We dare you to fish any lure in your box without imagining what it actually looks like below the surface.
Tough to avoid, isn’t it?
Visualization in this regard is like a reflex. Natural human curiosity enters the equation, but so too does the pursuit of fish itself. What our lures do and how fish respond underwater presents a mystery to terrestrial creatures like us—and a mystery is simply too tantalizing to walk away from, which of course, explains the allure of fishing itself.
But it also explains the current trend toward watching the action through the lens of an underwater camera (aka – underwater viewing system), particularly while ice fishing. In the age of video—particularly live video—few folks can turn away from the screen for long, especially when amazing dramas unfold before our eyes.
Which might be an apt description for the never-ending theatrics happening below a hole in frozen water. Indeed, the practice of live video fishing is a natural for viewing lures below the ice, where anglers work baits on a mostly vertical plane— and where a properly positioned camera can eavesdrop on predatory fish conducting their everyday business.
When you watch the behaviors of fish, you’re often enthralled not just by the drama of what might happen next, but also by each fish’s unanticipated reaction to your presentation.
“It’s like watching a live aquatic version of those wild animal shows on National Geographic,” says Steve Pennaz, Hall of Fame angler and host of Stone Cold Fishing and Lake Commandos TV. “The lions and tigers are the walleyes and pike, and the ways they react to your lure isn’t always what you anticipate. Think of it another way. It’s easy to misinterpret a text message because it not just what you say but how you say it.”
Having spent the past several winters studying fish through a high definition Aqua-Vu camera, Pennaz offers a variety of keen fish-catching observations:
Crappies, walleyes and sunfish don’t always feed efficiently. “It’s amazing how often fish try to take your bait and miss; I had one bluegill miss the bait nine times before it finally got it in its mouth and many fish will miss it three or four times. Sometimes, we get too aggressive with our jig-strokes and make it difficult for fish to simply grab the lure. I’ve also seen when aggressive jig strokes actually spook fish. Sounds simple, but one of the best, least utilized ways to trigger neutral fish is to simply stop moving the lure, which gives fish the opportunity to get a solid crack at it. Another tip is to switch to a horizontal jig or a tiny spoon, which both make it easier for fish to engulf the hooks.”
When fishing over soft bottom, it takes very little lure movement to cause a big disturbance. “When fish are in the vicinity, pounding bottom with your lure can spook them. They’re likely reacting to a visual cue. When walleyes and other fish spook rapidly from an area, you see a huge plume of silt that temporarily muddies the water. When you’re attempting to attract fish from a distance, a bit of bottom pounding with a spoon or swimming lure can be beneficial. But once fish are in the area, stop pounding the bottom.”
Tie on six or seven different lures and see what each one looks like underwater. “Both when the bite is fast and furious and when it’s slow, experimenting and watching how lures react to different jigging cadences helps you customize how you fish each one. Viewing fish reaction is even more valuable. Test rattling lures against silent ones or soft plastics versus live bait. Switching up when the bite is red hot can be tough, but it’s amazing how much you can learn!”
The camera is an incredible strike indicator. “The Aqua-Vu HD camera lets me see clearly in water to 40 feet and more. Here, you’ve got so much line out that detecting subtle crappie or perch bites is difficult. Deep crappies often engulf your lure and then just sit there. You’ll rarely feel a bite on your rod; even your spring bobber may not move. So if you’re just using sonar, and you see two signals come together, remember to gently lift your rodtip repeatedly to check for extra weight. Also, it’s amazing how often walleyes and panfish will bite just half the bait and not get the hook into their jaw—another time to downsize or position the hook so it’s easier for fish to grab steel.”
Often, the tiniest of movements can trigger a bite. “When fish are on the screen, we’ve often seen them spook with rapid, dramatic lure moves. But some of the best triggers are to simply make the lure buzz in place—fast, subtle wrist shakes or even strumming the line like a fast guitar riff. These micro shakes are exactly what baitfish and land-bound prey do just before bolting from a predator, and they trigger highly positive responses.”
Competition plays a huge role in your success. “Sometimes, when there’s only one fish looking at your lure, triggering that fish is next to impossible. But if you stay aggressive with your jig cadence, you might bring a second or third fish into the area to investigate. Or you’ll make the first fish chase, which can also bring in buddies. Once you’ve drawn a second fish into the area, you’ll be amazed by how competitive the previously negative fish becomes. Underwater competition is real—and it’s a nearly foolproof way to get fish fired up to bite.”
Pennaz wraps the discussion by affirming the camera’s ‘fun factor.’ “I can’t think of a better piece of equipment for keeping young and seasoned anglers alike engaged in their fishing. Even when the bite gets tough, you can’t take your eyes off the screen. And each time out, you’re guaranteed to learn and take away at least a couple new nuggets of fish catching Intel. That’s powerful stuff.”
About Outdoors Insight, Inc.
Creator of Aqua-Vu, the original Underwater Viewing System, Outdoors Insight, Inc. has led the underwater camera category in design, innovation and quality since 1997. The Central Minnesota based company builds many popular outdoors products, such as the iBall Trailer Hitch Camera (iballhitchcam.com) and Odor Check Moisture and Odor Control System (odorcheck.com) featuring Scent-Lok Technology. For more information on Aqua-Vu, visit www.aquavu.com.