I fish for the bite. I love sensing the initial contact with an unknown water creature. Don’t get me wrong: I like the fight. But battling a fish is just a bonus after the bite.

I’m always fiending for my next hit. I want a fish to strike so hard that it jars the rod out of my hands. I’m a sucker for the hard stuff, chasing pike, bass and steelhead with metal lures. Other times, the bite is difficult to detect.

From Wet Socks to Whoppers: Fishing for a Bite

Tournament angler Mark Zona describes a drop shot bite as feeling “mushy like a wet sock.” I need to ask Zona how many socks he has caught. I’ve never felt a sock bite, but I did land an adult-size ball cap once.

Detecting the bite requires full command of the senses. Mostly, anglers talk about feeling the bite. Line, rod and reel choice assist in picking up the slightest vibration. To receive critical data about the lure, keep a finger on the line and a finger on the rod blank.

illustration of a person fishing from a kayak and a large, toothy fish taking the bait
Feature illustration: Lorenzo Del Bianco

Some bites are audible. I swear I can hear a pike snapping the back of my spoon. Catfish, carp and gar require patience. While waiting for a bite, loosen the drag and turn on the line-out alarm. I’ve seen high-tech beepers, but I like to clip a bell to my rod tip.

Seeing a bite is like witnessing a murder. One minute the lure is swimming peacefully and the next it is engaged in a struggle for life. Watching a fish blow up on a topwater lure is one of life’s greatest experiences.

Detecting Nibbles and Nips

A bobber is a good way to see the bite. In a pinch, I gently drape my line over a floating leaf for a stealthy, organic and sustainable bobber. At night I use a glow-in-the-dark rod tip.

Fly fishing anglers need all the help they can get. Of course, they’re too proud to use a bobber. So a small piece of foam or yarn tied to the line is called a strike indicator. Fly fishing editor at MidCurrent, Alex Cerveniak, shared, “A fish can inhale and spit out a fly insanely fast. Even if you are 100 percent focused, you’ll still miss the majority of strikes.”

But I like the strikes you can’t miss. The whopper. The big splash.

On a recent fishing trip, I asked my uncle to watch my fishing rod while I assisted my cousin with a backlash. My uncle set the rod on the dock and held it with his foot. Almost immediately, the rod rocketed out from under his sneaker, shot 10 feet through the air and disappeared into the lake.

I screamed, “I thought you were going to watch my pole!”

“I did,” my wide-eyed uncle replied. “I watched it go ZIP, SPLASH!”

Cover of Kayak Angler Magazine Issue 50, Fall 2023This article was first published in the Fall 2023 issue of Kayak Angler Magazine. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Feature photo: Lum3n/Pexels



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