Don't mock the angler who catches fish in creative ways

Unorthodox methods — like trolling a plastic worm off the back of the boat — can produce memorable catches like this monster smallmouth bass caught by Justin Dalme of Kuna.
Unorthodox methods — like trolling a plastic worm off the back of the boat — can produce memorable catches like this monster smallmouth bass caught by Justin Dalme of Kuna. Special to the Idaho Statesman

One of the best things about fishing is there are nearly infinite ways to do it.

Freshwater. Saltwater. Rivers, lakes and ponds.

Fly-fishing. Plastic lures. Live bait, trolling and noodling.

Everyone has their favorite kind of fishing, and methods vary in different corners of the globe. But no matter where or how you fish, there is one universal truth — if you’re catching fish, you’re doing it right.

Here in Idaho, I sometimes sense a divide between two groups of anglers: the fly crowd and those who fish with spin gear. As someone who enjoys all kinds of fishing, I propose we bury the hatchet once and for all.

In some rivers, artfully casting dry flies is the best way to tempt a trout. In others, drifting a pungent chunk of bait is the ticket for catching catfish. If you want to try hooking rainbows on chicken livers or channel cats on an elk hair caddis, knock yourself out. But preferring one method over another doesn’t make us better or worse anglers. It just makes us different — and it also means there are always new tactics to explore.

As I recently learned hammering bass on a fly rod at the Idaho2Fly Derby, it pays to expand your horizons. I’ve enjoyed countless fishing lessons through the years, including how to troll for mighty Mackinaw trout in the dark depths of Lake Michigan; how to catch California spotted bass on my go-to Idaho largemouth tackle; how to “talk fishing” while angling with a Coke-bottle-and-handline-wielding Belizean in the Caribbean; and how to stay patient and seize my moment while Chinook fishing on the Columbia River.

While the conditions and methods behind each of these experiences were wildly different, the end goal was the same. And catching the fish — whether a lightning-fast Caribbean bonefish or a colossal Pacific salmon — is always a sweet reward.

I’d like to punctuate this column by acknowledging the guy who inspired it — my buddy Justin, king of unorthodox methods. On fishing trips in my boat, he has taken to “trolling” with whatever lure he has on at the time. It isn’t trolling in the traditional fish-finder-and-downriggers sense; he basically tosses his line over the side of the boat and drags it along as we go. I’ve seen him do this with crankbaits, rubber worms, you name it.

This “faux trolling” wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice of tactics. But he enjoys it, and it does catch fish. On a recent trip to Swan Falls Reservoir, Justin was trolling a plastic worm out the back of the boat when WHAM! Fish on! A monster smallmouth bass came flying out of the water and, after an exhilarating fight, we landed the beast. It was the biggest bass I’ve ever seen at Swan Falls, and a new personal-best catch for Justin.

After we snapped some pictures and released the fish, Justin kicked his feet up on a cooler and resumed trolling, smiling from ear to ear. It was a perfect moment—one that reaffirmed a simple truth all anglers would do well to keep in mind:

If it makes you happy and catches fish, you’re doing it right.

Tight lines!

Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at