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Rogers: Practice makes perfect when it comes to pitching

Published: Thursday, May 15, 2014 9:27 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, May 15, 2014 9:32 p.m. CST

I’ve spent a lot of timing coaching baseball over the years. No matter how old the players are, no matter how advanced or novice they are, one aspect of the game remains the same – fundamentals. There is a proper way to throw a ball. There is a proper way to field a ball. Even the boys of summer who make millions of dollars a year work on their fundamentals.

Fishing is no different. Most anglers become comfortable with a technique or two and stick to it. They fish to their strengths and many times will not change what they are doing, even if the situation calls for it. There is nothing wrong with that. If you want to take you “game” to the next level, though, you need to practice some fundamental techniques that you can call on when needed.

One of those techniques that we all need to work on is pitching. No, not pitching as in baseball, but pitching as in presenting a lure silently and accurately to a small target. I would explain the technique in minute detail, but if you Google it, you will find dozens of great videos that help you to visualize what I am talking about.

What I wanted to be sure to mention today is that there are locations close to us that seem to be made for practicing certain techniques. One of the locations that I am extremely fond of for pitching practice is the Hennepin Canal.

The canal, like the I&M, was built by man and connected two frequented waterways. The main park entrance is located west of us off of exit 45 on Interstate 80. With a boat in tow, it takes just more than an hour to get there.

It has been a while since I have been to the Hennepin myself, but the last time I was there, you could put in just about any type of fishing boat you wanted. The only catch was it was trolling motor only. In other words, you could launch your big bass boat, but the big motor had to stay off.

Once you are in the water and ready to fish, the first thing you will notice is the endless shoreline that is littered with laydown trees. I mean there are thousands of them. The water is shallow and has color to it. In fact, lots of anglers would call it dirty. The visibility is just a few inches. All of these factors create a situation that is absolutely ideal to practice your pitching technique.

The dark water color means most fish hang close to the cover. The downside is, your presentation needs to be real tight to that cover, but that is why you are here – to practice.

You might be wondering – is the fishing any good? I have had some of my best days around here on the Hennepin Canal. In fact, my fishing partner and I had one morning where we boated more than 50 largemouth and many of them were in that 3-pound range. Not monsters, but I’ll take a bunch of those any day.

When you practice your pitching technique, you want to make sure that the first cast is the best cast. Try to pick out the place on the laydown that is most likely to have the biggest fish hunkered down and waiting for an easy meal. If you notice that you are catching fish on the ends of the branches, then start there. Many times, though, the biggest fish is going to be in the most difficult place to cast to. 

They could be hanging out where several branches intersect. They might be at a “Y” angle that is deep under an overhanging bush. They might even be 15 feet from the boat and you have to pitch your bait over 14 feet of braches and sticks to get there. Perfect. This is why this location is so good.

Make sure that if you head down to the Hennepin Canal that you spool up with some heavy line that can take lots of abrasion. You also are going to want a stout rod. When a fish hits that deep in gnarly cover, you have to turn their head and get them coming out of the water quick. If they run deeper into the brush, it is quite difficult to put them in the boat.

I hope you have the opportunity to head west and try your hand at pitching some real woody cover. It is a beautiful place to spend a day and the tricks you learn can be applied to other locations as well. The Hennepin is just such an ideal place to practice because the cover is endless and you can just keep pitching away without running out of things to throw at. Good luck.

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