Some of the greatest fishing in the world, is available within a mile or two away any where in the US! Many anglers miss out because their gear is too big and not sensitive enough to show them bites. Fish feed in a delicate fashion 90% of the time. In order to catch them, you need to change your ways. If you do, you can be rewarded with 500 fish in 4 hours- my record is 512.

To get in on this action, you will need a few items and, you will need to get rid of a few old items you may be used to. It might help the reader to know that until the Spring of 2000, I was a big game fisherman with a box full of lures and plenty of spinning gear as my main tools for catching fish. Everything changed about the way I fish, especially the fact that I actually caught fish, every time out. I still have not been “skunked” since changing my ways. By the way, it’s a good thing we don’t smell like a skunk when we don’t catch anything as a group of anglers, otherwise our families would know for sure how miserable a fishing day we had. Getting “skunked” (catching no fish) stinks!

There is no need to be skunked, if you follow a couple of fishing basics and
transform your gear for local waters (instead of our tackle being based on Florida bass or Kentucky crappie or Wisconsin Muskie. Even the “ultra light” spinning gear we are accustomed to using as a standard for local fishing is cutting down on our catches! Most anglers in the US have never truly fished “ultra” light. Years ago I changed my gear and I caught sacks full of fish all summer and for the first time in my fishing career, caught fish into very late fall! I never knew that fish would feed in late November and early December on open water!

I will give you two examples of having a blast catching fish vs. casting at them.

At a 4th of July picnic on a small pond in suburban Chicago, I was fishing with my 30 foot pole while a pack of kids nearby were busy throwing a bass jig connected to a 2.5 inch bobber (way too big) at a weed bed extending 4 ft. out into the lake from the edge. Their problem was simple. They couldn’t cast well with the short “kids” rod and closed face reels. Their giant bobber was not giving them any indication of bites and the bass jig was too big to fit in any of the nearby fish’s mouths. Their 10 lb. line was like a cable being seen by even the aggressive fish in the area approaching this rig (read- avoiding). When the rig was actually wet, because these kids could not get the thing into the water near the fish because of tangles and weeds on the jig head, it was not catching fish. Their “casts” couldn’t get the lure/giant bobber combo past the 6-foot wide weedy edge.

I fixed that problem by putting down my pole and setting up my shortest 7 ft.
graphite telescopic “pole” with a delicate float (the size of an pencil eraser) with 1.5 lb. line leader attached to a siz #14 hook and baited it with a tiny grub. I handed the pole to the first kid and she caught a chubby blue gill within 5 seconds. With this non-mechanized fishing pole there was nothing to getting the bait just 6 feet out, past the weed bed. The kids could easily put the bait in front of the fish. As for the fish, they could easily pull under the tiny natural bait with the small hook and the float, which was about 1/30th the size of the bobber. The sensitive rig picked up on the fish sucking in the tiny bait immediately so the kids could react.

Sure, I had to stop fishing for a while, but I had a blast with this pack of 6 kids. My newly adopted friends were out-fishing the guys with spinning gear working around the pond 40:1 !

The reason most kids don’t catch is those short little “kid’s” rods. Kids rods come with the Mouse on the box, wrapped in plastic as one unit and are way too short. The closed face reels are not bad, but the short rods require a giant 55-gallon drum bobber which are often sold with these kits. Every angler in America should own and use a cane pole to fish with! A pole with no reel!

On another day that summer, with nothing more than the cane pole, I won the 1st day of the U.S. Open with a top weight of 19.75 lb. of blue gill caught in 4 hours. The answer to this victory was the simplicity of my rig and the size of my line using a tiny hook. By using this cane pole (really composed of graphite) I was able to fish quickly for blue gill that were in front of me. The conditions that day had them feeding in past the first break of the shoreline and were only 8 inches of water. My rig allowed me to get the bait out to the fish easily, accurately and quickly. Most of the other anglers in the match were fishing much farther out. My neighbor had a 60 foot pole!!! He was 58 feet past the fish with his expensive gear and I crushed his weight by 83% using little more than what Huck Finn used — a cane pole. Some
competitors were even casting far out into the lake some 70 yards away. On this day, AS MOST DAYS IN OUR LOCAL LAKES, the plentiful smaller fish caught in great number, will offer you success as an angler.

I would brag even more about that U.S. Open, but my teacher Hall of Fame Angler- Mick Thill, came from behind and crushed me in day 2 to win the tournament overall, I finished 2nd.

Here are details on setting up to fish for most every fish in your local ponds. Follow these (8) steps and you will have a pan fish blast of your own.

1. Consult local bait store owner.

They will give you great information on local ponds and you should be able to buy some floats, and the rest of your gear below. While not every store owner is great for information, most can get you to good fishing spots. To start,find waters with panfish. Panfish are abundant and for the most part active. This will provide you with a chance to catch fish.

2. Throw out your bobbers and purchase a couple small floats.

Bobbers are no good. Red and white are the worst. Throw them out or save them as museum pieces. America is about to find out what the rest of the world has known for 2,000 years. Floats catch fish. Even if you must cast larger float, a properly balanced float will crush a round bobber every day. Slip bobbers are not as good as floats either. This is because the line comes out the top in a slip float and catches wind, current messing up the presentation.

3. Get some good fishing line

6 lb. test is overkill for pond fishing. Use 4 lb. with an even lighter 4 – 6″ leader line to the hook. If a fish feels the line, they are gone. If the fish sees the line, they are gone. Your leader should be 2 lb.!
Fish feed by sucking their feed in with water. If the line is heavy, it gets sucked in slower. Most of the time, heavy line is just spit back out. Fish can spit a poor
presentation out faster than you can see your float move up on the surface! With heavy line, you can miss hundreds of fish bites each time out!! In the World Championships- I fished with line that is 1/8th the thickness of U.S. 2 lb. line!

4. Get some small, SMALL hooks

Size #12 should be one of the biggest hooks you ever use! If the majority of you checked your tackle box, I am sure that some 90% of you don’t own a hook this small! A big hook will kill your fishing! Kill it. Take a look at the nail on your pinky finger. That is about as long as your hook should be or smaller. (Ask your bait store owner or check out for these hooks) MOST MAJOR CHAINS DO NOT CARRY THESE HOOKS. Some aren’t interested in you catching fish, just buying stuff. They are quite happy selling a bunch of giant bass hooks, because that is what you have been buying!!! As we ask for proper equipment, the stores will change and offer us great selection. You may find these hooks in fly fishing sections of big stores but you can ask your local dealer to special order them. Size #14 or #16 hooks are perfect. If you are wondering, I have landed a 9 lb. walleye on a size #14 hook with small leech.

5. Get some small bait

Again, the thumbnail on your pinky finger is probably the biggest bait you should use. There are times the fish only want 1 maggot (spikes) on a tiny #16 hook. Even the big gills will not take 2 or 3 spikes as readily as they would 1 tiny piece of bait, this is especially true in early Spring, late Fall and after cold rains. Same would go for worms. Sometimes using a tiny cut piece will give you success. Only the fish will tell you. Lastly- big fish eat small bait! I have caught 15 lb. fish on a piece of crawler the size of my small fingernail.

6. Get a cane pole or telescopic pole

I have landed a 3.5 lb. fish so far on the cane pole with 2 lb. line. We call them
“whips” and some call them crappie poles. I plan on landing bigger fish than that, but the greatest number of fish are best caught in our local ponds using a whip and tiny delicate floats with small baits. The whip will deliver the bait out to the exact spot you need to lower your bait. This could be a drop-off, rock edge, gravel edge or weed edge. You can hit the exact spot every time! No missed casts. No birds nests. Once you find the fish, you can put the bait back in with the whip in the spot where the fish are. Whips vary in length from 6 ft. to 25 feet (longer if you find pro versions).

7. Balance Your Setup

Good shot is essential to this setup. The bite indicator (float you use) should be the smallest you can find. Take your line, rig this float up and then using a bucket of water to add split shot below the rig until your float is nearly sunk. It should be 95% below the water if you have the right amount of shot on it. 75% of that shot goes right under the float. Take a few small shot and this will go close to the hook. The best shot is Anchor brand split shot! This is premium splitshot that will stay on the line better and not slide around on you. It also tangles much less than the brand with the wings on it- round shot is best.
Correctly balance your tiny float on thin line with a small hook and you will have created a very efficient fish-catching machine! When your bait is on the hook, float in the water- the bait should sink the float a little. When the rig is properly balanced with bait on it- the slightest movement will show above water for you to see. If you have too much float tip sticking up- you will not see the bites!

8. Catch (and release) bags full of fish

You will need a keep net for the water if you want to have some fun. Seeing how many you can catch is all the fun. There is nothing like pulling a bag with 100 fish out to show people what fishing is all about. If you want to fish in a local club competition, the net is also required to keep the fish you catch for weight of your total catch. Keeping some medium sized fish and returning the largest fish is the way to improve your lake. If you take all the big fish, they won’t be in there next time you go fishing. If you take the medium sized fish, the bigger fish will get even bigger! It is essential that you release large fish to keep the bloodlines breeding and ensure future fishing on your lake!

9. Teach a kid to fish and take them fishing

With a cane pole and the basics, kids can have a blast! If we don’t take our kids
fishing, and above all, show them a good time, our sport will fade. Improving our
sport brings better fishing programs, cleaner local waters and education on
preserving our environment for kids. We need kids to care about their local world
and taking them fishing for bluegills is the absolute best way to show them a good
time. Incidentally, there is nothing wrong with catfish, golden roach shiners,
bullheads, carp or bass as any fish gives the kids just as much fun. Any fish they
catch will be a blast on a whip.

Who knows, you might even get hooked on pole fishing. I did.

As an angler, is our time best spent casting all day, or catching fish? Certain
situations will require spinning gear, a very long rod and casting, but for the
greatest number of situations in our local ponds and lakes the reel-less pole will outperform casting gear sometimes by more than 200% and up. I mean, take a look across the pond at spin casters sitting fishless and you destroying them with a pole- that is the goal! Or should I say whipping them!