The latest Bass-A-Thon featured guest speaker Larry Dahlberg. My exposure to Larry has come from his television show The Hunt For Big Fish. It is there you see this unique angler traveling the globe. His consistency at catching diverse species coupled with the size of the catch really stands out. As a fan of the show I love his ability to identify the lessons of the moment in a few concise words. So I certainly wanted to 'catch' what Larry had to say to California Bass Anglers.
In his mid sixties he recounts a fishing carrier which began at age 6. While growing up, fishing was an earned privilege that only came after everything else was in order. As a beginner, prior to going out on the water with his father, he had to prove his casting skills. At the age of 11 he was guiding client's for small mouth bass on a river near his hometown in Wisconsin. While spending quality time on the water and learning the habits of his quarry, at a very young age he became a superior guide.
With more than 50 years on the water, covering the planet, Larry's many accomplishments include world record catches and innovative lure and tackle designs. Larry's fishing insight is more than keen, the following represents what I was able to gain from Larry's talk.
'Writers don't make good fisherman and fisherman don't make good writers' - Larry Dahlberg.
Larry started by explaining that there are countless keyholes that look into the totality of the fishing universe. An angler who only wants to fish one particular style or species limits themselves to a very narrow exposure. The goal in one's life as a fisherman should be to look through as many keyholes as possible. Diverse angling makes for a far better angler.
Larry feels that effective communication is very important and anglers often misuse terminology. For example the term 'Reaction Bite'. Many apply this term to a particular type of fishing. Yet Larry explains that every bite is a reaction strike regardless of the technique, be it 'finesse' or 'power'. A bite from a fish, of course is a reaction, so every bite is a reaction strike. Being a friend of Buck Perry, the father of structure fishing, he illustrated how Buck would become aggravated when anglers would misstate the difference between structure and cover.
Responding to a question from the audience Larry explained that when approaching an upcoming trip he doesn't make any type of game plan. Much like fishing in the moment he wants to see the water first hand and then make decisions on how to approach the situation. His preference is to travel with lure making equipment than actual baits and he will not travel with plastics.
Larry will not hesitate to ask the local guide to take him where the biggest fish in the system was caught. He will scout the shallows rapidly to locate bass. It is a good move even if you 'spook' the fish from their location. He will leave the area returning later, the fish will settle and reposition. The scouting information gained is very valuable. He will use a ladder on a boat as well as other means to get high above the fish to look down and gain a better perspective.
With so many diverse bodies of water Larry feels as an angler the goal is to learn how to fish these varied environments. He recommends learning how your target species behaves in each environment type. He finds fresh water bass fishing in California, from the Delta to our trout stocked reservoirs, to be extremely unique.
Larry doesn't take any fishing notes. He relies only on his memory as a filing system to recall experiences and knowledge. For him he feels that note taking hinders the brain's ability to store and retrieve information. I've heard this message before, use it or lose it.
For Larry lures with the greatest range of working speeds are the best. Also how a bait moves after you halt the action can make all the difference in enticing strikes. If a bait continues to move forward after the retrieve is halted that is a great attribute. Larry explains, this movement can be the only thing at times that generates a strike.
There are mechanical baits and non mechanical baits. Mechanical baits have the action built in; just winding the reel drawing in line will produce the lures action. Lures such as a jerk bait are considered non mechanical baits as they require the angler to impart the common action. Larry greatly prefers a non mechanical lure. When it comes to color he will seldom match natural bait patterns choosing lures that stand out.
He points out that water conducts sound/vibration 5 times greater than air. Just the pull of fishing line through water makes a tremendous amount of noise in the aquatic environment. It is observations like this that make me realize there is so much to fishing that eludes mainstream discussions.
Larry says it's a good idea to study the body design of the predator fish you seek. Their body shape, mouth and tooth design will give clues to where and how a particular fish wants to eat.
Larry's experience has taught him that fish have good memories. Not like a human but just like Pavlov's Dog they will remember negative responses. A fish that knows it is being pursued will not bite so when it is time to cast stealth is extremely important.
There are fish who eat bugs and fish who eat each other. At some point some bug eaters become fish eaters. Larry has learned that big fish including bass will at times take an imitation which goes back to when they were bug eaters.
Fish ecosystems have a way of balancing themselves. Nature is very good at eliminating the weak or the out of place. Visiting catfish hatcheries Larry has witnessed a small percentage of albino catfish within each hatch. Yet out in the lakes and rivers you never see an albino catfish. Why, Larry explains because they are quickly eaten by the other cats (Author's Note -Perhaps this has something to do with lure color selection).
Wow, within a short period of time that was a lot of interesting information containing many tangents to the BBZ! Most people lead very busy lives and for me spare time is a myth, it just doesn't exist. So I appreciate the opportunity to shorten my learning curve by listening to the experiences and advise of the successful. As expected Larry Dahlberg certainly did not disappoint! I want to thank Angler's Marine/Rick Grover for hosting the perennial Bass A Thon and a big thank you to Mr. Dahlberg for sharing his time and thoughts !
All photos above provided by Dahlberg Productions, all rights reserved.