Gary Klein Finessing Floating Docks – photo by Dan O’Sullivan
We discussed several concepts in part one of this series in the last issue of Becoming a Better Angler, and in this issue, I want to pick up where we left off in our pursuit of becoming better anglers.
In the last piece, we talked about several topics from what our equipment is, to some of the nature of the bass and a general discussion about types of waters that we fish. We talked a little about how bass react to their environment, how they must react to it, while we can do things to overcome it, and adapt to it. We discussed that lures are tools that we shouldn’t become infatuated with and I want to go a little deeper into that in this issue.
Ultimately, our pursuit as anglers are the fish. In order to have a consistent set of results in an ever changing environment, we have to make the focus of our efforts that bass, and how and where they are in relation to their environment. We can’t do that if we are thinking primarily about our equipment and lures.
We as humans all have our own personalities. Some of us are aggressive and demonstrative, others are more passive and subdued. Our personality will have an effect on the way that we like to do things as anglers. Over time, we become accustomed to certain ways of doing things, and we wind up fishing in a rut.
Gary Klein Navigating a Forest – photo courtesy Major League Fishing
Because of our environment and our own personalities, we get conditioned to fishing certain ways. For example, if you are from Florida, you are probably going to be better around the shallows and grass, than you would in deep water. If you spend a lot of time fishing in the West, or in the Ozarks, then chances are, you are most comfortable fishing in clear water, and probably deeper water as well.
When we look at a new body of water, we are likely to try to interpret that waterway through our understandings developed on our home bodies of water. This type of approach can limit our effectiveness as anglers.
I am one who likes to try and learn as many new things as I can. While I am known for fishing shallow cover, and to be perfectly fair, I am known as a Flipper, I don’t want to pigeon hole myself for fear of becoming less effective.
I spend most of my time fishing outside of my tour schedule focused on trying to learn new things. If I have a technique that I am really good at, then I don’t want to go spend every minute of my fun fishing on the water doing the thing that I already know well; I want to learn something new. I do that by fishing things I don’t have a familiarity with in order to try and expand my ability to succeed without a second thought with that technique in the future.
There’s a popular old saying about fishing that says “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” I love that statement and can apply it to bass fishing as a tournament competitor, or someone who is intent on catching as many bass as I can. The new version of that is “show a man a spot and he competes for today, but teach a man to learn the fish, and he competes for a lifetime.”
Gary Klein Focusing on the Targets – photo courtesy Major League Fishing
So, in order to focus on the fish, we need to remove as many distractions to our thought process as possible. if we want to think about where the fish are, the conditions and how they are affecting the bass, then we cannot be concerned about the way the rod, reel, line or lure feels; we need to know in advance.
We do that by committing ourselves to building a set of experiences in off tournament times that become the foundation for how we will go about things in the future.
A good example of what I discussing is the topic of fishing lines. There are three basic line types that we use in bass fishing. Those are monofilament, braided line and fluorocarbon. Each of these line types have unique properties that have a different effect on the way lures work and the way they feel. In order to understand all of this, the time to practice with it is not during an event.
In order to maximize the benefits of each line type, you must understand them, and then you can apply them as you see how they can benefit each technique that you use. For instance, monofilament line floats and has the highest amount of stretch of all line types. Fluorocarbon is dense, so it sinks, it has relatively low stretch and provides more feel to the angler. Braided line also floats, but has nearly zero stretch and can provide benefits to types of lures. By experimenting and completely understanding the tools, you can learn to make the benefits work for you.
What we don’t want to end up being is the type of angler who has decided to make a change in technique because of difficult fishing, who goes to his tackle box and rummages through, hoping to find a lure that we think will work. We want to be the type who knows our tools, can quickly assess the conditions, open the storage compartment and select the tool we deem to be the correct one, tie it on and resume fishing; efficient, focused on the fish, not guessing.
Gary Klein Reaching for a Battling Smallmouth – photo by Dan O’Sullivan
By becoming the second type of angler, we have confidence in our tools, confidence in how we apply those tools and we are able to focus on the current conditions and how the fish are interacting in that environment. Fish do what they do for a reason, and I have never caught a fish without being able to analyze and figure out why they were there.
Whether I am catching bass in the back of a creek that are blowing up on baitfish, or am throwing a spinnerbait in running water pockets following a storm; those fish are there because the conditions puts them there. If I am focusing on how my gear feels, then I am not able to make the kinds of reads I need to in order to capitalize on knowing how the fish react in those situations.
Anglers early in their career spend a lot of time thinking about lures and gear, and those that advance, have an understanding of their tools and can think about the fish. Time on the water makes a difference, and we can increase the speed with which we understand by spending more time on the water.
Next time, we will start to discuss the bass in their environment, specifically how to begin knowing the certain behavioral traits of bass in their specific environments. We will discuss how to attack sight feeders as opposed to lateral line feeders and how to make modifications that appeal to both.