Watching Casey Ashley walk away with the top prize at the FLW Tour event on Lake Hartwell, South Carolina, last week confirmed something I've been preaching for years. And that is that it pays to be a slacker.
For some strange reason, when most anglers make a cast during the open water season—or drop their lure down a hole in the ice in the winter—they want to feel what their bait or lure is doing at all times. And the only way they can do this is by never allowing slack in their line. In other words, they maintain a straight-line connection between their rod tip and their bait.
But, as Ashley demonstrated so vividly last weekend in his wire-to-wire-win, many times it is essential to fish with a slack line.
The pros call it "controlled slack," but if you watched Ashley slowly retrieving his bait along the bottom—it often took him two or three minutes to complete a cast—you could see his line was clearly bowed between his rod tip, and where it entered the water.
Many times, in fact, he was deadsticking his jig, letting it lie perfectly still on the bottom, as he monitored the bow in his line for the slightest movement and sign of a bite. Other times, he shook and twitched the slack line above the water—but not his lure.
In other situations, it is essential to fish with slack line in order to make your lure behave properly, so it attracts the fish and then triggers them to strike.
Manipulating cigar-shaped topwater lures like the famous Zara Spook, Lucky Craft Sammy and Rapala Skitter Walk is a good case in point, as these baits have absolutely no inherent built-in action on their own. If you cast them out and reel them in, they do absolutely nothing in the water.
But, keep some controlled slack in your line, and pop the slack as you wind it in, and suddenly the bait sashays back and forth in the famous, side-to-side, "walk-the-dog" fashion.
As a matter of fact, that is how the Zara Spook originally got it's name: from the "ladies of the night" who walked seductively up and down Zarragossa Street, in a small town in Florida, in the 1930s. How's that for a priceless piece of fishing trivia?
You can make the same thing happen, by the way, if you rip a suspending jerkbait like the Rapala X-Rap with controlled slack in your line. It'll swing hysterically left and then right, then up and then down, like a minnow on its deathbed gasping its last breath.
The key, of course, is managing the amount of slack you allow to develop, so that you are dictating what happens: manipulating your bait, yet letting it work its magic. In other words, you need to be in control, hence the title of this week's Outdoor Canada video tip that I shot for the Fish 'N Canada Show.
Give it a quick watch and I think you will see why, as Casey Ashley showed, it pays to be a slacker.