Outdoorsmen have a lot of tricks to help put fish in the fryer and meat on the grill.

Whether it’s slathering up with a urine-based mixture to hide your scent from wary bucks, or chumming out a spot with soured grain to draw the fish in, to firing up incredible technologies like drones, fish-finders, and GPS-based spot-lock trolling motors, hunters and anglers will do and spend almost anything to gain an edge over their prey.

A lot of common sense goes into fishing, too – you have to know that fish, like people, are mainly interested in a few basic things. Food, safety, comfort, and occasionally making babies are about all we really need, whether you’ve got skin or scales.

So fishing around structure in hospitable waters using bait that fish like to eat is a pretty good recipe for fishing success. A lot of folks take another step and bait out an area with soured grain, compressed cattle pellets, or livestock sweet feed. Doing this will attract fish to the area, and if you broadcast the chum on a regular basis, you can create a reliable fishing spot.

Another trick I learned when I was little came from one of my great uncles, who used to fish in cattails, lily pads, and other thick vegetation during summer months. He’d use twine or rope to tie the vegetation back in a few spots to create an opening, then he’d bait that area with soured chicken scratch that he kept out behind one of his barns. (Thinking back on it, I imagine that wasn’t the only thing he was “cooking” with all that corn and other grains he kept in there.)

I’ve used his technique over the years, and it has consistently produced. You’re fishing a thickly-covered area, but in a clearing, so there are fewer hang-ups. Plus, unlike a submerged brush pile, a clearing in the cattails is a little harder to detect by folks who want the rewards of fishing without putting in the work.

Keep another one or two areas cleared and baited, and you’ll still have places to go if you do pull up and find an angler already on your spot.

Looking for the feeding frenzy

Keith Rodriguez is breaking in his new boat every chance he gets, and the Lake Waco angler and social media organizer (Fish On Texas!) has been getting a lot of mileage out of his live wells recently.

“I’ll start by saying that all fish are active,” Rodriguez said. “The cats are in their summer spawn, and drifting for them has been great on cut bait.” He reports that white bass and hybrids are also in their summer patterns, saying he’s catching more in the evening hours than on morning trips.

“They’re piling up on all kinds of structure,” he said, “and look for them popping the top chasing bait. When you see the big boil, you can throw anything with a hook and catch them.”

Summertime white bass fishing can provide the kind of action that legends are made of. Whites and hybrids are schooling species, and they feed by chasing schools of bait fish to the surface for the kind of feeding frenzy that most people associate with piranhas.

Jigs, spoons, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits are top-producing lures, and when you get into a school of surface-feeding whites/hybrids, you can literally catch fish on every cast. Or at least get bites. Typically, larger fish are staged up below the action, waiting to feed on easy meals that sink down past the mayhem, so the trick to catching bigger ones is to cast your bait and let it sink, hoping a little one doesn’t smash it before it can get down to the big ones.

Rodriguez has also been finding some slab-sized crappie on brush piles ranging from 8 feet down to as deep as 24 feet. He and his nephews are catching them on both minnows and artificials.

HS fishing champs

The Central Texas High School Tournament Trail fishing series wrapped up its 2019-2020 season with last weekend’s championship tourney. Case Markham and Logan Duncan (Brownwood Lions) took first place; Landen Bennet and Carter Locklin (Team Texas Boat World) finished second; and Westen Urbanovsky and Peyton Urbanovsky (Clifton HS Fishing) rounded out the top three. Organizer Greg McNew says plans are underway for next season. Visit cthstt.com for more information.

All in this together, still

Nobody knows where this virus is going to take us, and while our politicians continue to zig and zag, then tell us how they never zigged in the first place and that they were telling us to zag all along, smart folks know better.

A lot of good things have come out of the past four months, including people eating healthier, exercising more, spending more time outdoors, and if you’re like me, planting and tending a garden.

I’ve had gardens on and off for the past 50 years. I helped weed and water with my parents when I was a kid, and have planted and harvested vegetables and herbs on and off ever since.

But this year’s garden was more serious. With talk of jeopardized supply chains back in March, we dug, planted, watered, weeded, and have been eating almost all our meals from what has grown in our yard.

With last week’s policy roll-backs, a lot of people in the service industry who had just gotten back to work are now shut down again. If you know somebody who’s in need, help them out. Most hunters and anglers have a stock of food in the freezer, or know how to go out and catch a mess of fish. Most gardeners are starting to wonder what other ways there are to cook squash and okra, and tomato and other plants are hitting their prime.

This is not a drill. There are people all over town who are out of work and out of money, and the piddly stimulus checks that everyday people got are long-gone. Don’t let people lose hope. Share some of your bounty. And is there a better excuse to go fishing than loving your neighbor as you love yourself?

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