The North Pacific Mooch
An Unusual Technique Crosses Over for Many Game Fish Species
By Colby Simms
with Ray Simms & Gloria Simms
Some anglers have the tendency to become closed-minded about fishing methods. They get into a groove of doing the same old thing. Sure, many alter methods here and there, but seldom truly cross over, employing methods un-utilized for their favorite species.
As I’ve previously written about, discussed in seminars and explained on TV shows, I’ve used techniques considered totally off the wall, to catch fish when they refuse to take standard presentations. Tried and true techniques for some species are typically never utilized for others. After a victory in a previous tournament earlier in the year, Ray Simms and I qualified to compete in the circuit’s championship that fall. Our hot bite changed on day two, and we switched gears. With the help of saltwater tactics I’d learned in Texas and Mexico, Ray and I continued landing big fish, like we did on the first day of the event. Crossing over helped Ray and I win our first tournament circuit championship, and we’ve won numerous major tournaments in both muskie circuits and bass circuits using traditional and non-traditional tactics since.
One of the most memorable times when crossover tactics scored in a big way, occurred when I guided a multi-species trip in Illinois one early summer day. It just so happens that the cold saltwater technique that is the topic of this article, produced for me in warm freshwater. My clients and I caught lots of fish of different species, mostly largemouth bass and white bass, including several trophies. We also landed numerous smallmouth bass, white and black crappie, bluegill, redear, green sunfish, walleye, one drum, and two muskie. We caught most fish casting either the big Colby Simms Tackle Hatchet Shad Spinnerbaits or the smaller Hatchet Spin Spinnerbaits in traditional bass sizes, around shallow cover. But, we also landed some, dragging shiners behind the boat over deeper water.
It’s common to have multiple species biting well at one time, but it’s a special day when everything in the lake is readily attacking your offerings. Talk about fun! At this point, we were all excited by the high number of different species landed. My clients decided that they wanted to try and catch every other species in the lake, with the rest of our time. Grabbing meal worms from the cooler, we quickly caught several warmouth and pumpkinseed sunfish before moving on.
I was surprised we’d not caught catfish. Sometimes, we catch them on spinnerbaits, especially the smaller sized Hatchet Spins, but we almost always catch cats dragging shiners. I was sure we’d get catfish on meal worms, but we didn’t.
We hit an area known for lots of big carp, tossed out corn and fished nightcrawlers on bottom. We usually also get cats this way, but not this time. We landed a huge carp, but I was puzzled by the lack of catfish action.
We occasionally catch catfish slow-trolling walleye cranks. This produced largemouth bass and whites, but no catfish. We snagged three gizzard shad in the side while trolling, which I tossed in the well. It was then I pulled this cold saltwater tactic out of my bag of tricks. We not only used it to land many big channel catfish, but one flathead and several big largemouth bass.
I learned this technique on a trip to southeast Alaska with Ray and Gloria Simms. We fished with Colby Simms Outdoors pro staffer, Captain Rafael Ramirez Ruiz, in protected bays of the Pacific Ocean on Prince of Wales Island, where mooching is the best presentation for catching the mind-boggling numbers of huge king salmon and giant halibut that Raf commonly runs into. Mooching proved itself on the very first spot. Literally within minutes, with huge humpback whales rolling around the big vessel, Ray was fighting a huge king salmon, while Gloria and I were locked in battle with two big halibut at the same time! I was sold, and mooching produced for the rest of the trip.
Mooching is primarily utilized to tempt big ocean-run salmon and halibut in the far northern reaches of the world, but it’s not limited to giant flat fish and salmon of the sea. Mooching takes virtually all species of cold saltwater game fish and many warm freshwater species too.
We utilized other techniques on this Alaskan adventure, but nothing came close to the different, yet simple tactic of mooching. We not only landed countless trophy-sized king salmon and big halibut, but we used mooching to land huge numbers of big lingcod, sole, massive red snapper, big black sea bass and other rock fish.
Mooching takes the other salmon species in addition to kings. Silver, chum and pink salmon are readily caught by mooching, and even sharks fall victim. Mooching works so well, we brought 150 pounds of fish fillets back with us. If we’d had the freezer space, we could have easily brought back more than twice that amount.
Mooching is a simple fishing method. Most midsized or large baitfish will work. We’ve had best success with baits ranging four to eight inches, but those over a foot long could work for muskie and stripers, while smaller ones might produce crappie. Two hooks—one in front of the other—are inserted through the side of the bait, eyes pointing forward. A dropper line can be used to attach a second hook, or you can tie the first hook on with a Palomar knot and leave a longer tag end to tie the second hook.
Baits are fished on a leader with a quality swivel attached to the opposite end as the bait. A large banana sinker with a swivel molded into the lead is often used. Slip sinkers can work, in conjunction with a bead to protect the knot. The great thing about the banana weight is most have a chain swivel, which further reduces line twist.
Rigs are dropped to the bottom and slowly reeled back up. The offering spirals as it falls and is retrieved upward, giving it a unique action that fish in many waters never see.
Casting gear is best, and rods should be strong with a flexible tip. We found our big catfish and bass suspending about 20 feet down over more than 40 feet of water, and the shad worked great on a mooching rig.
Southeast Alaska to Southeast Missouri
We’ve used mooching now to take a variety of warm freshwater species in Missouri and Illinois, but this tactic is incredible in the rich waters of the North Pacific. Prince of Wales Island is unquestionably one of the greatest fisheries on the planet. Just like our locations in the Midwest, anglers can now book guided fishing vacation packages to Prince of Wales Island, Alaska through Colby Simms Outdoors by calling 618-521-0526 or through the Alaska page of www.ColbySimmsOutdoors.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get Out There
Next year we plan to experiment with mooching even more. It should work on muskie, walleye, stripers, wipers, blue catfish, smallmouth bass, maybe more. Anglers willing to stretch fishing boundaries will always have an advantage over others who won’t. Expand your horizons to catch more fish, and most importantly...get out there!