Tips & Tricks
There are a few things that I would keep in mind when slab fishing and being new to it. Most people who use slabs already know these things, but when your new to it, like I once was you are really lost with it. I have had several phone calls and emails, and I thought this might be a good way to help out others in making there trips possibly be more successful.
One other tip. Your learning curve can be helped tremendously by using a guide on your local lake. Not only to help you better understand slabbing. But to learn how to better read your electronics, learn spots on your lake, and things such as seasonal patterns. I am not saying it cant be done without first hiring a guide, I know I did it without hiring one, but I sure did burn a lot of gas and spend a lot of time learning when I could have been catching more fish faster. Another tip might be to go with someone who has a handle on it, and offer to pay for the expenses on the trip in return for him sharing his knowledge. Either way it would just speed up the process. If you don't know of any guides in your area ask around for references etc.
Location- When you are new to slabbing you get in your boat and wonder okay I have this lead bait and I keep reading about how others are making this thing work, what now. First thing you should think about is- Why am I even using this bait. Could be you read about it in the fishing reports for your lake, or read about how other fishermen keep saying they are sacking them up on slabs. Well I can tell you I have been there, and yes I read it in the reports and on the fishing forums so I know the feeling. So again your in the boat now leaving the ramp, where do you go. Here are some things to keep in mind. Different times of the year may cause you to use different methods. Look out for surface activity on the lake, birds working, fish breaking the water feeding on shad. To tell you the truth when I started I didn't even know that. I knew I had been reading about it, but where did they catch them? I was only used to trolling the flats, points, ledges, and wind blown shorelines and I was still pretty new at doing that. These are all good areas ,but what if they aren't there. I decided it might be smart to find out who was slabbing, watch those boats just to get an idea what was going on. So that is what I did, I saw about 3-4 boats out in the middle of the lake, dropping slabs over the side of there boat. But nobody was really doing anything. I couldn't understand why these guys were staying around these areas if they weren't catching. Little did I know the guys knew what they were doing, the fish just hadn't turned on yet. Before they turned on, I left for a bit checking out other areas. When I came back all heck was breaking lose, the boats in the middle of the lake were sacking up the fish in a big way. It appeared to be a lot of nice sand bass being caught. I started dropping my slabs over the side, still nothing. Finally after a good bit, the boats just left. I eased over these areas to see what the boats were fishing. When I pulled over the areas where the boats had been located, there wasn't any fish on the locator to be found. But I was able to see what they were working, and it was a hump on the lake bottom. Pretty neat I thought. I had never really given it a thought before. I did this same thing on a few other locations. In time I have learned a lot of nice humps, ledges, and hotspots on my local lake. Why do I mention this, well I once heard that 20% of the lake holds 80% of the fish. Is there anything to that, I believe that there is. You just have to learn those specific locations on the lake for the right times of the year.
Presentation- Okay you have an idea where the fish are at, but how do you get them to hit the bait. I can honestly tell you, there are a lot of times that it really doesn't matter how you drop it down there they are gonna hit it. Which can make it a pretty likable way to fish. Then there are times that you have to really work at it. There really is no wrong way to use the bait, only thing you have to find the right presentation for that day. There are times early in the year when the fish are less active and the water still cool when you may just need a small twitch of the bait. I mean just moving it ever so slightly. As the water warms and the fish become more active it actually gets a bit easier. You just have to find what the fish wants. If you have a few people in the boat it is best to try different presentations till one works. Then when it seems that someone is picking up a few, go with that method and just repeat. The thing to keep in mind when using the slab, that most of the time the fish will hit it on the drop of the bait, meaning you will want to keep contact with the bait as it falls. This is something that you will get better at with practice. If you can stay with the bait on the fall, it is amazing what all you will end up feeling. Some people cant catch the fish on a slab, unless the fish just catch themselves for you. There are times when the fish finder lights up with bait and fish on a hump or other location and I know that they are right under the boat. This can be the easiest time to load the boat if the fish are being cooperative on the bite. If they are biting you just drop over the side bump off the bottom if that is where the fish are located. Sometimes the fish may be a few feet off the bottom or suspended. In which case you will need to count your lure down to where they are at, or if possible you may pick up your bait on the fish finder and stop it where the fish are located and start working. Now if your drifting a hump or ledge you may want to cast the slab out to the area holding fish. Slowly retrieving the lure back to the boat, jigging the slab as you retrieve it. This casting technique can be deadly as you get more comfortable with the slab in not only feeling the bait but recognizing the bites coming from the fish. The bite may be a fish only picking it up, they may tap it , or they might nail it. Getting a feel for the bite is half the battle. Find the presentation that will work is the rest.
Confidence- The first two topics are very necessary because if you cant find the fish it doesn't matter what presentation you use. I think to become a better slab fishermen you have to have confidence in what your doing. Just like all other ways of fishing it is the same, live bait, trolling, topwater, throw crankbaits, etc. You will only gain confidence through success. Limits of fish is what your after. I think you really have to find a particular slab that you have a good feel for. I make many different types, I have learned that at different times I like to use different ones, sizes, colors etc which I will mention all later. But I have one particular, that when I start out a day of slabbing it is tied on every trip and I work my way off of it as the trip goes along. My confidence bait is a 1 1/2 oz casting spoon with char/white body and a blue back. Reason being I like a bigger bait, I like 2oz as well, but I have a good feel for this bait. I can feel the bite very well no matter how subtle with this bait. I once was fishing with a buddy and I told him I the shad were so thick down below, (for one I saw them on the fish finder) that I could feel them rubbing my bait as they swam by. Well you can only imagine what he told me I was full of, lol. But I was using a sensitive rod could easily feel them swimming and rubbing it, so I snagged a shad showed it to him and asked him if he believed me now. To become a better slabber, you just need a lot of practice. I have had days when I was a hero with them on the water, and I have had days when well things didn't work out. These bad days as I get more experience come fewer and farther between. But if your confident where your at what your using and how your doing it, you will try harder which will make you more successful in the long run.
Equipment- The equipment you use can help you in many ways. Fishfinders, well I am not a technical fella so I can't help you a lot there. I think you should buy all that you can afford and your better off in the long run. But when you have bought it if you can't set it up and understand what it is telling you it really doesn't matter. Over the past couple years, I have gotten to where I better understand what my finder is showing and what I need to be looking for. Rods, you need to get you a good sensitive rod.