Closing the Mouse Holes

What's the key to spectacular spinfishing success? Make fewer dumb mistakes.

Field & Stream Online Editors

South Florida fishing guide Jim Anson came to the sport late, but that hasn't hurt him much. Over the past quarter century, he has caught more than 15 International Game Fish Association world records, guided clients to an equal number, and is the only angler ever to win the five-month, 50,000-entry Metropolitan South Florida Fishing Tournament four times. Not bad for a guy who didn't take up fishing until the age of 44.

Competing in the Met requires that you catch a wide variety of fish on all types of tackle: fly rod, baitcasting, and spinning. Anson is proficient with all. But he's the first to admit, "You're talking to a die-hard spinfisherman. Personally, I can cast farther and more accurately with a spinning rod than anything else." He frames success in terms of eliminating mistakes. He likens upgrading your spinfishing success to a cat watching mouse holes.

"If you have to watch eight mouse holes, you're not going to catch a lot of mice. But if you can close five or six of those holes, your odds improve a lot. This is especially true in bass fishing, where casting accuracy is critical."

Ride in a Boat or Catch Fish
As we plan a day on the water for bass, Anson gives me the options: Drive two and a half hours each way to the Everglades to catch maybe six fish, or hit small local lakes and canals from the shore, some in sight of Route 1, and catch triple that amount. "Option number two," I tell him.

At an 80-acre lake ringed by pink mansionettes, he tells me to cast a 43¿¿4-inch gold-colored Husky Jerk just beyond a rock ledge that runs parallel to the shore 25 yards out. I don't realize he's watching me until the lure's back at my feet. "Well, after one cast, you're already ahead of 90 percent of the people I take out," he says. "You wouldn't believe how many anglers -- I'm talking gu who've been fishing for years -- throw the lure sidearm, one-handed, and with the wrong grip. That's three mouse holes right there."

Two Hands Are Better Than One
Casting straight back over the shoulder, he explains, means you're in-line with your target the entire cast. You may be long or short, but you've eliminated left and right. The grasp is two-handed because two wrists deliver more power and greater control than one. The reel seat sits between the middle and ring fingers of your dominant hand; the other hand holds the rod handle loosely just below.

"So I get all that stuff right?" I ask, puffing my chest out ever so slightly. "Yep," he says. "But there are still a few mouse holes you could close." My chest deflates to normal size. "Okay," I say. "Let's get started."

Casting: A Single Motion
"Well, like most guys," Anson says, "you brought the rod back and came to a full stop before you threw. It's common. I see tournament anglers do it all the time. They stop to pick out a target, look for fish, whatever. Trouble is, stopping throws away all the energy you just created by loading the rod on your back cast." The entire cast -- from starting point at 10 o'clock to back cast at two o'clock to release back where you started at 10 -- should be one uninterrupted motion, like cracking a buggy whip. Your elbow stays in tight next to your side. The motion is all wrist, resulting in less effort expended and a longer cast.

Anson takes a live shiner hooked through both lips, tosses it past the ledge, and brings in a bass that weighs 3 pounds on the Boga-Grip scale he has certified twice a year and carries every time he goes near the water. "I just use the shiner as a locator," he tells me. "Cast just right of where I threw." I do, and an apprentice sumo wrestler in a green uniform takes the Rapala, kicking and punching all the way to my hand. He goes 5 even.

"Just keep working to the right of that spot," says Anson. Two casts later, I'm into another 5-pounder. Three casts after that, a 6. It's the kind of fishing you think happens only on cable TV, not in real life.

Up a Notch
"Ready to take it to the next level?" Anson asks nonchalantly. It's at this moment I realize he's been playing me like a ukulele. He knew those fish were there. He also knew that, like any 6-year-old, I'd be more receptive to further instruction after catching them. What's more, it's working just the way he thought it would. "You bet," I reply.

Anson says baitcasters hold up their calloused thumbs as evidence of their tackle's superior ability to turn a too-far cast into one that lands perfectly on target. "Think of your spinning reel as a baitcaster in the upright position," he tells me. "That means that the spinning angler's 'thumb' is the index finger. While it's true that the spool on a spinning reel doesn't revolve as you cast, it's also irrelevant." He instructs me to straighten out the index finger on my dominant hand once the cast is in the air -- I don't even have to change my grip -- to see how effectively it slows line peeling off the spool. I try it. The motion is so ea takes the Rapala, kicking and punching all the way to my hand. He goes 5 even.

"Just keep working to the right of that spot," says Anson. Two casts later, I'm into another 5-pounder. Three casts after that, a 6. It's the kind of fishing you think happens only on cable TV, not in real life.

Up a Notch
"Ready to take it to the next level?" Anson asks nonchalantly. It's at this moment I realize he's been playing me like a ukulele. He knew those fish were there. He also knew that, like any 6-year-old, I'd be more receptive to further instruction after catching them. What's more, it's working just the way he thought it would. "You bet," I reply.

Anson says baitcasters hold up their calloused thumbs as evidence of their tackle's superior ability to turn a too-far cast into one that lands perfectly on target. "Think of your spinning reel as a baitcaster in the upright position," he tells me. "That means that the spinning angler's 'thumb' is the index finger. While it's true that the spool on a spinning reel doesn't revolve as you cast, it's also irrelevant." He instructs me to straighten out the index finger on my dominant hand once the cast is in the air -- I don't even have to change my grip -- to see how effectively it slows line peeling off the spool. I try it. The motion is so ea