August 26, 2022
Over the past 25 years, the fish haven’t changed, but I certainly have.
When I was in my twenties, I could get up at 3 am, drive three hours, fish until dark, drive home and be ready for work early the next day. It didn’t matter if it was 8 degrees, 98 degrees, pouring rain or dry as the desert. I was ready.
Now, at 52, I’m not so mad at them. Everything moves a little bit slower, and my bones are a little bit creakier. That doesn’t mean that everything’s worse when it comes to fishing, though. I know more than I did then and don’t waste as much time. Because my financial position is less precarious, I can not only afford better gear, but don’t need to consider sleeping in my tow vehicle or at a super-sketchy motel.
Whether you’re 52, 62 or 92, it’s possible to maximize your fishing success by minimizing your limitations. Here are a few things to consider:
Exercise – Whether or not it’s a “sport,” fishing is surprisingly hard on your body. Between pounding through waves, standing up all day, contorting your body to land trophy fish, there’s no shame in feeling sore at the end of a long day on the water. Of course, a proper fitness routine is key not only to being a good angler, but also to everyday life. The amount of time and energy you have to put into fitness may vary, but if you’re just getting started, don’t focus on brute strength. Instead, cardiovascular fitness, core exercises and flexibility are key—you might even want to consider yoga, which will make you limber and get you in the right mindset to remain mentally calm. Other anglers might consider it odd when they see you stretching at the boat ramp in the morning, but it’s far better than pulling a muscle and missing or losing a big fish.
Food – For some anglers, eating like crap is a way of life. There are gas station biscuits in the morning, candy bars in the boat, and fried food at night. In my twenties, a Pop Tart on the way to the ramp got me through much of the day. Now, even when my eating isn’t super-healthy, I make sure to get some protein – eggs and a lean breakfast meat—to keep my mind clear and my energy level. Sugar gives me a rush but wears off quickly. Also, after decades of being a Dr Pepper fiend, I haven’t given it up, but I try to match them at least one-for-one with water.
Sleep – As noted above, in decades gone by, I could operate on minimal sleep without losing effectiveness. Today I swear by getting at least seven or eight hours a night. I can tell even when driving to the ramp that I’m more energized and less dependent on caffeine. But it’s not just the quantity of sleep, it’s also the quality. I can sleep through just about anything, but curled up in the driver’s seat, or on a hotel bed that reeks of cigarette smoke doesn’t get the job done. Maybe for one night, but not if I’m looking for consistent rest. If you’re stuck in those positions, bring a familiar pillow or blanket, or even a sleep mask, to cut down on the interference.
Shoes – Footwear has become a big, big deal for me. After fishing in flip flops or sandals or even barefoot for a long time, with no ill effects. Eventually, though, my weight and plantar fasciitis got the better of me. After a day of standing on one leg running the trolling motor, I came home to serious heel pain. The answer was not only shoes made for running or walking, but those made specifically for people with foot issues. Brands like Hoka One One, On Cloud, Brooks and New Balance have made great strides in helping us prevent or minimize discomfort or injury. I also value good traction, since I’m unlikely to ever use a butt seat.
Glasses – You’ve worn quality polarized glasses for years, but whether or not you’ve worn prescription eyewear before it may be time to consider it. I noticed it when I strung up 20 rods for a magazine tackle test and noticed that I’d missed at least one guide on several of them. Knot tying gets tougher, too. It may be time to get something corrective to help you see things more clearly.
Headwear – I’ve been a baseball hat guy for years, adding a buff in the past decade. Any skin damage that happened before can’t be reversed, but future damage can be prevented. I came home from one recent trip with the top of my head itching. I couldn’t figure out what it was until I realized that I’d gotten a sunburn on the top of my head through my relative recent “solar panel” up there. Now I try not to wear a mesh-backed hat as much.
Don’t Do Dumb Stuff – If you used to leap off your trailered boat into the parking lot, or take a running jump to go from the deck of your boat to the marina dock, reconsider some of those choices. Not only is there the potential to really look stupid, but you could suffer a major injury by assuming that your 50 year old self can do what your 20 year old self could. It’s just not worth it. The clock may be ticking, but you still have time to do things right.
At 76 years old, Rick Clunn continues to compete on the Bassmaster Elite Series. He won major events—against generally much younger fields—at 69 and 72 years old. Part of his success is because he’s a once-in-a-generation angler, but it also comes down to the fact that he’s taken care of his body, and developed a unique mental approach to the sport. Self-care is as important as casting ability, and finding a personalized strategy will allow any ardent angler to continue catching fish well into senior citizenship.