Continuing with our forward-thinking theme, I’ve got another great resource to share. Jimmy Liao’s Fish Code Studios utilizes the power of YouTube to unveil the science behind bass fishing; taking us for an underwater look and dispelling wives' tales along the way.
A professor of biology at the University of Florida, Liao’s formal education couples with on-the-water experience to teach us all a thing or two. This guy’s crazy smart, earning a Ph.D. from Harvard before obtaining a fellowship studying the neuroscience of the lateral line system in fishes. Really.
Anyway, Liao’s subject matter is wildly compelling, from the wiggle/roll combination in square-bills, to the sinker/peg factor of Texas-rigs.
For some time, I’ve searched out alternative views on the accepted norms in terms of tackle and bass behavior, and here I’ve found several. Like many of you, I’ve witnessed both curious and revealing moments throughout my fishing.
A case in point: Several years ago, while watching a casting demonstration on a large mobile aquarium, I witnessed for the first time what bass really see when they strike a topwater, as I could watch from alongside and slightly below. I vividly remember the pro scoffing at color variance in topwater baits, as the fish were thought to only target the bottom half of the lure. Yet, when viewed from below, the surface of the water reflected the bait’s top color back down. The lure of choice – a translucent Zara Spook with a chartreuse back – flashed nothing but chartreuse the whole way back to the rod tip. So much for the demo …
In any case, that moment stands out as one of many where the accepted theories could use a tune-up. Here I was, watching with my own two eyes, as an age-old principle was absolutely disproven.
Another thought …
Time after time, I hear pros tout the effectiveness of using trailer hooks on spinnerbaits. I've found many occasions where a second hook point saves the day. However, just last spring, I did a little real-world experimenting.
Targeting a small, lightly fished lake, I found myself in the middle of a killer bite. Using a spinnerbait without a trailer hook, I caught six of my first seven strikes. Immediately following the release of the last fish, I placed a trailer hook on my spinnerbait.
Over the next hour, my lure generated five more bites – four of which I caught. Guess what? Three of those four bass were hooked exclusively on the trailer hook.
What am I getting at? Perhaps the way a lure rotates in the mouth of a bass, or penetrates on the way out determines how a fish gets hooked. Perhaps, if I were using four trailer hooks, I’d have hooked all those fish on the last hook, regardless. Or, perhaps, I proved nothing.
The point is we often immediately summarize our experiences in fishing and come up with hard, fast, human rules that may not even be true. Liao looks into many of those, using tank-held bass to test the legitimacy.
One of his recent videos adds validity to my topic last week regarding water flow. Here, Liao uses complex science to determine that it’s flexibility, as much as size and realism, that adds to the effectiveness of giant swimbaits, These lures, in fact, seem to match the same swimming profile as live trout when calculated through hydrodynamics and water displacement.
The site also reveals slow-motion footage of bass blowing up on a hollow-body frog. In many cases, the fish entirely takes the bait down, yet completely avoid the lure’s hook points. Perhaps the surface of the water is to blame and the suction factor of a strike is counteracted when the fish’s mouth breaks that plane. In any case, Liao’s video proves that, oftentimes, there’s simply nothing an angler can do about missed frog bites.
I can’t seem to stop watching these short tutorials. Perhaps it’s my cynical mentality, but they add validity to the fact that we, as anglers, may know less than we think.
Do bass really target red hooks? Seems farfetched. Is ultra-violet light visible to certain predators? I haven’t the slightest idea.
Do Colorado blades really displace more water than willow-leafs, based on the fact that my rod shakes more when I reel them back? Are bass attracted to the noise of rattles, or can they even hear them? And, good Lord, what about scent?
These are questions bass anglers continue to ask each other, forming the foundation for the informal laws of fishing.
Maybe, instead, we should ask Jimmy Liao.
(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)