Skip to main content

10 Fishing Secrets You Don't Know About

Anglers possess many secrets, but everyone has moments of weakness and occasionally spills out some great fish-catching tips; here are 10 you've probably never tried

10 Fishing Secrets You Don't Know About
10 Fishing Secrets You Don't Know About

Everyone has secrets. But good anglers, it seems, keep more than their fair share.

The friendly competitive nature of fishing makes it so. Every fisherman wants to “one-up” his buddies in the catching department, so when a great fish-catching tactic is discovered, the angler keeps it confidential.

My Uncle Guy was one such fisherman. He hung out at the pool hall where the men had a weekly pot for the biggest and most crappie. Often as not, my uncle won that money.

I fished with Uncle Guy many times on the east Arkansas lakes he loved and was surprised one morning when he asked me to take an oath of secrecy.


“I’m going to show you how I catch all those big crappie,” he said. “But you have to swear as long as I’m still breathing you won’t tell another soul.”


I swore.

His secret was simple, but its effectiveness was astounding.

When he caught the day’s first crappie, he pulled out a dinner spoon and scaled the fish over a coffee can. He then added enough water to keep the scales moist. Ever so often, he’d take a big pinch of scales and toss them near a bush or treetop. Then he’d drop his minnow-baited hook in the spot where he’d pitched the scales.

I can’t say for sure why it worked, but something about those sparkly scales fluttering through the water was irresistible to those crappie. They’d rush straight toward the cloud of scales and gobble up our minnows.


Had my uncle possessed the secret formula for Coca-Cola, he would have shared it quicker than that crappie secret. And true to my word, I never told a soul until after my uncle passed away.

Anglers possess many secrets like that. Everyone has moments of weakness, however, and occasionally someone lets his guard down and spills his guts. Should you desire to hasten the process of revelation, a special gift, cash or a bottle of branch water shared by a campfire work wonders for loosening tongues.

Forthwith, a few fishing secrets thus obtained.


Bass Secrets

During warm weather, night fishing often produces more bass. And some of the best night-fishing lures are topwater crawlers like the Arbogast Jitterbug and Heddon Crazy Crawler that have been around for decades.

You’ll catch a lot of lunker largemouths by just casting and retrieving a crawler. But you’ll probably miss a lot of fish that swirl at your lure but don’t get hooked.

After swearing me to secrecy, a friend showed me a way to remedy that on a bassing-with-the-bats trip several years ago. He would cast a big Jitterbug and start retrieving. Then on his signal, I would cast my plug behind his and retrieve it just behind the front runner. Every bass that swirled at his front lure and missed struck harder at my second lure and got hooked. Every so often, we rotated positions so both of us enjoyed some of the action.

Here’s something else to remember when bass fishing – spiders make great fishing barometers. If you see spiders sitting close to the water on snags, cypress trees and the like, there’s no need to begin fishing because the bass aren’t biting.

“A spider tastes mighty good to a big bass,” Uncle Guy used to say. “And when Mr. Bass gets hungry, he makes them spiders get high and dry. You’ll know it when the bass begin to strike, ‘cause the spiders will run up the trees and stay there till it’s all over. There ain’t no use to fish when the spiders are low, so we don’t start till they run up the trees.”

Catfish Secrets

An old friend taught me this recipe for a great inexpensive bait that will catch eating-size channel catfish better than almost anything. Buy a package of cheap hot dogs – the cheaper the better. Cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put the pieces in a zip-seal plastic bag. Add two or three heaping tablespoons of minced garlic and one package of unsweetened strawberry Kool-Aid. Add enough water to cover the hot dogs, zip shut and refrigerate overnight.

For some reason we don’t understand, catfish love the taste and smell of garlic, so the garlic adds an additional flavor/scent trail to that produced by the hot dogs. The Kool-Aid imparts a brilliant red color to the franks – a color catfish see and associate with something wounded and bloody. This, too, makes the bait more attractive.

When you’re ready to fish, put a piece of hot dog on your hook, be sure to leave the hook barb sticking out, then cast and get ready for action. You’ll have cats chasing dogs in no time!

Here’s another catfishing secret Uncle Guy taught me. Go to the feed store and buy a bag of livestock range cubes that ranchers use to supplement cattle feed. When you get to your fishing hole, throw a few handfuls of the range cubes where you plan to fish. They’ll melt in the water, and the scent will attract hungry catfish like kids to an ice-cream truck. Cast any good catfish bait in the vicinity and you’ll have a fish on before you can say “Boo!”

Bluegill Secrets

I got this tip from an old gray-headed bream aficionado who always seemed to catch more bluegills than me. When I finally convinced him to share his secret, I thought at first he was joking.

“Add a piece of banana peel to the cage you keep your crickets in,” he said. “This gives the crickets a flavor and aroma that bluegills find irresistible.”

I tried it. It works. Try it yourself and see.

What if you’re fishing a long way from town and run out of crickets or other bait? Here’s what Uncle Guy did.

He’d start wading in the shallows and looking for snails and mussels. Lots of anglers never think about it, but these make great baits for bluegills, redear sunfish and other panfish. Catfish love them, too.

Uncle Guy would look for the shelled creatures buried in the bottom or clinging to plants and rocks. Each he found was placed inside an old coffee can with some water. When fishing with snails, he’d crush them before putting them on a hook. Mussels were opened with a knife and cut into small pieces.

Fish love these baits like a Frenchman loves escargot, so don’t lay your pole down after you cast your bait. It won’t be long before you’re fighting a nice fish.

Trout Secrets

A friend who owns a trout dock on Arkansas’ Little Red River taught me years ago that some of the best baits for trout are the larvae of bee moths. Fishermen call them wax worms, and they frequently are sold at docks and bait shops.

Impale three or four of these waxy-colored grubs on a fine-wire hook, and leave the ends wiggling enticingly. Then squish a miniature marshmallow on your line just above the hook. The marshmallow serves as a float. The wax worms are now buoyant. Trout can see them. And you’ll catch the trout.

Old timers say crickets and grasshoppers make great trout baits, too, although few of today’s anglers use them. Secure one on a thin-wired hook, then fish it on top like a fly. Use light line and no weight. Pitch it out. Twitch it. Ripple the water. Then hang on. Action won’t be long coming.

Walleye Secret

When you’re fishing for walleyes, one of the best live baits to use is leeches. Yes, those ugly little bloodsuckers make great fish bait.

You may be wondering, though, how do I get leeches? In some states, you can buy them from bait dealers, but in many areas, you’ll have to collect your own. You can find them in ponds with lots of cattails or lily pads, and you can catch them using this long-forgotten method.

Take a big hunk of fresh beef liver and stuff it in a burlap bag you’ve poked a couple dozen holes in with a knife. Tie off the end of the bag with a piece of rope and toss it into shallow water. Leeches will squirm through the holes and loose fabric to reach the bloody liver, and when you come back and pull it in … bingo! You’ve got fish bait.

Minnow Secret

Minnow baits will entice almost any fish that swims, from a big ol’ bass or catfish to panfish like perch and crappie.

In my youth, while camped on a river sandbar with Uncle Guy, we realized we had no more minnows for the next day’s crappie fishing.  Unperturbed, my uncle strode to the high water line, whacked down a willow bush with his hatchet, dragged it back to the river and tossed it into the shallow water with the trunk protruding over the sandbar.

That night, after readying the minnow buckets within reach, he crept up to the submerged willow and swiftly dragged it out of the water and up the bank in one quick move. In the watery trail of the willow flopped hundreds of native minnows. We filled our buckets that night and our crappie stringers the next morning.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Engel

Engel's High Viz Drybox Coolers

Versatile boxes available in four sizes; ICAST Fishing Gear Guide.

Safely Transport Kayak, Canoe with Malone Auto Racks

Safely Transport Kayak, Canoe with Malone Auto Racks

Mike Carney highlights three products deigned to get you there and back; ICAST Fishing Gear Guide.

Strike King Ned Rage Craw

Strike King Ned Rage Craw

In-Fisherman's Todd Ceisner sits down with Mark Zona to discuss the new Ned Rage Craw to hear all about how this little finesse bait, is going to get you those extra couple bites when times get tough.

New G. Loomis IMX Pro Rod Series

New G. Loomis IMX Pro Rod Series

David Brinkerhoff of G. Loomis shares his knowledge of the new IMX Pro rod series. The IMX Pro rod series comes in 10 new models and will cover five technique-specific categories. Available Fall 2020. MSRP $345-355.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.10 Recipes for Your Backyard Get Together Wild Game

10 Recipes for Your Backyard Get Together

Game & Fish Online Staff

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.

Field Skills: Want to be a better shooter? The first step is perfecting your release.6 Steps to the Perfect Trigger Pull on Your Compound Bow Hunting How-To

6 Steps to the Perfect Trigger Pull on Your Compound Bow

Jace Bauserman - August 27, 2020

Field Skills: Want to be a better shooter? The first step is perfecting your release.

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies can be profound, even when fishing the same lake or river.How to Catch Catfish Day and Night Fishing How-To

How to Catch Catfish Day and Night

Terry Madewell

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies...

More adjustability and improved balance make these nine compounds even easier to shoot.The Best Compound Bows for 2020 Bows

The Best Compound Bows for 2020

Jace Bauserman - August 24, 2020

More adjustability and improved balance make these nine compounds even easier to shoot.

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing How-To

Here's what to throw to tempt the biggest fish below a dam.Hit the Tailwater Buffet for Eastern Trout Trout & Salmon

Hit the Tailwater Buffet for Eastern Trout

Jeff Knapp - October 26, 2020

Here's what to throw to tempt the biggest fish below a dam.

Lowering water and a decreasing frequency of hatches make trout vulnerable to a variety of tactics. Here's how to capitalize during the best trout fishing month of the year.Happy Trout-Tober Fishing Trout & Salmon

Happy Trout-Tober Fishing

Gary Lewis - October 22, 2020

Lowering water and a decreasing frequency of hatches make trout vulnerable to a variety of...

From late summer through the fall, the Pacific Coast offers an endless bounty of tasty bivalves and crustaceans; here's how to harvest your 'fare' share.Costal Bounties: How to Go Clamming and Crabbing Fishing How-To

Costal Bounties: How to Go Clamming and Crabbing

Scott Haugen - September 15, 2020

From late summer through the fall, the Pacific Coast offers an endless bounty of tasty...

Looking to expand your fall Chinook fishing repertoire? These tips on trolling in bays and river mouths will help.Tidewater Trolling Tips for Fall Chinook Success Trout & Salmon

Tidewater Trolling Tips for Fall Chinook Success

Scott Haugen - October 20, 2020

Looking to expand your fall Chinook fishing repertoire? These tips on trolling in bays and...

See More Fishing How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now