Make Sounds not Noise
By Captain Steve Soule’
From very early in my fishing history I knew that sound played a big role in the success or lack of it on any given fishing day. With nearly all of my early fishing experience taking place on shallow saltwater flats it was easy to observe the reaction of a fish to sounds around them. It became obvious that if we made the wrong kind of sound we wouldn’t even get a chance to cast at a fish. Trust me when I tell you that there’s nothing more frustrating than to pole a boat quietly across a calm flat after a fish only to watch her spook before you can even cast, it’s even worse when it’s your fault. Sounds as subtle as the gentle bump of a push-pole against the rub rail of a flats skiff or the hurried placement of a coke can on a fiberglass console can be the trigger. Regardless of the source, sounds of this nature will almost always elicit the same response.
On the flip side of the coin there are sounds that motivate complacent fish to demonstrate outward aggressive behavior. I’ve long been a proponent of rattles in lures, so much so that I went through a period of putting a glass bead rattle inside of my soft plastic tails. I’ve since decided that the practice may be somewhat excessive and probably unnecessarily even though I feel that it can be effective. It’s possible that I take this rattle thing to far, even now there isn’t a single lure in that I’ve bought in the last few years that doesn’t have a rattle either built into it or one that I put in myself. Well, excluding the soft plastics that I just mentioned. The bottom line is that sound does effect our fishing and I thought that I would share a little of what I know and believe about the subject.
I’ll start with the bad sounds or the ones that I’ve found along the way that have had and adverse effect on my fishing. The biggest sound that comes to mind is the loudest one we as anglers make and it’s the sound of propulsion. The obvious thought here is the noise generated by an outboard motor and I’m sure there’s not much explanation needed. Keep in mind though that the more we invade the fish’s habitat with this noise the more they adjust. If we all run across the shallow areas where the fish live then the fish will eventually find a new place to reside. It may not seem like such a big disturbance but the sound of a troll motor can and will spook fish and in most cases should be kept to an absolute minimum. Here’s another form of propulsion that many of us employ but often overlook, wade-fishing. This is a technique that most of us use to add to our stealthy approach but if we don’t take the time to do it quietly we often loose the benefit that it offers. There are situations where every step is critical. When walking on shell it’s easy to make more noise than fish will tolerate and wading in ankle deep mud can be equally noisy, both require some skill and the patience to move slowly and deliberately.
Here are a few more interesting noises that can scare fish away. There is a sound associated with the sonar beam used in most depth finders that is not only felt but also heard by fish. I learned this a few years ago while trying to chase down this pesky little clicking noise at the back of my boat. Since making this discovery I’ve always turned of my depth finder when I’m on fish or in very shallow water. I’ve also found that the same ill placed footstep can be a benefit useful tool when unwanted visitors enter your wading area, I’ve been able to successfully spook sharks by stomping a foot on hard sand or the deck of a boat. It’s safe to say that some sounds come across as being natural and others seem unnatural. It’s also important to note that sounds often have a much more pronounced impact in shallow water, and in skinnier water fish are almost always going to be more alert to noise.
When it comes to sounds we make it’s not nearly as easy to identify the good ones Outside of those we make with lures. I’ve seen very few situations where it will work inshore but there are a few times when a boat that runs over a group of fish it will instigate feeding activity. This is something that can happen in the inter-coastal and in other channels at times but don’t expect it to happen every time. Most of the goods sounds that I can think of come from lures and there are almost as many different sounds as there are colors. I find that I use mostly lures that contain a single ball rattle to generate noise but there can be a big variation from one lure to the next. Not only is there variation from lure to lure but also from one retrieve to the next. The distinguishable difference between lures plays a big role in selection during any given set of conditions so here’s a few of my favorites and the times I like to use them.
In water that is either deep (over 4 feet), rough or dirty it’s a toss-up between the She Dog and the Super Spook. Both of these lures have the ability to make a tremendous amount of noise and for this reason I prefer them for enticing fish in adverse conditions. If they want a moderate paced steady or stop and go retrieve then I’ll likely go with the She Dog. If they want either an exaggerated slow or very hard retrieve then I’ll opt for the Spook. Both plugs are also great if they want it sitting still since they will continue to make from the rocking motion of the waves. If the fish don’t want to come up to the surface it often becomes necessary to give a little sub-surface rattle. In a slow or not so aggressive bite it’s hard to beat either a rattle Corky or a Corky Devil with a rattle inserted in it’s belly, both have outstanding action and the addition of the rattles help them draw in fish from greater distances. If the fish are somewhat more aggressive and ready for a faster retrieve then it’s time to pullout the trusty old 51mr Mirr-O-Lure and let those little rattles go to work. If the conditions are choppy then the Corky Devil and the 51mr will be the better choices because the original Corky can be tough to keep up with in the wind.
As we move back into the shallows I will typically scale down in size to either a Ghost or a Spook Jr. but there are times when the big commotion of the big Spook can still be a winner. Generally if the wave action is small I’ll go with the smaller plugs and if they are rougher I may go up to the big spook. The Ghost sits somewhere in the middle range on noise and the rattle is slightly higher pitched than the Spooks but not as high as the She Dog, it can be deadly effective when an aggressive retrieve is needed. Over the last few years I haven’t used this plug nearly as much as I once did but the little Chug Bug from Storm is a killer when fish want a small meal. It can be worked in a slow Chugging motion or sped up to chug and walk at the same time. The higher pitch of multiple small rattles work well when shrimp are present and it can be worked very softly around glass minnows to draw strikes from surface sipping trout. Take it to heart that sounds can make or break you in fishing and make the most of those available to you. When you are on the water pay close attention to the sounds you make as well as the sounds of the bait that is present look for a lure that can come close to duplicating it. Careful observation, a stealthy approach and the right sound selection can lead you to startling discoveries and help you find fish that you might not otherwise find. Enjoy the sounds but try to keep the noise to minimum.