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updated: 5/29/2013 11:35 AM

Figuring out what fish like can get pretty whacky

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I promised my wife I would be a tad more considerate with what I write in this week's column. I suggested to her that everyone has an opinion, and mine is the only important one. Just kidding.

Anyway, I had another on-water lesson with a friend, and I'll explain how the day went later in this column.

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I am reminded that far too many television anglers have advanced degrees in language skills as well as biology. Allow me to explain.

I never understood how some "professional" fishermen manage to know what a fish likes or dislikes. Perhaps you've heard them declare something like this: "These bass like them pumpkinseed, 6-inch worms."

Or, "It's been a slow day and the fish just won't touch any plastic bait with a chartreuse color 'cause they don't like it."

It's probably just me and my judgmental ways, but I've never been able to get a straight answer from a person who tries his best to earn a paycheck from a bass tournament. I am always wondering how these people know what a fish likes or dislikes.

Do you have any idea how many different plastic lures and crankbaits are on the shelves of America's tackle shops and big box stores?

XYZ lure company will hand over big checks to the men and women who win tournaments. It is then the responsibility of those "pro staff" members to wear a lure company's logo on their shirts and plaster a decal on the sides of their boats. There is nothing wrong with that, except when the camera is rolling and the person doing the talking insists largemouth bass don't like this or that particular plastic worm, plastic crawfish or wiggling crankbait. That's when I start to wonder if these folks sat down with some bass over coffee and talked about preferences.

I once again ask: How do these brain trusts know what a smallmouth or largemouth bass likes or dislikes?

I believe local angler Chuck Thompson has had his share of fishing experiments under his belt, or ice tent. Thompson once declared to me that it's not the color of a piece of plastic that matters the most, but rather the shape and size of the artificial bait that often triggers a fish to eat.

I'll take that notion a couple steps further.

When fishing in Wisconsin with a biologist on the inside passage of Green Bay, otherwise called Sturgeon Bay, , he suggested his research indicated fish react to a trait of live bait that "triggers" their feeding or attack instincts.

That led me to consider that the shape of an extra-large artificial bait could be threatening to a bass. The fish doc also suggested the movement, or wiggle factor, such as something resembling a wounded minnow or shad, would also trigger an attack from a hungry predator.

I am not saying the boys are necessarily wrong when they look at the camera and state to the world that Mr. Big Bass likes a Tootie-Fruitie-Allarootie colored jig or skirted worm because of its unique pastels, but I believe many other factors are more important.

After all my years in this crazy business, I learned the other day just how important presentation is in the scheme of things when hunting fish.

The great Spence Petros suggested using a Whacky-Worm technique for largemouth bass with a Yum Dinger as the bait to ring their door bell. The pulsating worm did the trick.

The downside to the outing was we didn't have a television camera on board for us to tell a viewer old Mr. Bass liked the lure over a live nightcrawler or minnow.

•Contact Mike Jackson at angler88@comcast.net, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.

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