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More on "Catching Fish" and The Mind of the Angler

More on "Catching Fish" and The Mind of the Angler

The new edition of the book entitled "Catching Fish: the Chronicles that Changed the Face of Fishing" has spawned several thoughtful and philosophical conversations about the epistemology of angling by members of the Finesse News Network.

This book was originally written and published by Al Lindner, Ron Lindner and Bill Binkelman in 1974, and it encompasses Binkelman and the Lindners' oeuvres about angling during the years of 1964 to 1974. In the new edition, the Lindners call this 10 years "one of the most revolutionary periods in angling history."

In 2003, Gary Klein and Rick Clunn helped me ponder and write a story that focused on the sources of piscatorial wisdom and knowledge. This endeavor was spawned by the vast amount of information about angling, as well as the incredible multitude of new tactics and tools, that appeared in the late 1990s and after the turn of the millennium. In my eyes, this period was as revolutionary as 1964 to 1974 was in the eyes of the Lindners.

In addition to the Clunn and Klein's observations, we explored a few of the contributions that Al Lindner, Guido Hibdon and Ron Lindner had contributed to the mental aspects of angling.

Most anglers who read the story Clunn and Klein help me write dismissed it as being too erudite and stained  with new age hocus-pocus and malarkey.  In fact, several of them said they didn't read passed the first 10 paragraphs. After read and talking about the edition of "Catching Fish," we thought might rework the 2003 story that we entitled "The Epistomolgy of Angling."  Perhaps it will make more sense to today's anglers than it did to the anglers in 2003.

Below is the new edition of Clunn and Klein's insights, and the endnotes include some 2013 insights from Al and Ron Lindner.  We also entitled it the mind of the angler.

At no other time in the history of the world has there been such a surfeit of information surrounding the art and science of angling.

For instance, a recent search of the World Wide Web by Google revealed in a fraction of a second 520,000 citations about angling, 14,800,000 entries about fishing, 39,200 citations about angling magazines, 51,600 entries for fishing periodicals, 194,000 citations about trout fishing, 280,000 bass fishing citations, 92,700 fishing rods references, 32,500 entries about fishing videos, and 81 citations about television fishing shows. And those nine searches are merely a fraction of the amount of information that can deluge an angler's mind.

Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas, has been an accomplished angler on the national bass tournament circuit for a quarter of a century, and he has watched the information about angling expand at an exponential rate since he competed in his first B.A.S.S, tournament in 1979. According to Klein's best calculations, it takes a serious novice about two years to master all the technical and mechanical aspects of modern bass fishing, such as knowing all the ins and outs about boats, motors, sonars, GPS, rods, reels, lines, lures and an array of other paraphernalia.

But learning about and then mastering the various pieces of fishing equipment doesn't end after that initial indoctrination period. Occasionally a significant innovation appears and ultimately becomes an integral part of the angling repertoire. As these new products emerge, anglers must not only labor through many tedious pages of an instructional manual but also endure many on-the-water testing sessions. New angling tactics are also invented or reconstituted, such as the drop-shot phenomenon, and anglers have to learn how to employ these tactics.

Some old-timers constantly carp about the mad dog of modernity and its vexing habit of planned obsolescence, which replaces a perfect piece of equipment with a new-fangled one. Moreover, service and parts for the old tools can't be had when they malfunction. Therefore, the old-timer is forced to buy something new.

When old-timers make this transition from their old jewels to the new, they experience what young anglers call the learning curve. And in the minds of the old-timers that means learning to comprehend all the peculiarities of the new gadget.

When consummate anglers such as Gary Klein and Rick Clunn of Ava, Missouri, compare the rigors of the mental aspects of angling to coming to grips with its mechanical functions, they say becoming proficient in the mechanical skills is relatively effortless. According to Klein and Clunn, an angler's greatest chore is to know his quarry.

Klein and Clunn say piscatorial knowledge is beyond intellectual endeavors. So to become a complete angler, one must develop an intuitive sense about his quarry; Zen Buddhists monks call this intuitive factor "no mind." Others call it clairvoyance.

Since it doesn't involve the mind, Klein says the intuitive element of angling is impossible to explain. Some folks, however, are possessed with a natural human compunction to explain the unexplainable. Thus when these folks attempt to explain it, Klein says they mess it up. They also make a fool out of themselves, which also causes folks who have never experienced the powers of intuition to pooh-pooh it as nonsense. Therefore, Klein says it is best to avoid talking about how an intuitive experience becomes manifested on the water; the only words that should be uttered are to say that it happens.

Nonetheless, Klein says that an angler can be guided gently and gradually along the endless path that leads into the realm of intuitively knowing his quarry.

What's more Klein says some significant insights into the intuitive world of angling are periodically garnered from on-the-water revelations.

In fact during the 1950s and early 1960s, Guido Hibdon of Gravois Mills, Missouri, experienced several epiphanies that enhanced his subconscious perceptions of the aquatic world. One of those manifestations occurred during his many treks with his father to gig suckers on cold winter nights at the Lake of the Ozarks. While gigging suckers in bitterly cold water along the lake's shallow shorelines, the Hibdons occasionally encountered a big largemouth bass. And from such observations, the Hibdons developed an intuitive understanding about the shallow-water habits of the largemouth bass.

Back in those days the Hibdons were virtually living off the land as fishermen, hunters and trappers, and they may have been on the same plane as the Apache Indian scouts, whom Clunn venerates as possessing "the highest awareness" of any humans about the goings on of the natural world. And at times during the 1980s and early 1990s, Guido Hibdon fished as if he were blessed with the same sixth sense that graces the perspectives of the Apache scouts. In other words, his intuition put him in the right area and directed him to utilize the right lure.

And at times Guide Hibdon's extrasensory perception became so keen that he didn't employ his sonar and electric trolling motor. In other words, he knew the whereabouts of his quarry. So he didn't need the sonar to locate them, and he used the wind or current to properly position his boat. One of his rationalizations for not using the sonar and trolling motor was that he feared that the noise emitting from them would make the bass wary.

Since much of Guido Hibdon's piscatorial intuitions and prowess came from living day in and day out as a hunter, trapper and multispecies angler, he readily admits that his sharp intuitive edge has became progressively duller as he no longer needs to tangle with Mother Nature and her denizen on a daily basis to place food upon the family table. Nowadays his life is devoid of the hard edges that plagued his father and grandfather all the days of their lives. Without that daily motivation, Guido Hibdon no longer possess his finely honed sixth sense that took him to the top of the professional bass fishing world in the l988, l990 and 1991. Yet with moderate success, he has imbued his son Dion Hibdon of Versailles, Missouri, with some of the family's intuitive skills that were a byproduct from all of the hardscrabble days they endured from the 1930s through the 1970s.

Thus the Hibdons believe that some modern anglers can study and eventually acquire some intuitive skills, but it's unlikely that those skills will be as finely honed as those that are borne out of necessity and become integral part of one's daily life.

The insights that the Hibdon family garnered as multispecies anglers profoundly and indelibly affected the way Guido and Dion Hibdon pursue their favorite quarry the largemouth bass. Likewise Ron and Al Lindner of Brainerd, Minnesota, and founders of In-Fisherman, gleaned much wisdom about the proclivities of walleye and smallmouth bass while fishing for steelhead in the Great Lakes. The Lindners also acquired insights to the ways of walleye by probing submerged aquatic weeds for largemouth bass.

Even though Ron Lindner is an exceedingly cerebral angler, he occasionally and unexplainably reaches the same plane as Clunn's revered Apache scout. Therefore, his keen intuitions allow him to catch smallmouth bass that others fail to catch by employing some unorthodox tactics at some unusual locales at the natural lakes of the north.

Unlike the Hibdons and Lindners, Klein isn't a multispecies angler. But he is a devotee of something that he calls primitive outdoor skills, which is another way of saying that he is a savvy tracker and hunter.

Klein admits that it takes a concerted effort in these cacophonic times to approach the angling and hunting from the outlook of an Apache scout. But by studying the writings of Tom Brown of Asbury, New Jersey, and attending Brown's tracking school in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, Klein has become more aware of the many symbiotic relationships that exist in nature.

By fine tuning his tracking and hunting skills, Klein says that he has become a more enlightened angler. One of the great attributes to his state of enlightenment is that it allows him to focus on the moment rather than what occurred yesterday or will transpire tomorrow. And by concentrating on the moment, Klein says he can do a better job of pinpointing the whereabouts of the bass and discovering how to catch them.

Since Klein has become more keenly and intuitively aware of the manifold ways of nature and its denizens, he says there is virtually no limit to what anglers can learn about their quarry.

The complete angler, according to Klein, must perpetually learn and relearn the various nuances that surround the art of angling. In addition, he heartily ascribes to the notion that failure is the successful angler's best teacher.


(1) The Lindners are working on another book, which will focus on their prolific  days at In-Fisherman that stretch from 1975 to 1998. And historians of angling are eager to see what will lie between the covers their second book.

(2) Here's a link to our initial blog about "Catching Fish"

(3) For more insights to Guido and Dion Hibdon, here are links to two blogs:

(4)  Before this blog was posted, we asked Al and Ron Lindner to critique it. Here's a synopsis of what they had to say:

They agreed with Klein's statement that "it takes a serious and talented novice about two years to master all the technical and mechanical aspects of modern bass fishing, such as knowing all the ins and outs about boats, motors, sonars, GPS, rods, reels, lines, lures and an array of other paraphernalia."

But they only partially agreed with Gary Klein and Rick Clunn's notion that an angler's greatest chore is to know his quarry. The Lindners noted that understanding the entire environment of the quarry is the critical element in the equation of knowing your quarry. They elaborated upon the environmental aspect by noting that the smallmouth bass that abide in Lake Erie behave differently than the smallmouth bass that live in Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota. Likewise, the habits of smallmouth bass in Rainy Lake, Ontario, are different from the smallmouth bass in Lake of the Woods, Ontario. What's more, the habits of Rainy Lake's smallmouth bass are different today than they were 15 years ago, and that is because the forage factor has changed in that particular environment. The Lindners said that In-Fisherman's F+L+P theory , which they developed decades ago, is the best way for an angler to grasp the entire nature of his quarry. (For reads who have not crossed paths with the F+L+P concept: F means fish; L means location; P means presentation)

The Lindners pooh-poohed Clunn and Klein's thoughts about the intuitive or no-mind factor of the Buddhists monks as being a significant element in the make-up of a successful angler. But Ron Lindner said there is situation or state of mind that he and sport psychologist described as being in the zone or being in the grove. According to Ron Lindner, this optimal mindset is a necessary component in the make-up of a great angler. From the Lindners' perspective "the Zone" is an angler's ability to possess rapt attention to every factor that unfolds while he is afloat. In other words, the angler is completely immersed in what is transpiring, and every move is accomplished almost automatically and virtually devoid of any conscious efforts., and the mind is focused and doesn't wander.  The Lindners observed that as one's body, mind, and soul ages, the ability to find that zone of rapt attention diminishes. To substantiate that contention, they pointed out that Clunn, Klein and Guido Hibdon's abilities to win bass tournaments have diminished radically as age has worked it deeds upon them. Ron Lindner, who is 79 years old, said that he is prime example of how an aging mind, body and soul adversely affects his ability to step into that optimal mindset of being in a perfect piscatorial zone, where he can quickly locate and catch largemouth and smallmouth bass.

The Lindners noted that the Hibdon clan toiled for decades to develop the knowledge that Guido Hibdon displayed in his prime. Nowadays, serious and talented anglers can acquire much of what Hibdon possessed in a relatively short time by employing all of the state-of-the-art mapping and electronic devices that are available. In sum, the world has turned,  and Ron Lindner concluded that the world of the Hibdon clan, which began around 1930,  is gone, as is the intuitive  world that Clunn and Klein talked about a decade ago. 

(5) Several ardent Midwest finesse anglers suggested that we should examine the mental aspects of how to be a serious recreational angler, which is considerably different than being a  tournament angler. We hope to explore the mental aspects of recreational angling in future blogs. 

We are currently working with Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, Charlie Campbell of Forsyth, Missouri, Tommy Martin of Hemphill, Texas, Bill Ward of Warsaw, Missouri, and Ron Lindner of Brainerd, Minnesota on a blog about the effects of aging on anglers. And it will focus on the physical and mental aspects of age on our angling abilities.

(6)  In Aug. 7 e-mail Ron Lindner wrote:  "About 'the mental side of things' I am a Christian and I have obviously distinct problems with the Zen side of things. There is no question through experience there are times when you are as they put it in the sports world 'In the Zone'. I have experienced it, not only in fishing, but also in my many media endeavors and in my lure designing phases. But I don't believe that you can sit, cross your legs, hold the tips of your fingers closed and somehow slip into that zone.

"I asked my brother, Al,  about being in the zone. He said when you are 30 years the old, plying  the professional tournament trail, and  trying to make a name for yourself, you are able to focus totally on that. As you get older lots of other things become more important to you: work, family, God, business, illnesses. Al has experienced over and over again that what was important to him five years ago doesn't seem that important to him today. That all may have a bearing on why a fishing pro seems to diminish in ability as the years progress.

"In very physical sports, football for example, you peak real early and only for a few years. With fishing, while physical health does play a role, it is much, much slower, kind of like golf. Nevertheless, there is a diminishing of prowess with age. We have plenty of examples in the fishing world. For example, my good friend Roland Martin is having a horrible time on the trail. Can make a top 10 for one day and then fall out of it. The ability to stay in the zone for all three days is what we believe a young man's game."

(7)  On Aug. 9, Ron Lindner noted in an e-mail that his nephew Troy Lindner of Los Angeles has been influenced by W. Timothy Gallwey's ideas, which are revealed in his books entitled "The Inner Game of Tennis," "The Inner Game of Golf," "The Inner game of Music," "Inner Skiing" and "The Inner Game of Work."

Back in 1960, Gallwey was captain of the tennis team at Harvard University. He became a devotee of Maharaj Ji in the 1970s, lived a celibate life in an ashram and mediated. Gallwey found that mediation improved his ability to concentrate, which improved his abilities as a tennis player.

According to Gallwey, "The inner game takes place within the mind of the player and is played against such obstacles as fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus, and limiting concepts or assumptions."

Troy Lindner's ideas about the inner game of angling were recently delineated in an article entitled "Fishing's Mental Matrix," which was published in the summer of 2013 issue of North American Fisherman.

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