Like many anglers, I’ve long had a fascination with big fish. Talking to many successful big-fish anglers who have made it their life’s mission to catch the biggest fish possible has helped me identify common characteristics I think set these guys apart. But I’ve always wondered: Why don’t more anglers follow their advice? It seems the first and biggest battle is in the mind!
We usually “know” what we should be doing, but past experiences and plain old laziness can creep back into your routine quickly. One minute you’re on track with the proper battle plan to have a chance at a big fish, then the next your temptation to do the easy thing and “just catch a few fish” derails you.
I’ve found it’s a constant battle to avoid being lazy and falling into old ruts. It’s the temptation I find disciplined and consistent big-fish anglers avoid at all costs. These guys very seldom deviate from the plan. Although the rift between those “knowing” what to do and those actually following through seems to be a small thing, it’s truly a chasm! Staying the course with confidence seems to be the hallmark of consistent lunker catching anglers.
I also am amazed at the attention to detail these top-notch anglers demonstrate each time they hit the water. They have a clear agenda to follow on each part of their process. For example, when I fished with striper world record holder Greg Myerson in Connecticut, he was fanatical about a couple of simple things I hadn’t given much thought!
First, I never saw Greg cast a bait without manually checking the hook sharpness, and after about five drifts the hook was always replaced by a new one that was razor sharp. Always. Next he would very critically analyze each knot and check that each strand laid down exactly on top of the next so there was no slippage or loss of strength. He would even eyeball my knot, just to be sure.
The line was always inspected, even at night, and lastly the barrel swivel he used was always tested for strength. His methodology carried right down to how he precisely held his rod and worked the bait. I quickly realized this guy expected every cast to produce a record fish. Is it any wonder he holds all the striped bass IGFA world marks and is considered by many to be the best striper fisherman on the planet. He told me you’re only as good as your weakest link – no shortcuts.
The next factor I see abused more than any other is the importance of stealth. Greg punched this point home by pointing out that we needed to be completely silent over the fishing grounds, with no movement in the boat if possible! He actually fished barefoot, even though we were in a noisy tidal current over offshore reefs. Could the fish really hear us? He assured me that this was the key reason so many failed! Laughing, he told me this was one of his biggest “secrets” that everyone “knew” but most ignored. Unfortunately, most of us are just plain stubborn (including me)!
Funny, I’ve had anglers tell me they are sure the big names have a secret lure or spot. They refuse to believe that something as simple as adhering to key fundamentals, practiced perfectly and consistently, could be the main factor in big catches.
Taking responsibility for poor results and lack of discipline is a hard pill to swallow! I’ve made excuses, too. We usually know what to do, but don’t (or won’t) and instead are left hoping we’ll get lucky. Stay disciplined, be truthful with yourself and never give up.
Postscript – Wow! A special shoutout to my fishing buddies Johnathon and Kyle Balbas of Madera High who won the FLW 2 High School State Championship Bass Tournament at the Delta last weekend against 58 teams with 20.3 pounds! Both won $1,500 scholarships and qualified for the national championship at Pickwick Lake in Alabama in June. Their dad Sam is fired up.