Putting fish in the boat on a consistent basis is easier said than done. On the one hand we have unavoidable external factors - such as the mood of our quarry – that is ultimately out of our control. But what about the bad habits and mistakes we routinely bring to the lake? Subconscious or not, these ‘negative’ traits often become a detriment to our angling success, costing us a bend in the rod on many of our outings. Plain and simple – mistakes are a deal breaker in the game of fishing.
Overcoming bad habits and recognizing the mistakes you commit can help lead you to more fruitful days on the water. Now is the time to forge forward with new habits and break the bad ones of yesteryear. Think of them as your new fishing resolutions for 2012.
Putting Too Much Faith in Confidence Baits
We all have our favourite lures. Those with the hearty teeth marks, scratched paint and weathered look. The baits we rely on day in and day out – comfortable to cast, easy to use and responsible for hooking that giant of a fish some six years back. Turning to confidence baits is one of the most common mistakes we commit as anglers. And we are all guilty of it.
Changing your mindset and forcing yourself to get away from your comfort zone when it comes to lures will increase your catch rates greatly. And really, what’s the point in lugging that massive tackle box if you’re only going to stick with one or two lucky charms?
Learn to become proficient with a variety of lures and techniques this season. Building confidence in other baits can only come about by using them. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by taking a handful of new lures out on your next outing. With ‘old faithful’ sitting at home, you will be forced to spend the day with something new – and this in itself is what builds confidence. In no time you’ll feel comfortable and proficient with a wide range of lures, allowing you to adapt to any situation you face and ultimately feel comfortable throwing what is bound to get bit.
For those struggling with change, give yourself a set amount of time to work a single lure. Use a stopwatch if it helps. If you’ve fished without a sniff for fifteen or twenty minutes, then switch up presentations and try something else. This is the best way to break your habit.
The Sunshine Syndrome
Raise your hand if you’re a fair weather fisherman? It’s not a surprise that a large percentage of anglers schedule their time on the water to revolve around favourable and pleasant weather patterns. Many see comfort far outweighing the merits of catching more fish. For those that have limited days on the water, such as many of the weekend warriors, this train of thought can negatively impact how much we get to enjoy our favourite pastime.
It’s far too easy to say, “boy is it windy!” or “way too wet” and have a day on the water slip you by. Even more so when you consider that many of our favourite game fish bite better when the weather turns a little nasty, including ‘ole marble eyes.
Force yourself to fish in less than favourable conditions this season. Inclement weather will often turn fish on, leading to invaluable feeding windows and better-than-average bites. You’ll also face less angling pressure, which is a bonus for you and the fish.
The most important thinking is to be prepared. Get a drift sock, buy reputable rain gear, and utilize your trolling motor or kicker to better work for whatever Mother Nature throws at you. Challenging your comfort level is key to overcoming the syndrome. You may not come home with a tan, but you might bring a trophy of a lifetime with you.
Keep in mind that safety always comes first. If it is unsafe to venture on the lake then please don’t do so. But don’t let a little wind, rain, or the cold – and the weatherman for that matter - keep you from having fun.
Sonar’s offer a wealth of fishing information that is invaluable when working the water. And just like their moniker suggests, they really do find fish.
But how many of us are truly using these units to their full capability? Sure they come with a myriad of bells and whistles, but each one serves a useful purpose.
Over the years I have witnessed far too many anglers rely on their sonar for one thing – and that’s to show the depth. Big mistake.
How about using the temperature gauge to locate the warmest water when seeking pike in early spring? Or using the zoom function to dissect bottom structure and differentiate between various compositions of weed and rock? Better yet, mark those pods of baitfish that are suspended on the screen and waypoint it with the GPS to work over on a trolling run for trout. Or last but not least, pinpoint and mark that offshore hump found miles away from shore; keying-in on the subtle breakline gradient and finessing the visible fish hunkered down on the bottom.
Fish finder manuals are thick in nature for a reason, and soaking in the abundant information will allow you to better understand, and more importantly, better utilize your graph when out on the water. Most offer real-time and on-screen tutorials, where your fingers can control the action and give you a feeling for real-life scenarios – all before you put your knowledge into use on the water.
Sonar technology has grown in leaps and bounds over the years. Staying current with these advancements can only mean one thing, and that’s more fish in the boat.
Turning Your Back on Detail
Attention to detail can have a significant impact on the amount of fish we catch, or more importantly, those that we are able to hook and ultimately land. Since beginning the fishing game we’ve all had the same advice drilled into us – sharpen your hooks, check your line and knot strength, or reapply fish attractant regularly. Subconsciously we all know these ‘to-do’ items are necessary, but putting them into practice and making them a part of our regular routine can often be lacking.
Get into the habit of sharpening your hooks every thirty minutes and also after every fish or snag you encounter. It doesn’t take much to weaken the point on a hook, or create a burr, so being proactive in this department can really make a difference when that next fish decides to strike. In the greater schemes of things, it takes less than ten seconds to put a perfect point on a hook – an intangible amount of time for the hours you spend casting a line.
As for line, check the first few feet after every fish and every ten minutes when working heavy cover. Running your lips or fingertips quickly along the length can alert you to any weak spots – sure signs of a lost fish if left unnoticed. As for knots – get in the habit of retying at least every hour. Strength can deteriorate fairly quickly depending on the use and pressure we put on our line, and like they say, the weakest link between you and a fish is always your mono, braid or fluoro.
A quick shot of fish scent should be applied every fifteen minutes – if anything, it will mask the handling of your lure and boost the confidence in the bait you are using. For some species it can mean the difference between getting bit and not.
Attention to detail can run the gamut in everything we do on the water and isn’t only limited to line and hooks. When you think about it, bad habits are all about staying in our comfort zone. For instance – how do you cover a shoreline? We all know it is best to work into the wind for better boat control, to have greater control of our casts and to not blow by productive structure too quickly. But for some anglers, it is ‘easier’ to drift down a shoreline, make half as many casts and move to the next spot on the lake. An avoidable mistake for the most part.
Pay attention to the detail side of things next time on the water. They can range from small to big, but each can affect our fishing success, and many require us to only get in the habit of doing them.
Same Old, Same Old
How many of us launch the boat into an expansive river or lake yet fish the same handful of spots time and time again? This is another common mistake we make as anglers and it can really handicap us when it comes to catching fish.
Searching out new water can lead to great treasures, and some of my best fishing spots have come by way of exploration. Set a goal of fishing one new area each time you hit the water – no matter what. If the spot produces, add it to your list. If it fizzles, keep it in mind to try again during a different time period, in another season or when weather patterns are considerably different.
The aim of this exercise is to discover the entire body of water, or as much of it as you can. Because, when the fish aren’t biting in your handful of favourite holes, you’ll need to know your way around the water to put those fish in the boat.
Make it a personal mission to fish at least three new bodies of water this coming season. Part of the fun of fishing is exploring new fisheries and figuring them out. Unfortunately, bad habits often keep us tied to the lake closest to home. Branch out this year and break out of the mould – because really, the ‘same old, same old’ can get a little anti-climatic after a while.
Lack of Mental Alertness and Concentration
Concentration is a key aspect of successful angling. When a big fish strikes, being alert and ready for battle will up the odds in your favour. Make each cast count, work the bait to your utmost capacity on each and every retrieve (sloppy casts or half-hearted cranks of the reel will not suffice), and mentally be in the game for your time out on the water. Trophy fish are a rare breed, so think of the ‘next cast’ as being the ‘one’, and you’ll lessen the chance of losing her – or missing the strike completely – when she finally comes out to play.
Opt for a healthy breakfast the morning of your outing. I know, tough to turn your nose up at greasy bacon and sausage, but nourishment that won’t make you lethargic will make a big difference in giving you an athlete’s edge.
Staying hydrated can also be a key factor. A hot sun and lack of water can wreak havoc on your system – interfering with mental alertness, your ability to set the hook lightning quick, and ultimately, being completely and 100% in the game.
Stock up on healthy snacks for the boat and watch your concentration levels climb.
Mistakes in fishing can be common, but those that are preventable or result from bad habits can greatly diminish our overall success. Learning to identify and strengthening your faux pas - by fine-tuning and adjusting your approach - will lead to more fruitful days on the water. And that, my friends, is what the sport of fishing is all about. Here’s hoping your fishing resolutions make you a better and more proficient angler this coming season.
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