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Fishing with Kenny | Control the Variables

By Nathan Coker
In Fishing with Kenny
Jul 1st, 2024

article by Kenny Covington

I am a boat rat. Much like a basketball player hones his craft spending hours in the gym, I spend a lot of my spare time sitting in my boat, working on fishing tackle. I have always believed the more I prepare, the more consistent I will be in tournament competitions.  I realized early on, I could not allow luck to determine my successes or failures, so I do everything I can to put the odds in my favor.

To the outsider, there is a lot of luck involved in the sport of fishing, but this is far from the truth. Granted, there is an element of luck when it comes to hooking and landing fish but, those outcomes are usually less about luck and more about angler complacency and lack of preparation. Most lost fish are due to angler error more than attributed to bad luck. Let me explain what I mean.

Recently I received a phone call from a good friend of mine, while he was fishing in a tournament. He said he needed to vent for a few minutes. When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “I just lost one of the biggest fish I have hooked in a long time. I did everything right, I played her correctly, I got her out of the heavy cover, and when she surged at the boat she broke my line.”

My teaching background came out of me, “What bait did you lose her on and what size line were you throwing” I asked.

“I was throwing a Whopper Plopper on 12 lb. Big Game. That is the only line I use for topwater lures,” came the response.

“Well, if you had been using a good, braided line, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and you would be well on your way to winning your tournament.” With a huff in his voice, he hung up the phone. Truth hurts.

Our fisheries are hard to catch fish in, some will even say it can be difficult at best to get a consistent bite. It is with this logic I base my tackle tinkering routine around when I prep for a tournament or even a day of practice. If I get the right bite, I want to make sure I have done everything in my power to put the fish in the boat. To some of my friends, they believe it is overkill, to me it is a necessity. 

Here are some examples of simple things, you can do to make yourself a better angler:

Make sure you have the right rod/reel combination for the lure you are using. To the average angler this may not seem important, but if you are serious about learning this sport and getting better, this is important. If I am throwing a big topwater lure, such as a Whopper Plopper, I need to use a heavier rod, and pair it with braided line. The heavier rod is important so I can cast it more efficiently and, when teamed with braided line, helps my hookup ratio, helping me catch more fish.

If I am throwing a spinnerbait, my rod and line selection is always based on the size of the spinnerbait, regardless of the cover I am fishing. The lighter the lure, the lighter the rod, and I choose a line size to match, never using anything less than 12 lb. monofilament. 

When flipping/pitching, unless I am in close quarters, I use an 8-foot flipping rod, one paired with braid the other paired with 30 lb. Sunline monofilament. No matter the lure of choice or technique, I can effectively use both rods.

Put the odds in your favor!

Make sure you choose your hooks and line sizes wisely. One type or style of hook does not fit all lures and techniques. There is not a universal line for all lure applications. Much like a set of golf clubs, each hook and line choice just another tool in the angler’s toolbox. Smaller, thin wire treble hooks require lighter lines for better hook penetration.  Heavier, thicker hooks require much heavier line, or even braid to get the maximum performance from your hooks. You must also consider the rod you will be using for each application. The lighter the line, the lighter action rod you will want to use.

Retie often. After every fish I catch, I check my line a few feet up from the lure, checking for any line wear or abrasions. It is usually the damage from catching a one-pound fish that causes your line to break when you lose a five pounder. Please note, the line breaks on a hookset are 150% angler error and in most instances, no matter the victim’s claim, was not “a big fish.” Tie good knots and learn multiple ones to use for various purposes.

Add a hook when you want to catch more fish, replace your hooks to keep you from losing the ones that bite. There is never a spinnerbait or a buzzbait tied on my rods for a tournament when I do not add a trailer hook. If the cover I am fishing does not allow for adding a trailer hook, then I just fish and hope for the best. I often hear anglers talk about losing spinnerbait fish, and my first question is, “Were you using a trailer hook?” Their answer is usually, “No, because I hate using a trailer hook.” If adding the extra hook would keep you from losing a potential tournament winning fish, I do not see the logic for not using one.

Every hard bait, crankbait, topwater, or whatever the case may be, I choose to use in a tournament, I will replace the treble hooks on them.  I do not use straight EWG trebles on all my baits but for my topwaters, my feather hook or rear hook will always be the EWG style. I use round bend trebles for the other hooks. No matter the replacement hooks you use, make sure you use a high-quality brand such as Gamakatsu, Mustad or Eagle Claw.

Well, it looks like we have run out of space and time again for another month. I sure hope we were able to share some quality information with you, that will allow you to become a better angler.  Remember, paying diligence and the desire to keep learning is often what separates the great anglers from the good ones. 

Be sure you catch one for me, and I will see you next month!