buy it!

Lots of Mepps
A collection of Mepps lures.
My current Mepps Aglia stash.

Nice Lake Michigan brown trout, note
the lateral line in the glare.
(Click to enlarge)
In order to know what makes Mepps spinners so effective, you need to know a little about fish anatomy.  Fish have an additional sense to the five senses we have, actually, it's more of a hybrid sense combined of several senses from how I understand it.  The receptive organ for this "sixth sense" is the  lateral line, it can be seen easily on most fish once you realize it's there.  It runs from just behind the gills to the base of the tail.  This organ helps the fish with spatial awareness when traveling in schools or when tracking prey.  It detects electrical impulses caused by muscle movement of other fish, and it detects vibrations caused by water being displaced, almost as if a fish could "feel" outside of its own body, and "feel" sound.  The Mepps spinner blade spins rapidly as the lure is retrieved, causing a lot of vibration and displacement in the water.  So you got the vibration stimulating the lateral line, and then the blade will flash very brightly, triggering a visual reaction, And I'm sure there is all kinds of noise coming from the blade as well.  The triggering of these senses almost seems to initiate a striking instinct.  Even fish that aren't feeding may chase down and attack a spinner.  Some people say that the blade doesn't have to be spinning to initiate a strike, and I'm sure that's true-- but it's like using a fully loaded Desert Eagle to melee someone to death, why wouldn't you just shoot them? Here's a brief story about a time I witnessed a pike chasing my lure.
One time, I was retrieving a spinner off the breakwater in Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, and as it became shallow enough to see, I spotted a pike giving chase!  The lure was almost reeled all the way in, so I slowed my retrieval to allow the pike to catch up.  As it slowed, the blade stopped spinning, the lure started to sink, and the pike stopped dead in the water, six inches from the lure.  I decided to really rip it hard, get that blade cranking as hard as it could, The pike lunged like a lightning bolt and grabbed the lure like it couldn't control itself, the spinning of the blade drove the pike into a frenzy!
 In  a trout stream, choose a small Aglia, a 2 or smaller.  In slower currents, cast upstream and reel back fast enough to spin the blade, you will feel the blade start spinning.  Reel it over submerged boulders and other cover.  You can cast across the current ahead of a pool and let it drift through, the current will make the blade spin as it swings through the pool.  You can use these same techniques in smallmouth streams, but you might want to use a bigger size.  I usually use a size 3 for smallmouth.

An assortment of Aglias
In inland lakes, choose a size 4 or 5 for largemouth bass and pike.  Mepps makes a huge spinner (sizes 6-7) for musky, called the Musky Killer.  It looks like a squirrel hanging from a remote controlled helicopter!  I just stick to the standard sizes.  If you're fishing for panfish, a size three or smaller should do the trick.  My step-grandpa was an avid fisherman, and he loved the Mepps Comet Mino for Pentwater Lake smallmouth bass.

A Musky Killer, measuring
5.5 inches long!

Mepps Comet Mino.
(R.I.P. Grandpa Joe)
In Lake Michigan, and the channels, a size 5 might work for salmon when nothing else will. My dad loves to tell a story of a time he was fishing for salmon off the south pier of the Muskegon Lake Channel during the early 80's.  During the salmon run, guys will fish shoulder to shoulder on the pier.  My dad found a spot on the rocks and saw that everyone was casting spoons with no success.  He tied on a number 5 Aglia and limited out in like a half hour!  He said guys were offering him hand fulls of cash for his Mepps as he walked back with a cooler full of big salmon; to this day, I don't think he goes out without at least one.  I'll even cast a size 5 along the channel rocks, big rock bass will strike a number five.  There was this one partly cloudy day that I was fishing the rocks and just killing the rock bass with a brass number 5.  The sun disappeared behind the clouds, and they just stopped biting.  So what I did then was tie on a size 5 Firetiger and killed 'em again, until the sun came out.  That's why I keep a shiny one and a brightly colored one.  The shiny ones seem better in the sun, the bright colors work under clouds.  So all that day I kept switching colors, depending on the conditions.  I kept eight rock bass between six and nine inches that day and threw at least that many smaller ones back.

So, next time you're out fishing and just not catching anything, open up your tackle box, reach for your brand new unopened size 1 Aglia and say "help me number one, you're our only hope," and start fishing in an epic way!

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