When "cheating" pays off
Last updated 2/1/2022 at 8:03pm
"If you're not cheating you're not trying" is a popular line used by many to describe the overwhelming desire to win at all costs which basically sums up a large portion of the population. Cheating permeates just about every facet of our lives in one way or another. Millions of people right now are trying to figure out how to "legally cheat" on their income taxes so they can balance out their debt with the government. Athletes in all the major sports and beyond are looking for that competitive edge by bending the rules or circumventing legislation in order to get ahead and perhaps "get paid" with a huge contract. The public outcry against offenders who get caught is often loud and seems to never die down. The recent Hall of Fame ballots in baseball are a prime example as the greats of the "steroid era" continue to slip farther away from induction as penance for their past transgressions. All the previous examples of cheating are slanted towards the negative, but what if you could cheat and it was actually a good thing? What would you say to that?
In general the act of cheating is frowned upon but on occasion its actually quite productive and can sometimes lead to an entirely different approach to a problem. One of the most fulfilling things I personally take from guiding other fishermen is watching them learn a new technique and become successful while using that technique. I also thoroughly enjoy it when clients teach me a new technique or share their thoughts on a new or better way to catch fish. I have seen some truly innovative techniques to catch fish that I would have never thought of in a million years come from my customers. Most of these innovative techniques come as a result of these other fishermen struggling with a certain style of fishing so they adapt their own version to make it work for them. In a sense this could be called "cheating" because it's a way to get around a conventional method. I say if it helps you catch fish and it's a legal method then you can call me a "cheater" too.
Easily the most difficult method of fishing that the average angler struggles with is trying to gather a feel for using a suspending bait or plug like a Corky. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked "how do you fish a Corky?" or another similar bait. I usually smile and try to explain it to the best of my ability because I can remember being in the same situation and being just as frustrated. It took me a while to figure out the technique and I still struggle from time to time, especially when the bite is very subtle. During such times when the fish are finicky and the bite is light I have seen many anglers basically give up in frustration as they watch their partners cash in seemingly on every other cast. Instead of giving up it may be time to try another technique that duplicates the same presentation in a more user friendly fashion.
My own personal solution to the "corky dilemma" was to use a twitch bait like a Rouge, Thunderstick, Rapala, or Yo Zuri version. The twitch bait was a perfect compromise as it would take the guess work out of the retrieve and had a built in pause which was hard for those fish to resist. I have saved myself many days on the water by making this simple switch, in fact there are plenty of times I actually prefer throwing these plugs to other variations.
One extra benefit the twitch bait provides is the fact that it floats, a benefit not lost on those who provide lures for their clients. Shelling out 9 dollar plugs to multiple anglers while drifting shell can get expensive in a hurry if you think about it. Twitch baits will generally float to the surface if you break them off so they can usually be retrieved and retied for another tour of duty. I had the good fortune to watch the twitch bait do its magic one January day in ultra clear water while fishing on Calcasieu with my good friend Johnny Cormier. The scattered shell we were drifting was easily visible with the bright sun and the redfish and trout stuck out like neon signs in the night. Johnny and I were able to watch how these fish reacted to the different lures we offered up and it was highly educational and entertaining. After running the gamut on lure choice we settled on the twitch bait because it continued to provide the most consistent strikes after we bumped the shell and let the plug stop and begin to float back towards the surface, it was violent. We also watched the plugs float back to surface after breaking them off against the sharp shell, it was eye opening to say the least.
Now the twitch bait is not the only improvised offering that fishermen use but at this time of the year these baits are at the forefront while Texas anglers really focus on chasing big fish. Anglers will be bombarded with stories focusing on suspending plugs and trophy trout from every direction in the coming weeks as the coastal community focuses on a singular goal. As fishermen we all have things in common and catching fish is perhaps tops on that list. Just remember that there is no perfect way to go about catching fish and if you need to come up with your own version to "cheat" the system go ahead because it just may be the technique we have all be searching for. Results speak for themselves and as long you enjoy what you are doing and it's legal, by all means get after it. In fact I encourage you all to think outside the box as long you promise to share with the rest of the class.