By Ronnie Weston| April 19, 2012 at 1:50 PM CDT - Updated June 26 at 11:25 PM
LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – When the fish are not biting, go to the bottom.
It's a technique that has worked for generations and often one that turns a poor fishing day into a satisfactory one.
The basic idea, according to experienced anglers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, is to get your bait or your lure on or close to the bottom of the lake or stream. That is where the fish are more often than they are close to the surface.
Even more of a factor is some species of fish are bottom feeders by nature. Yes, the largemouth bass is an exception, and the spectacular surface smashes of a bass are memorable.
If it's catfish you are after, the bottom is where they are. Trout are usually, not always, close to the bottom. Red-ear bream most often are close to the bottom.
A game plan used by many Arkansas fishermen is to drop their baits to the bottom then slowly and gradually work up. This comes into crappie fishing for many folks. They begin dunking a minnow or jig close to a stump or stickup then gradually raise it up until they get a strike. Crappie tend to hang out around the same level on a particular day. Get a hit, and then you know the likely depth for other crappie.
With catfish and with some other bottom-referring species, the three-way swivel is a useful item on a tackle box.
With it, one swivel is for the line from the reel. Another is for the weight that will bump along the bottom, and the third swivel is for the line with the hook. This allows the bait to float just off the bottom where the weight is holding the rig down.
Bottom fishing like this is usually done without bobbers or floats. The angler works by feel and at the same time keeps an eye on the line. Sometimes a soft strike by a fish won't be felt because of the action of the weight bumping the bottom. But if the line makes a move to one side or another, that's a good indicator that a fish has the bait.
Red-ear bream are a popular species in many Arkansas waters. One of several nicknames for this fish is shellcracker. That's because they like to feed on small mollusks, which live at the bottom of a lake or stream.
Get your bait, maybe a worm, down close to the bottom, and you might be opening up some exciting action with the red-ears.