If you are a football fan the concept of the Hail Mary needs no explanation. This play is a last-ditch effort to score a touch down. Send receivers down field towards the end zone and heave a pass up there and hope your team catches it.Within my group of fishermen, the Hail Mary is also a tried but not often true technique for fishing. Unlike football there are two different ways to approach the Hail Mary for fishing; 1) The Tactic Hail Mary and 2) The Spot Hail Mary.
The Tactic Mary is where you and your party have had little to no success for the day. Let’s be honest you are heading for skunk city and your desperation is high. Its time to go crazy. Perhaps your fishing for walleye and nothing has worked. Jigging with live bait, nada. Trolling bouncers, nothing. Casting crankbaits on a windy point, zilch. As the sun begins to set and your desperation increases you think “I remember reading an article by Gord Pyzer on using ice fishing spoons for walleye”. You motor over to a reef near your cabin, dig out an old but shiny spoon you have had for years and never used and give it a whirl. If I had to guess I would say in all my years fishing the Hail Mary has paid off maybe 10% of the time.
I do remember a trip where we felt like we had tried everything to know avail and we got desperate. My boat partner Whitey looked over at me and said “you know maybe we just aren’t deep enough, I have some big weights in my tackle bag should we try them with a worm harness” Honestly when he pulled out some big 1 ounce bell sinkers and a worm harness that looked like it came from the 1960’s I thought “Good luck”. But we were desperate, and I was game. I ended up just going to a much heavier jig as we pulled deeper section of the area we were fishing (like I say, I had my doubts) Well would you know that we only got about 200 feet into our first pass when Whitey called “Fish On” . He reeled in a nice and chunky 18-inch fish. He rigged back up and we started moving and again was very quickly shouting “Fish On”. He eventually ended up reeling in 2 more fish of the same size before darkness rolled in. Touchdown Whitey and his 60’s rig!
Spot Mary generally happens on a lake you have some familiarity with. You have been out running and gunning trying to find some active fish. At this stage of the day you are searching every nook and cranny of the boat to ensure no one brought a banana on board because nothing is going your way. All of you best spots have turned up nothing and changing tactics hasn’t helped. Your day is ending, your wife is texting to see when you will be home and your back is against the wall. Just then you think “Man I remember a day 12 years ago that I caught a beauty fish just around the corner from the launch” You reel in quickly, fire up the boat (or start paddling) towards this mythical spot. At this point you don’t even bother to change your lures; you’ve only got time for a few casts.
The Spot Mary has had an even lower success rate for me but… I do remember outing where I had headed out early while everyone was still asleep at the cottage. Hoping to maintain my rep as the family’s “fisherman” I hoped to get into a few fish worthy of taking a picture of. And I do mean fish, this side of my family are not big fisherman and anything bigger than a panfish would impress. As I cruised towards a big zero and I knew my time was running out I decided I wanted to try one more area close to the cottage. I pulled into an area of shoreline that I always thought would be good. I had on a floating Rapala and just decided to slip it out. Honestly, I only got a twitch in when a beauty smallmouth came up and smacked it. Fish on! I got my pic (and my glory). 7 points for the kid!
So next time you are out and the day isn’t turning out to be what you hoped for just remember the Hail Mary(s)