Smallmouth curiosity

In last week’s column we talked a little about smallmouth aggression. A trait that goes right along with that is curiosity. They’re the most curious fish I know.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Everybody knows that a lot of animals are curious. We’ve all had deer watch us mow the grass and we’ve all seen dogs and cats check something new out when we bring it into the house. Have you ever watched your dog or cat walk around, sniff and paw a new piece of furniture? It’s something different in their world. They want to see what it’s all about.

Smallmouth bass do the same thing. That can be used to our advantage as anglers. All we have to do is make sure we attract then in some way without scaring them or running them off.

I’ve often fished with a Texas-rigged worm by throwing it into a rock pile and wiggling it around while never moving it out of place. It’s surprising how many bites you get after two or three minutes of doing that. Some anglers believe that the bass watch something like that and then decide to attack. It’s too enticing to ignore, they’ll tell you. I’m not so sure.

It could be that what’s really happening is that the smallie hears, or sees, the worm and comes over to investigate. It’s not big enough or noisy enough to be scary or to be threatening. All he or she wants to do is check things out. What’s making that noise? Is something going on that I should know about? Then, when they get over to it they decide to eat it.

I’m well aware that what I’m saying here isn’t provable. There’s no way we will ever know what’s going on down there for sure. We can’t talk to the fish, and it may be that the fish doesn’t even know what’s happening. Maybe it’s just instinct of some kind. It’s inside them but they don’t know that.

Let me give you another example. We’re all familiar with the idea of throwing a buzzbait over the same water time after time until we finally get a bite. Some anglers think that makes the bass mad and he or she attacks with the intent to kill it.  Others will tell you that it irritates the bass until he grabs it just to shut it up.

That might be the case, but it’s equally likely that there’s no fish around when we first throw our lure. It’s possible that our bass came from some distance away to see what all the fuss is about. Again, think about your dog or cat. If everyone is in a back room laughing and carrying on, it won’t be long before they show up. They want to know what’s going on and they want to be a part of it.

Lately I’ve been spending more and more of my time on the water thinking about the why of smallmouth fishing instead of just fishing to catch fish. This is one of many things I intend to work on in the coming years. It could make a big difference between going fishing and going catching.

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