So far we have had three installments of our Becoming a Better Angler series. As I have said before, I want to put information out there that can serve as some sort of a living document to anglers. By this, I mean that with each one of these pieces, as an angler begins to invest time and effort into learning more about themselves and the fishing, they can get more out of these articles.
As a sport, we spend a lot of time teaching technique, and that is important. The industry, my sponsorships included, move on new techniques and the sales of products to help keep it going. But, the techniques are only a part of the equation to becoming a better angler. If an angler is to be successful, then he must become proficient at one very important thing before anything else, and that is locating fish. We have discussed that in part over the last three pieces, but today is going to be more about that focus.
I introduced you to several concepts in the introduction. We discussed viewing lures as tools to catch fish and some of the factors that go into dictating how fish live and feed in their environments. In part two, we discussed how an angler needs to begin to understand themselves; what they like to do on the water, and how to use those strengths to stay focused on what the bass is doing. If we are constantly thinking about how we should be fishing, we cannot concentrate on the environment and the bass. Finally, in part three, we discussed what types of bass there are, how they feed in their respective conditions and how we can; as anglers, capitalize on their nature.
Today I want to begin to discuss how we can look more at the fish, begin to discuss patterns a little bit, and how we should pay attention to the conditions leading up to an outing, but how to keep an open mind in our fishing.
The first thing any of us needs to do when we begin to launch our boat, or begin our fishing day is learn how to keep in the right frame of mind in order to catch fish. If we begin our day wondering where we are going to go, we are focused on the negative. If we begin to start our day by thinking, “Oh Man, I am going to catch ‘em today!”, then we are beginning to put things together.
The way we do that is to have a complete understanding of the fish, their environment and what is happening to that environment that will cause them to move. Of course, we have to have a basic understanding of the basic seasonal migrations of bass before we can start. Bass begin their year moving towards the spawn, they go into then out of the spawn, then to their summer holding areas, into the fall feed and then into winter. Where you live in the country will dictate how and when that happens, but those urges and migrations happen everywhere.
I don’t want to get hung up in that area of the discussion because we all live in different parts of the country, and we all fish on different types of waterways. Remember that we discussed how bass are conditioned by their environments? Whether they live in manmade, natural, current or tidal bodies of water. Or if they live in deep or shallow water impoundments, or those that are dirty or clear water fisheries effect how bass live and feed.
Gary Klein Celebrates a Good Bag – photo by Dan O’Sullivan
The same can be said for the type of species that are predominant in that body of water. So, when it comes to those types of things, I’ll leave it to you to look back at previous installments and decide your situation based on your area. What we will discuss is how we need to gather a little bit of information about the lake, the current conditions and to follow them for a while before we go fishing in order to understand where to start once we get there.
I do a lot of research, but I don’t typically look for the exact patterns that people use to catch fish or win tournaments. Remember, I want to keep an open mind and let my experience tell me how to fish those conditions, not something I read about in my studies. I look for things like what is happening to the lake level; is it rising or falling? I watch the weather patterns and try to find out the water conditions; are they clear or dirty?
I do like to find information about weights that have historically been weighed in during events, and then compare those to the weights of current tournaments because it gives me a good basis for understanding the cycle of the lake. But, I don’t try to look for lures or techniques that are good on the lake; I’ll make those decisions based on my strengths and the conditions when I get there.
When I begin practicing for a tournament I have two things I am trying to accomplish. The first thing is to try to find an area that holds a concentration of fish. When I find large numbers of fish in an area, that will help me try different types of techniques to catch them. The second thing that I am doing is trying to establish a pattern that I can duplicate throughout the lake, or at least a section of the lake. Then I try to get bites, because each bite will begin to tell a story to me, or what I call “rat” on the rest of his buddies.
A pattern may be that I start getting bites in the backs of pockets on buckbrush. At first I get a little bit of information from the first bite, and I file that away, but still fish the whole pocket. If I get a bite on something similar, I can begin to think there may be a pattern developing. If I go to another pocket, and fish my through, then get bites in similar areas, on the same type of cover, then I am developing a pattern.
What I can do from there is start dialing in the pattern within the pattern, those details that help me be able to quickly and more efficiently fish each area. That information also helps me stay ahead of the fish too.
If I am catching fish on the front edge of buckrush in the backs of pockets, and the water is rising, then the bass are likely moving further into the pockets. If I am catching them on the same brush, but the water is falling, then they are likely leaving the pockets. Having that current information, as well as what I am figuring out while fishing my strengths will help me be a step ahead of the fish.
Remember that bass are simple creatures. Their basic needs are being met, or not being met by all of the factors occurring in their environment. If they are to their liking, they will stay, if they are not, they will leave. When you begin to develop an understanding of what holds them there, you will be able to repeat the thought processes that got you to them, and then help you figure out what they will bite and why they are biting in the future.
Gary Klein Shows off His Best Two Bass – photo by Dan O’Sullivan
Because I have spent so many years competing on tour, my database for decision making is quite large. But remember, I still need to learn as well, and I do all the time. I remember when I first began to learn the dropshot technique.
It was on my original home lake, lake Oroville in California. I had gone out there to compete in a Western Invitation in November of 1999. I found fish during the week on some fairly specific stuff, and I was able to catch 12 to 13 pounds a day fairly easily. But, as the rest of the anglers began to arrive, I was not able to catch those same fish, and I noticed the signs of their presence on my electronics diminishing.
I was able to scrape enough weight to finish 15th in the event with 27 pounds, but Aaron Martens won with almost 33 pounds. I asked him what had happened and how he caught them. He gave me some of the weights, hooks and worms, and I went out onto the lake and to those same areas the day after the event. Before the event, I had been catching them in 45 feet of water, but this time, I went to that depth and turned around and fished deeper than that; I started catching fish. Aaron understood what the pressure would do to those fish, and knew how to fish to his strengths and produce the bites to win. He understood the environment, what the pressure would do to them, and how to predict where they would go to get comfortable.
It is the perfect example of him being the one individual who put himself in the right place who finds the right fish and adapts to them effectively being the one to win. That is what fishing is all about, and when we begin to put all of these things together, we can begin to consistently be one of those anglers making those correct decisions and improving all the time.