By ANDREW BLYTH
There is a saying that 90% of fish caught are caught by 10% of the anglers. Now this statement may or may not be true but I bet we can all think of a friend, a family member, a colleague or even a fellow competitor in a tournament that is a really good at catching fish. No matter what the conditions, no matter what the target species is, or even the location they just seem to catch fish, they are successful at what they set out to achieve.
If we look at this a different way – we can all run, we can all read and write but some are better at this than others. From the outside it appears that these individuals are gifted or just lucky and indeed some may be but for the most part there are a certain number of things that all these successful people do that their success can be attributed to. It does not matter if they are successful at a sport, their profession or even just successful in life – being a successful angler is absolutely no different.
Below are the 8 key factors that make a difference.
- Attention to detail
- Knowing your equipment
- Never ever give up
- Time on the water
Attention To Detail
Whether you are chasing blue marling off the coast of St. Thomas, bonefish on the flats of the Bahamas or flathead in your local estuary, attention to detail is one of the most important factors in successful angling. I have heard attention to detail referred to as – “doing the one percenters”. So many time I have heard people dismiss small things that potentially have a huge impact on their fishing, not checking the sharpness of hooks, re tying knots, the freshness of bait, technique specific tackle, checking their line, the age of their braid, I could go on but I think you get the idea.
Paying attention to the relevant details can be as specific as changing the hooks on a lure to a smaller size and style to increase the hook up ratio and free up the action of that lure to keeping a good look out for birds. There are no key specific list points when it comes to attention to detail and everyone will look at this differently. No matter how small something is, if it will have an effect on your ability to catch fish and the tools that assist you then it is worth looking at improving. I was talking to one of the top tournament anglers in the country recently about some brand new braid that he had been using. To my surprise he said that over the past weekend he had been getting some wind knots in the line. Having heard nothing but praise for this new braid I asked him why he thought he was having this issue. His response was simple – “there is nothing wrong with the braid, I love the stuff, its fantastic. I just was not paying enough attention to my line management and was letting loose loops creep into my spool. I was not paying attention to detail” No one is exempt from paying attention to the details. The key to remember when it comes to attention to detail is to look at it from a combination of small improvements or observations that together make up a huge difference. If you do one very small thing differently the chances are that it will have a positive effect on your angling are slim, but if you start making these small changes often, soon they begin to add up and soon you will see these factors having a positive impact on your angling. Looking at all aspects regardless of how small, of successfully catching your target species in a higher detail will give you a better insight and improve your knowledge. Knowledge is power, power to catch more fish!
Knowing Your Equipment
Knowing your equipment sounds like everyone should know this. But many people don’t and it has a direct negative effect on their catch rate. A trend I have noticed recently has been the upsize in electronic screen size from iPhones to tv’s to the latest in marine electronics none seem to be exempt from this popular new trend. Specifically in the marine/ fishing world many outlay massive amounts of money on these larger screens and latest technology. This new wave of technology gives anglers the biggest electronic advantage that has ever been available and it is all designed to assist you in catching more fish, if, you know how to use it. So many people don’t know how to use their electronics to their full potential. This is something that will have a direct and immediate advantage on how many fish you manage to boat for that day. Again it does not matter the location, fresh, salt or the target species the more you can learn about your electronics the more they will help you. Another example is using a lure because someone that catches more fish than you uses that lure. This may work for the most part but it really is not helping you to know your equipment. Taking the time to learn or ask why someone uses a specific lure, in a specific situation, in a specific colour will assist you when making your own decisions. Even just knowing your own lures in great detail will help you catch more fish. What actions they have what depths they actually get to, what colours work for different times of the day or even water colour and temps. Putting the right lure or bait in the right location at the right time will almost always guarantee success. The greater your knowledge of your equipment is the more it will assist you in making these decisions leading to more fish and more fun.
You can never be too prepared – I can’t remember who originally said this but they were right. A huge amount of preparation for fishing can be done ahead of time. It then leaves you more time for enjoying yourself and catching fish. In the modern fast paced world anytime you get to wet a line is quality time that you really want to capitalise on. Why waste half of your weekend getting ready to go fishing when you could just be out there fishing. I have always thought that the best way to be fully prepared is to give yourself a deadline of the night before. This includes things like fuelling the boat. The amount of people I drive past on the way to the boat ramp pulling in to the service station to fuel up is crazy. Always fuel up the night before, save yourself that time the next morning. Getting on the water 30 minutes sooner could mean the difference between the fish of a life time of missing out completely.
Having your tackle ready, bags packed and your food and drinks already the night before means that you will most likely not forget anything as you are not rushing. Forgetting something depending on what it is could ruin your day very quickly. Engine kill switches, boat bungs, ignition keys are just a few examples of things not to forget. Also depending on the time of the year hats, long sleeve shirts, sun block and sunglasses might not ruin your day fishing but they might ruin days after if you get badly sunburnt. Most of the time these last few examples can be avoided by keeping important things like sunblock in your tackle bag or boat all the time. Batteries should be all charged the night(s) before, electric motor, smart phone and camera batteries all need to be charged and ready to go by the more of your departure. It is even worth mentioning checking the level of charge in your main starting battery.
Rain gear is another thing that I always believe should be packed ready to go. Even on the clearest of days a good quality rain jacket or rain suit can save the day. If fishing the beach, from the rocks or blasting along in a boat keeping you dry from spray can be vital to a successful fishing mission. A rain jacket made from a good quality waterproof/ wind proof material can also stop the wind from blowing through your clothes keeping you warm. You never really know when a sudden rain storm could blow through and again if you have it with you – no problem. If you don’t have it with you it could be the end of your day.
(Bonus Tip: Spend the extra dollars on high quality good brand name rain gear. I went through three rain jackets before spending the money and buying a proper jacket. If I had spent the money on the good quality jacket first I would have saved money in the long run. Buy the absolute best you can afford and look after it – if you look after it your jacket will look after you for years to come)
Not every trip but part of being organised is keeping a check of your fishing license, boat licence trailer rego and boat rego, along with any additional permits of memberships you may require.
Another huge part of being prepared is having your tackle in order. In summer for instance If I am estuary fishing I know the lures that I will be using and I pre rig all my rods at home the night before, that way the only time I have to spend rigging up is if I have a breakage again leaving me more time for catching. This is also a great time to check main lines and leaders for any abrasions or nicks, anything that could fail. I also like to take this approach to lure and terminal tackle organisation.
Having things like tackle trays clearly labelled, hooks, sinkers, jig heads all grouped into sizes will save you time looking what you need in your boat or tackle bag. The same goes for lures. Organising these items can all be done a long way ahead of time. Less time searching means more fishing time. It is also worth mentioning that tackle organisation is a very personal thing. What works for one person might not work for the next. There are so many great options and ideas that tackle organisation could have an entire article on it alone. The reason behind mentioning tackle organisation here is because it is a big part of being organised.
Research is one of those things that some people get away with none what so ever but the consistently catching anglers are always researching. I read an article that once started that American pro bass angler Mike Iconelli when researching a new lake that he had never fished before bought every ‘old school’ paper map/ chart that he could find on the lake to use in conjunction with the absolute latest in technology. Sometimes this would be 3 or 4 maps. He would study, make notes, check the slight differences between the paper maps and cross reference this information to the electronic units in his boat. By doing this he was confident that there was nothing that he had missed on that water way. I think that no information when researching anything that will help you in catching more fish is worth excluding. Some information will be more relevant than others but it all needs to be considered. A great source of information are people that have fished there before, caught it before or live there. You can’t expect them to give you all their hard earned information or their top secret spots but most good anglers will be happy to point you in the right location so to speak, or even tell you their favourite bait for the area.
I guess one great tip to remember with research is that technology is your best friend. Google maps along with Google Earth is one of the best research tools you can possibly use. Any water way in the world you are thing of fishing these two can really help you out. This doesn’t just relate to fishing from a boat. Even a potential rock platform to spin from can be found. The places that I fish regularly I still find myself on a Friday just prior to the weekend scanning the satellite imagery just to make sure that there is not a sand bank, a pontoon, a deep drop off or a weed bank that I have over looked. Another brilliant research tool that has become more and more accessible over the last 5-7 years has been the sea surface temperature charts. More useful for offshore anglers and pelagic chasing rock fishos this information has become common place amongst the successful anglers. Being able to see exactly where the offshore currents are moving as well as the specific temperatures are, has led to anglers catching more fish than ever before.
As mentioned the internet is an invaluable tool when it comes to research. I think it is important not to forget the importance of the sounders and GPS chart plotters that many have mounted to their boats. I won’t go into all the specifics but I am continuously amazed but how good this equipment is today and the assistance they can give you in catching more fish – just remember to learn how to use them effectively so you are getting the most out of them otherwise they are just an expensive colourful screen.
Just when you think you have done enough research, do some more. It is easy to do with technology there is no excuse for not knowing as much as you can – just remember you might catch the fish of a lifetime from the sand bank that you found looking at the satellite map.
Never Give Up… EVER.
If humans gave up after trying something once, twice even three times we would not live in the amazing world that we do. You can link fishing into this. Some of the most amazing fish caught in various places around the world have been days, weeks, months or years in the making. If you start with fishing a new location, trying a new bait or even a technique that you read about. You have to give it time to work. I have been guilty of not giving things time to work. I recently purchased a lure that had a huge amount of media attention and thought wow this lure must be amazing. After a couple of trips out I put this lure away and did not really visit it again for some time. During that time that this particular lure lay dormant in my tackle box, the media attention only grew! People were winning tournaments on this lure the people who were coming second and third were also using this lure. Social media was packed with pictures of amazing captures from Victoria to Western Australia to far north Queensland even Christmas island. I was starting to think that this lure again was THE lure to have tied on. As I was starting to think about this I remembered that my experience was not so amazing but when a friend actually asked me how I had fished it in those early days, I soon started to realise during that conversation that I had been doing it all wrong.
I had given up. I had not given it a chance, I had given up on the lure and I had given up on its fish catching ability. Once I did some research on how to use the lure and started to give this lure the time of day, guess what… I started to catch fish on it. By giving things a chance you might be surprised what you learn and of course what you might catch. This philosophy can relate to any kind of fishing that you do, I know many people who love game fishing. They will quite often troll all day for a strike that might happen on a late tide change and then in the space of 10-15mins they have a marlin at the boat – mission successful. If these dedicated anglers were to give up after a couple of hours trolling they would never have caught, well maybe anything? I guess the only time to give up would be if it is not safe to continue on fishing. If the sea conditions take a turn for the worse or a storm rolls in then it is probably a very very good idea to give up just for that day, get home and then you can regroup and start planning that next fishing adventure.
In 2004 Bassmaster Angler Takahiro Omori was competing in the Bassmaster classic (the grand final) he had caught 2 small fish early in the morning and then struggled for the rest of the morning. Late in the day he decided to fish a stretch of bank that he had done well on in the pre fish but on the first day it did not hold fish. As a last ditched attempt to get the three fish he needed he switched to a mid-running crank bait and on the first cast he hooks up- in the next two consecutive casts he lands two more fish. So in the final 30mins of competition time excluding time to get back to the weigh in he catches three fish in three casts, blasts back to the weigh in and wins the classic! This is one of the most exciting and courageous finishes to a Bassmaster tournament in its history and his win can be dedicated to the fact that he did not give up. He kept casting, stayed positive and he won! Never give up… EVER.
Time On The Water
Well I have said for many years that in fishing there is absolutely no substitute for time on the water. What I basically mean is there is nothing you can do to learn more about fishing than actually getting out there and doing it. Don’t get me wrong as you have read in this article there are many things that you can do off the water that will most definitely make you a better angler but if you add all these up I still don’t think that you can learn more than when you are actually out there catching fish. I recently had the exceptional and greatful experience of fishing for Bonefish on the world famous flats of the Bahamas.
Now on the lead up to that trip I must have read hundreds of articles on every single aspect of flats fishing for these amazing fish. I backed this up with many nights spent watch countless Youtube videos of people catching them on the flats. I read every blog post I could find I went through my fishing book collection just to make sure that I was as best prepared that I could be. So within the first hour of being out on the flats and seeing my first Bonefish I realised that I had no idea about catching these fish. I knew as much as I could on the technical theory based side of things but the practicle side I was not prepared for. I could not believe their level of camoflauge – I remember looking at my polarized sunglasses thinking that there was something wrong with them…nope, they were fine. I then remember watching pods of these fish moving rapidly in their stealth manner across the flats. I remember saying out loud – these fish move a lot faster than anything that I had read or what I had seen on Youtube.
This all was a text book example of lack of time on the water – I had never fished for these fish before in my life. Lucky for me my guide Sam a local Bahamian who had grown up fishing on the flats learning all aspects of fishing for Bonefish from his Dad. He was out guiding 5-6 sometimes 7 days a week in peak season and I was paying for his time on the water knowledge.
Again this theory does not have to be associated with an exotic location or species, it can be chasing schools of summer pelagics or targeting jewfish in your local estuary. The principal remains the same, your time spent out fishing will teach you things in the best possible way in the best possible environment. Even if I go fishing for the day and don’t catch anything , it is not a wasted day at all. I still would have gained more experience and knowledge that I might be able to use to help me catch my next fish.
The more time you spend fishing the more knowledge you will gain giving you more confidence and this will ultimately lead to more success. This article was written to help you catch more fish and enjoy your fishing. Sometimes in life you have to stop reading, you have to step away from the computer, grab your gear and get out there! To quote a famous brand… JUST DO IT!