Beauty is only skin deep. It is how you behave that matters. By Gord Pyzer
Bill Siemantel is the shrewdest thinker I’ve ever met, which is a good thing to be when you specialize in catching giant size fish.
Indeed, the barrel-chested San Diego firefighter has arguably caught more monster bass than any other human being on earth. At last reckoning, the body count included 300 largemouth bass over 10-pounds, 41 over 13-pounds and 12 over 15-pounds.
Still, while the sizes of Siemantel’s fish are staggering, it is how he thinks that will impress you the most. When most other anglers rock, Siemantel rolls. When they zig, he zags. And while his best selling book, Big Bass Zone and video Swimbait Techniques focus on bass, the concepts and theories that he espouses are applicable to giant muskies, northern pike, walleye, lake trout and salmon as well. Ironically, maybe more so.
Take Siemantel’s philosophy on selecting lures to match the forage upon which the big fish are feasting. Most anglers reckon they have completed the job when they determine that the walleye are stuffing their faces with smelts, the bass are dining on crayfish or the muskies are gorging on suckers.
The more progressive may even believe they’ve taken the task a step further if they can subsequently match-the-hatch with a hard-to-find, custom-painted lure that looks as though it will swim out of your hand at any given moment.
That is all fine and good as far as it goes, which isn’t very far the way Siemantel sees things. “If you look like one,” he says as we chatted at the ICAST show in Las Vegas, “you better behave like one.”
It is a brilliant concept that most anglers fail to consider. For what Siemantel is saying is that it is not enough to select a lure that looks like the bait the fish are eating, you have to make it behave like one.
Let’s take big northern pike as a great case in point. Giant ‘gators are ambush predators that like to cozy up along the outside edges of deep weedlines and behind large boulders and pounce on their prey. So you’d think it would be good enough to throw a natural looking lure in areas like these and start reeling in the trophies. Not so.
According to Siemantel, looking good is only skin deep. As you retrieve the lure along the weedline you have to make it behave like the herring, smelt, whitefish or walleye it truly represents. That means as you swim it nonchalantly toward the most prominent point sticking out of the weedline – where a prodigious pike is most likely to be lying – you need to make it suddenly and erratically change direction and veer it away from the ambush spot as though fleeing in fright.
Further to the point, Siemantel suggests you should retrieve the same lure differently, when you’re fishing it in open water, on the surface, in the middle of the water column or close to the bottom.
Visualize, he says, how a baitfish swims when it is alone in the middle of the lake. Now, imagine how that same baitfish behaves when it is a member of a huge school. Out on a stroll by itself, it swims in a lazy straight ahead manner.
As the member of a much bigger school of baitfish that you’ve marked on your sonar screen, however, that same baitfish will be darting and dashing erratically, all over the place. The very same baitfish, behaving naturally, but in a completely different way.
Siemantel says giant size fish are tuned in to recognize these differences and to attack – or avoid – our lures accordingly. And the best anglers capitalise on these differences. With more double digit bass to his credit than anyone else on earth, Siemantel has the results to back up the theory.