My first “rule” is straight forward. “Go fishing.” In order to become good at anything, be it golf, hunting, bowling or whatever the sport, you must spend time doing it. You will learn more being on the water with a rod and reel in your hands than you ever will listening to someone talk about fishing or watching a fishing video. In this sport, trial and error are your best teachers.
My next rule, which some people aren’t uncomfortable with, is “Ask the right questions.” If you ask the right questions instead of asking random questions, the information you will get in return is more valuable and easier to understand. Instead of asking someone what color spinnerbait they were using, ask them what kind of blades they were using. Instead of asking what part of the lake they fished, ask them why they think they caught the fish the way they did and what kind of cover the fish were using.
My third rule is my favorite, “Be comfortable with your equipment.” I spend a lot of time in my boat experimenting with rod/reels/line and bait combinations. To some this might seem like overkill, to me it is one of the keys to my being a successful angler. Before I ever use a lure on any rod/reel combination I have, I will make a few casts in the yard or even at a local pond to see how it feels. Our fish are hard to make bite, so I want to put the odds in my favor of catching the fish when they do bite. The wrong rod/reel/line setup, even if you are using the correct lure, can cost you dearly.
My next rule should be called “rule 3-B” because it is like the previous one we discussed. “Tinkering with tackle is a must.” Rarely, if ever, do I buy a lure, tie it on and fish it straight out of the package. I might change the hooks on a topwater, swap out blades on a spinnerbait, or maybe add color to a jig skirt. Whatever changes I think will make a lure a better fish catcher, I will do it. This is another time where trial and error will become a great teacher. One thing to remember about “tinkering”, no detail can be too small.
Rule number five is “Success breeds confidence”. There is no substitute for having a positive attitude. I can’t preach this enough, especially to young anglers. The more confidence you gain in your abilities to find and catch fish, the better angler you will become. That is just a fact. Success breeds confidence is not just a motto, it is true in any sport you would care to master. I have seen very good anglers become defeated before they ever leave the boat ramp. The wind, weather, full moon, no moon, cold front, boat pressure, whatever the excuse you can think of, I have heard anglers complain about before the tournament even begins, leaving them defeated before the first cast.
My philosophy has always been “Someone will catch them, they always do, why can’t that someone be me?” I have always been known as a confident angler. Mind you I said confident, I didn’t say arrogant or cocky. In competitions, in reality, it is me against the fish, the other anglers have nothing to do with my success. However, most of the time, no matter how good of an angler you believe you are, the fish are going to win.
My last rule, which may come as a surprise to those of you who know me, “Embrace technology.” While I am still not an advocate of LiveScope and the other popular brands of fish finders, I have begun using some of the more basic technological concepts with encouraging success. I use my graphs and side imaging to locate potential areas, as well to measure depth and water temperatures and I have learned to incorporate this technology into my own way of doing things. Techniques and map study that took me years to learn, through the magic of modern technology, beginning fishermen can learn the basics of, in a matter of hours.
Google Earth and YouTube have opened a whole new world to all anglers. Don’t depend on technology to the point where it becomes the reason you aren’t successful on the water. Take the time to develop your style and ways of doing things. Explore new areas, fish new lakes, compete in tournaments, whatever it takes to become a better angler, is what you should do. Never stop learning and always remember, there are no short-cuts to success.