Some years ago, I was fishing for trout on a beautiful eastern Idaho lake. I was throwing a spinner, and the water was so clear I could see fish chasing my lure on almost every cast. Chasing, but never fully committing. Determined to cure their lockjaw, I started varying my retrieve. But no matter what speed or direction I reeled in, the fish continued their hard-to-get routine, following the spinner within 10 feet of the boat before turning tail.
Frustrated, I decided to turn to an old bass fishing trick — a full pause. I’d never tried it with a spinner before — it seemed counterintuitive to the mechanics of the lure — but when the bite is stingy, there’s no such thing as a bad idea. The first time I stopped my retrieve and let the lure flutter toward the bottom a big rainbow swiped at it and missed. The second time, it was fish on. I wound up boating so many fish that I eventually had to change my spinner — the football-shaped, high-flying rainbows had torn my original Panther Martin to pieces.
With many lures, a pause is a well-known part of the arsenal. Bass lures such as frogs and crayfish are meant to be retrieved with a stop-and-go retrieve. Jigs are meant to bob and weave their way back to the boat. And many a fly angler has added a twitch to a grasshopper pattern to entice stubborn fish.
In the years since that trip I’ve continued to experiment with the pause on all kinds of lures. I’ve even incorporated it into live bait fishing. On a recent trip, I float-tubed my way over a school of nice bluegill but the bite was slow. I started reeling in my night crawler a foot or two at a time and BAM! I could almost hear the fish yelling, “Hey, it’s getting away!” as they raced in for the kill.
And therein lies the secret behind the pause — it can trigger fishes’ natural reflex to attack prey, even on days when they’re not actively feeding. It’s a neat little trick that has saved my bacon on more than one occasion. I hope it serves you well, too.