Fluid Intelligence: Switching Out For Results - The Fisherman

Fluid Intelligence: Switching Out For Results

A nice largemouth for Brenden Kuprel which he caught just after switching out to the Wacky Worm while fishing with the author in May.

We think of older generations teaching the young, but the young make the scene.

Whether on the global stage or in the local fishing roundup, while older guys in the prime of their productive lives capitalize on a lifetime of fishing, front runners earn attention by breaking through in new ways.

Twenty-seven-year-old Brenden Kuprel certainly got my attention last May when we fished a North Jersey lake. At my age (63) approaches to fishing call on learned responses going back many decades. That very learning can get in the way of results.

To exemplify my point, after launching my squareback canoe, I decided Kuprel and I would begin by trying a shoreline immediately to the right of us. With water temperatures in the mid- to upper-60s, the air about 70, I knew that with the weeds not fully grown and the water not especially warm, I should do better with a faster-sinking Yum Dinger than a slow-sinking Chompers. I’ve caught many nice bass during May in recent years, but this time we floated on public water, so I decided a Yum Dinger rigged Wacky would serve as a search bait. My mistaken assumption was that pressured bass would shy away from something moving faster.

To my surprise, Kuprel not only hooked up within minutes, He kept hooking up repeatedly, using a 1/16-ounce jig with a paddletail, searching the water at more than twice my speed. I’d never before seen a paddletail so small. Over the course of 5 hours, he switched out often, catching a total of 31 fish to my 15.  Largemouth mostly, also some pickerel. One of Kuprel’s observations startled me. “The water is almost virgin,” he said. “The fish haven’t seen lures since last fall.” That made perfect sense.

Fishing the shoreline in May aboard the author’s squareback canoe.

Underlying Mind

“All the lures you’ve chosen, all the experience you’ve had on the water, all that knowledge is deep in your mind, I told him recently. “Sometimes the mind synthesizes from all that an answer to the fishing situation you face – what to tie on or where to throw. A product of the hinterland within rather than conscious thought.”  But a flaw exists in that philosophy, because it largely depends on the past. Success can be perfection, but it doesn’t always happen.

Why not?  The underlying mind “thinks” an answer faster than consciousness can think. The whole point of the underlying mind’s power is to overcome conscious resistance. It provides an uncanny address to the present fishing situation; conscious thought, on the other hand, only plays with expectations, but any experience is limited. Despite the novelty of the underlying mind, I miss out on what I don’t know. Freely created possibility emblazons upon the present… by rearranging what came before. Not that all bets are off and choice should be random.

On the contrary, as a guy who approaches fishing actively—and he fishes more actively than anyone I’ve seen—Kuprel is systematic, but not in a rigid way. By comparison, while I fish freely and I do follow fish sense, my sticking it out with fewer lures isn’t as flexible. Kuprel’s style of informed fluidity involves more of them. He’ll try something new without needing to struggle for confidence. His mind functions freely, unburdened by conscious plodding, independent of a long history on the water. And when he switches out, it doesn’t amount to random uncertainty.

“Think I got it from a buddy of mine. I’ll throw a little tiny swimbait to start out, any kind of search bait to see if the fish are active,” Kuprel said. “If the fish are aggressive toward moving presentations, I’ll stick with that. In stained water, I’ll use a rattle or brighter colors. In clear water, I’ll use natural colors; not as much noise, tends to spook them a little,” said Kuprel, adding “If moving baits aren’t working much, I’ll slow it down, like maybe a worm, jig on the bottom, or something to get them to look at it longer without spooking them off.”  Whether he starts with a big crankbait or a little swimbait, he moves from the general to specific to organize his approach. He’s told me about catching a 5-pound largemouth on a big crankbait while explaining “A little swimbait will attract fish of any size. And if I’m catching smaller bass, it’s likely a sign that bigger are nearby.”

Systemization means piecemeal items of knowledge are less important than how thought arranges activity, and yet for Kuprel, to set in order an approach to fishing allows for novel presentations rather than restricts them. When something gets switched out for something else, it depends on how the fishing situation itself breaks down.

Brenden Kuprel weighed his Passaic River pike at 13 pounds, 7 ounces. The northern was caught in February on a Rapala X-Rap.

Switching Out

It matters not only if fish are hitting large crankbaits, but if large crankbaits become pointless. Perhaps try a mid-size swimbait instead, and maybe later, a little one. And as I said, Kuprel didn’t stick to one of those during our May outing. Hits coming with less frequency prompted him to use a swimbait like a Road Runner, a spinner underneath. Fish caught on that, a 5-inch Yum Dinger rigged Wacky and a Mini King spinnerbait soon caught more. Plenty of room exists in his fishing for subjective choice. The notion that productive fishing is altogether objective doesn’t take the subjective nature of choice into account; a difference exists between considered choice and mindless whim or random uncertainty.

If you are guided by a systematic approach, the choosing of a lure will amount to informed habit, and yet you may not always know why you switch out one for another. Intuition is a quiet master transforming the situation beyond preoccupation. However, you should know – or learn to know -that among choices open to you, that you’ve made a good pick. You can always change your mind. Speaking for myself again, I like to choose an approach and stick with it; sometimes that amounts to not doing so well.

Fishing was slow during October 2022, Kuprel and I fishing walleye and hybrids on Lake Hopatcong with Binsky bladebaits and live herring. Anchored on a drop-off, we had 27 feet of water under the boat.  Kuprel asked, “Why do you keep dead herring in the live well?”

“If we give up on the depths, we can catch pickerel along weedlines by putting them on jigs,” I said.


He tied on a 3/8-ounce jig, reached into the live well, grabbed a dead herring, and put it on the hook. Then he lopped it over the side of the boat and let it sink. When line quit unravelling, he reeled back the little bit of slack leftover and hopped that jig off bottom. Almost instantly, he reared back powerfully. A fish took off on a steady, driving run. After a heavy struggle, a 4- or 5-pound hybrid striper was in the boat.  That sent me the clear signal that something different will trigger response when everything else will not. Kuprel is a manager where I work. We constantly exchange stories. An incident like that at Hopatcong is what to expect.

“I definitely have more lures than I need, or probably will ever need. I’ve probably used all of them,” Kuprel said. His incessant searching out of fishing materials and situations creates an ever-growing store of knowledge and web of applications. A challenge I find hard to beat. And yet switching out can go either way.

For many of us, it makes no difference. Maybe that’s an issue of lacking heart. “People don’t like to go outside their norm, but sometimes it pays to do something different,” Kuprel said. If you have unconditional confidence, the natural tendency is to expect things to go well, even if approached in a new way. Kuprel speaks of “presentations the fish don’t normally see,” and he doesn’t mean the lure alone but how it’s fished.

A kayak like the Old Town Topwater 106 PD is a great way to “cartop” it out and around Round Valley Reservoir where a 10-hp limit is in effect on electric and gas-powered motors.

Media Matters

Kuprel uses a pedal-driven Old Town Topwater 106 PD kayak. He trolls a lot, but he’s informed by his habit of reading about fishing and watching YouTube videos. “I watch videos of stuff people use in Canada. Why wouldn’t it work here? In the end, a bass is a bass. If it works somewhere for a certain species, there’s a reason for it. It most likely will work as well in a different location.”

There will be contingencies of course.  “Any number of conditions will differ,” he said, explaining how learning of favorites in other locales can clue you into “presentations that pressured fish don’t see.” He also remarked that “some (lures) become confidence baits,” a paradox when it comes to fishing pressure, and yet regardless of favorites, organization gives the other lures value. “I keep lures that run at certain depths, especially with trolling, in the same box,” he added.

Kuprel trolls crankbaits and jerkbaits. “Once you’re trolling, you can just keep the lure down in the strike zone, at that same depth. I’ve seen on YouTube a camera following in front of the lure. Some fish will follow that lure for 20, 30, 40 yards before committing or giving up, so if you’re casting, you can be finishing the retrieve when the fish would follow longer and then hit,” Kuprel explained.

Magazines, online blogs, and videos teach anyone loads who will read and watch them carefully, but applying what’s learned by going deep into experience achieves mastery. Kuprel had a 50-bass day on the highly pressured Raritan River last year, but this summer will be his fourth there, and he says he’s “waded a half-mile stretch a hundred times,” putting in effort few of us do.

“At first, I was throwing swimbaits and Rapalas. I caught some here and there. Then I thought, ‘Smallmouths and largemouths eat crayfish during the summer. They’re not as focused on baitfish.’ I got them on Ned rigs on the bottom. The bottom part of the water column, not top or middle,” and he adds, “I pay attention to water level, flow, and temperature. If the water’s a little higher, they’re not in the same spots. I need a little more weight to hit bottom.”

Kuprel narrowed down his river experience. The quality of his time on the water carried him beyond online attractions, until he achieved a fantastic day.


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