“You heading out?!“
“What was that?“, you think to yourself as you look over your shoulder, behind the kayak you’re pulling towards the water where the creek feeds into the river. “I don’t know anyone here…“
You see someone walking down to the gravel launch with an adult beverage in hand, wearing sunglasses and jean shorts. His orange shirt – completely tucked in – sports the ironed-on name of some greasy spoon he visited years ago. It’s faded… almost illegible. The trailers in the background all look similar, with their Jacktop range fences and patio furniture. Dreamcatchers, wind chimes and bug zappers hang like Christmas ornaments from the permanently extended awnings.
“What’s that?“, you holler back, not sure what to make of this fella.
“Are you heading out to fish?“, he asks again.
You lean over and plop the front end of your kayak down in the dingy river water as you turn around. “I am – never been here before. Been all over the roads nearby looking for access to the creek – it’s all private property. Saw on my map that if I launch here you can get in the creek with a short paddle against the river current.“
“Oh“, he cracks a slight smirk, “… you sure can… and they’re in there…“
You can see his eyes focus in and pause for a brief second on the GoPro you have mounted to your chest, then travel over to the pole on your kayak, scanning for the bait you plan to throw as he takes another deep swig off the bottle.
“Crankbaits? Got any chartreuse?“
“I do“, you reply, “and check this out – last week I was throwing this Rebel Teeny Wake-R in another creek and a 2-pound smallmouth absolutely hammered—“
“They get bigger than 2 pounds in here…“, he interrupts, “way bigger… got any tubes?“
“Not on me.“
“Hmmm.” He pauses for a second. You can tell he’s sizing you up, as if there is something that he wants to tell you… but… he’s not sure if you’re someone that needs to hear it. If you’re worthy. He takes another big swig off the beverage.
Finally he breaks the silence. “I tell you what, you head on up this creek here about half a mile, and when you get to the bridge – stop. There’s a nice deep hole there that the big females use, and if you crank that area then come back through with a plastic, there is a good chance you’ll see what I mean. Fish it deeper, slower, and play the current.“
He smirks again, well aware that he just saved you time and effort while putting you on fish.
“Oh man, thank you so much for the tip“, you exclaim as you crack a smile and extend your hand towards the stranger, telling him your name.
He pauses for a second, eyes wide as if he’s surprised. The simple gesture catches him off guard. In this season of “social distancing” something as small as a smile, a handshake or a high five now carries much more weight – and according to the media – more risk. He looks up, makes eye contact and smiles as he grabs your hand and shakes it vigorously – Covid be damned.
“Name’s Billy“, he responds, and for the next 15 minutes the two of you talk about fishing, how he comes down from the city to stay here and fish as much as possible, and how crazy the outside world is.
“This is God’s country“, Billy says finally. You can see in his face and hear in his voice how important this little area is to him. His little trailer, his little creek, and his beautiful smallmouth.
“It sure is“, you reply, “and I won’t tell a single soul about it.“
A slight breeze is blowing through the campground, rustling the leaves in the trees on this perfect August evening. Billy replies with one word:
The two of you part, and you hop in your kayak and paddle up the river while pushing the small red button on top of your GoPro to record the trip.
“I hope he really believes me…“, you mumble to yourself, as you turn left and begin to skim the shallow water and push up the creek.
“YOU COME ON BACK AND LET ME KNOW HOW YA DID WHEN YOU GET IN – I’M IN THE THIRD TRAILER ON THE RIGHT!“, Billy shouts from somewhere within the campground.
You hold your thumb high in the air, assuming he can see you – even though you can’t see him – then return to paddling.
Up ahead you can see the bridge Billy told you about. Chances are he was being honest with you… hopefully he knows you were being honest with him…
How Important Are Views?
One of the things that we see a lot of anglers on YouTube do is share their location. And why not? The viewers want to know where the “hot bite” is at any given moment, and the YouTubers want to share the information that is most likely to get they the most views.
This is why I don’t want to be a “traditional” YouTuber, as discussed in the first vlog we put out this year:
On the surface, there isn’t anything wrong with sharing info in and of itself. Sharing information is a good thing, that’s why we all do this. To learn & share tips, techniques, presentations & delivery methods – to get better, as is the mantra here.
However – it makes no sense to share spots.
- Sharing spots is not even a worthwhile endeavor for serious fishermen. Those spots aren’t always where the fish are at – meaning at times, they are worthless. If you want to get better, you need to learn HOW to find fish, then HOW to catch them. This is what sparked the creation of this site and the YouTube channel – my desire to get better at fishing for me and my family.
- The other reason I keep my lips sealed is because I have extreme respect for the local anglers – especially on small bodies of water.
What impact could that have on a small fishery loved by locals?
What happens if I post a video after having a killer day on a 3 acre city lake that is fished by about 10 or 20 residents that live nearby. Nobody knows about it – which is great for them, because they can’t go to big lakes to fish, they don’t get much time, they have to do what they can with what they got – and what they got is 15 minutes before and after work at this pond I’m taping a video at.
Sharing this location could have a serious negative impact on the local fishermen that rely on this body of water. If 30,000 people decide to go visit “Smithville’s City Pond”, it won’t be long before said pond is completely fished out.
Bad for the fish.
Bad for the fishermen.
Bad for my conscience.
I want the locals to know that I respect them, I respect their areas, I respect their fish, and I want them to feel comfortable sharing both information and stories with me.
I am not a threat.
Several weeks ago I found an area about 50 minutes from my home. I went out to fish it with a single rod and a kayak, selecting a presentation that had worked well on fish of all sizes, and I had an extremely challenging morning because the water was so clear.
But I caught fish.
The morning was spent exploring a new lake that was absolutely beautiful. A lake that I would have imagined only existed in other states – not right here in Illinois.
I spent the morning by myself. Talking to God. Mumbling at fish, and squawking at birds.
After 4 hours of fishing I decided to leave, then drove around the area and saw just two other men that had come down to fish different spots. Two men. All morning. That’s it. Both were elderly, and as I pulled away, grateful the morning had been spent exploring, I imagined what might happen if anyone were to shout about this location from the rooftops.
It might ruin this sacred fishing hole for them…
I am not a threat.
So How Do We Find New Spots to Fish?
Put in the work.
We have tools and information available to us that our grandfathers would have KILLED for. Open Google Earth and pull up your area. Look for water. Look for roads that pass over creeks. Look for shallow areas in the river where you can wade. Look for little lakes that are not known far and wide – then take some time to explore them yourself.
A big part of what makes this fun is finding new areas while you are alone, then catching fish in areas that nobody else knows about.
While this answer is simple, it isn’t always easy.
If you find that you don’t have time to explore for hours on end because of… well… life… take a deep breath and consider this simple technique that you can add into your own discovery routine:
Sometimes you will fail.
You’ll fail to find a good spot. Fail to find access. The “creek” you marked will be more of a ditch filled with field runoff. You’ll fail to catch fish in your limited window of time. The weather won’t cooperate or you’ll have other obligations that need your immediate attention.
Without failure, victory wouldn’t be so sweet.
And man… the victories are so, so sweet.
As you pull back to the gravel launch, you can see the locals sitting around their campfires. Their faces are blurred by the dancing shadows cast by the flame, and the friendly banter you could hear as you paddled up in the darkness has slowed completely to silence.
You can feel them observing you.
You are a threat to their oasis.
That’s fine… in time, they will come to know you. To recognize you. One day they will realize that you are not a threat.
But today is not that day.
In an attempt to quickly remove yourself from the prying eyes of the locals, you grab all of your gear in one arm and the front handle of the kayak in the other, then begin dragging the vessel up the hill next to the launch.
The hill – like the launch – is loaded with gravel, and the plastic kayak scraping along the ground throws the most obnoxious, nails-on-a-chalkboard sound deep into the night. If any of the locals weren’t aware of you before – they certainly are now.
“I gotta get outta here“, you mumble as you haphazardly throw the kayak in the back of your truck, slamming the tailgate and throwing your armload of gear in the back seat, further disrupting their campfires.
“So how’d ya do?!“
He’s walking across the dark gravel parking area with a fresh beverage in one hand, and a small bag in the other.
“Hey man! I was just going to come find you“, you fib. “I caught a few beautiful smallmouth in the area you told me about – no giants, but I can’t thank you enough for putting me on a few fish. I’d really like to come back.“
“Oh, you need to come back“, he says, “and I put a few baits together for when you do“.
He holds out the bag which is filled with small red-brown tubes, twister-tail grubs (chartreuse of course) and some other choice selections from his personal stash. Each bait is loaded up perfectly on the proper jig in the proper weight.
“I… holy cow man, thank you so much“, you sputter, not sure why this fellow decided to share not only his knowledge, but actual physical items to help you catch more fish.
“Don’t mention it. I got a buddy named Chris that comes down all the time – brings his kids – his kids love to fish. He has the same truck as you. You come on back and you can park right in front of my place whenever you like.“
Maybe he’s grateful to have someone to talk to about fishing.
Maybe he’s grateful to meet someone that wasn’t afraid to shake his hand.
Maybe he’s come to realize that you won’t do anything to harm the fishery.
“It’s beautiful here. This is God’s country“, he says again, with a serious look on his face.
“I agree“, you reply, “and like I said before… I won’t tell a single soul about it.“
He smirks, then reaches out to shake your hand one last time.
As you pull away from the campground, you find yourself dreaming about catching more smallmouth. Bigger smallmouth. Meaner smallmouth. Topwater smallmouth. Crankbait smallmouth…
What a perfect gem of a spot you’ve discovered.
You gently place the bag of baits up on the dashboard and look ahead down the dusty dirt country road. The corn is high, which means there is a good chance the deer will be active. You decide to take it slow… and besides, a leisurely ride home will allow you to unwind, to replay the events of the day, and to plan your next step…
… but you already know exactly what you’ll be doing after work tomorrow…
“See you soon, Billy.“
Some days… it all comes together…
Fishing is always fun – especially in Wisconsin – but it isn’t always as exciting as we’d like it to be. However, the slow days are what makes us appreciate the days when everything seems to come together, and you find loads of fish… like on this awesome morning.