How I’ve Become a Better Bass Fisherman

I’ve still got a long way to go but here’s a short explanation of a few of the things that have made me a better bass fisherman over the last few years. I wrote the following as a response to the question “how do you get better at fishing” in the GON forum and thought I would share it on my blog”.

Well, if you exclude time on the water which is by far the most important and just count that as a given the second most important factor in getting better for me is location. Without productive locations it’s just a waste of time. Here’s how I have gotten better with my bass fishing since changing from primarily fishing for stripers to targeting bass and competing in some local bass tournaments. I like competing because I know there are a lot of other folks that are just as passionate as I am about fishing and I like to compare my effort and skill level against theirs.

First off you need to locate the fish and sometimes that is as simple as watching the surface of the water and watching your graph. On Lake Lanier it’s all about structure most of the year. The spotted bass live in structure such as submerged brush piles, docks and dock structure as well as small submerged trees and venture out away from home for food. I watch the surface a lot and almost always find fish by site, whether it’s fish surfacing or birds diving. I also spend time driving around and marking structure itself and structure that holds fish. Sometimes that’s all I do, I don’t fish it till later but the more structure you’ve got marked, the more options you have for locations.

I’m kinda different than most folks when it comes to tackle. I have the ability to make my own so I can design things you can’t find in stores. A long time ago I read an article by KVD and in the article he talked about trusting your bait. He said that a lot of folks will buy a bait and use it once or twice and if it doesn’t work it sits in the box in a black hole. He said that a lot of folks won’t spend enough time to thoroughly work the bait, and I tend to agree. Just about anyone who has been in my boat and fishes with me knows that my tackle is a mess. I don’t usually use my tackle boxes as much as I fish out of bags. Usually I have a game plan and put the baits I want to use for the day in a bag. I spend time with these baits, sometimes all day. I’ll use different patterns at different depths, speeds and presentations. I’ll use them in different seasons too.

Another thing that helps is finding baits and techniques that work that I haven’t used before and using them till I feel confident that I can catch fish with it. A good example is the dropshot for my wife and I. We’ve used the dropshot technique before, but only on rare occasions with minimal success. This past summer we spent days and days on the lake doing nothing but working on the dropshot around structure and now I feel confident that we can catch fish with it. Same with a jerkbait, I knew that the jerkbait was working good in the spring a few years back so made some jerkbaits and forced myself to learn and use the jerkbait till I felt comfortable with it and caught fish with it. Right now we’re learning the shakey head and using it on every trip till we feel confident with that, then it’s on to something else that is new to us.

Finally, I like to think outside the box. I like to try new things, new color combinations and tackle catches my eye. I think about tackle that has been proven to be successful and find variations of that to try. I’m not afraid to go out for a day and use nothing but new stuff that I’ve never tried before. I don’t get caught up in using what I know works when I’m trying new things and failing. You have to have the patience and the dedication to stick it out and suffer through the bad days to get to the good days with new tackle and new techniques.

Years ago I was a coach and competitor for a Navy marathon team and one of the most basic questions runners would ask me is how to train in order to get better finishing times.
This is my philosophy:
“In running, the only way to improve yourself is to push your body into an uncomfortable zone to the point it becomes comfortable. It’s the same with fishing, the only way to improve your fishing is to push yourself into the unkown until it becomes known”.