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Cracking the Code

There is a place I often refer to as my “hard water”. The reason I refer to it this way is because it has all the hallmarks of being difficult to fish and more often than I care to admit, I have blanked there. It is a large, weedy place ridden with turtles and catfish. It’s not a densely populated lake, aka “full of carp”, but it’s this very thing that makes this place interesting.

Why carp grow big in some places and multiply prolifically in others is a complicated matter. However, I believe that a lake with a lower population of fish will produce bigger fish and it’s these fish that I am after. It may be the case that more predatory fish exist in a given body of water and the result is a naturally culling out of small carp. Couple that with the right natural food source and you get big, rod bending pond tuna. On the other hand, the types of places that hold lots and lots of carp may be waters where predatory fish do not thrive and carp do. For example, a pea green shallow pond with low oxygen content in the summer, conditions in which a carp will happily survive.

For the last 3 years, I’ve searched my hard water with limited success. It wasn’t until last year that out of the corner of my eye I spotted a fish roll about 20 yards from where I was fishing. I went back later in the year to follow up on what I had seen and sure enough I landed a nice 23 from the weedy area. Location, location, location. After that capture, I moved on but knew exactly where I would be fishing if I ever came back.

A few weeks ago I decided to leave what I am now referring to as my “spring water”. It seems silly giving all these places these vague names rather than stating the actually location, but I’m sure if you are an angler you can appreciate keeping locations to yourself. I often hear about drama related to people fishing other people’s spots or whatever and I simply do not have the time nor interest to do the same. Besides that, the thrill of fishing the unknown is where I get my biggest buzz and getting away from the crowds is the best way for me to capture that magic.

With a cunning plan in mind, I returned to the hard water. I knew from some depth readings I took over the winter that the spot was 2 to 4 feet with sporadic weeds which felt about right given that it was around spawning time. The night before my first session there, I baited up a mix of hemp, birdseed and maize in what seemed like a decent depth. My heart sank the following morning as I waded out to inspect the spot again only to find much of the maize still intact. On top of that, at about 5:30am, a wader wearing bass angler appeared with the intentions of fishing the same area. After the usual questions “What are you fishing for?”, “Have you tried Wheaties and soda?”, etc, he made his way into the water and off to the right of the baited area and proceed to thrash the water with his Rattletrap. Given the left over maize and the angler’s commotion, I was pretty sure my chances were shot. Lo and behold once he was off a ways from the bank, a fish rolled in what I would soon realize was about 4ft of water. I recast my rods passed the baited area and not long after the angler had left, I had a very nice low twenty in the net.

The next session would be a much more productive one, with two low twenties and two high doubles landed all from the same 4ft mark. This pattern continued for 3 more sessions, each time landing fish in the low twenties, including one 23lb spawned out female whos proportions reminded me of a really good striped bass. My hard water had become an exciting place to fish.

Full of confidence, I have now turned my attention to the “weedy lake”. I don’t know what will come of it but I feel that I am on the verge of something good. It may take me 3 years and 100 blanks, but with enough perseverance I am certain I will eventually crack the code.