August 16, 2021
You want to be a better angler, don’t you?
There’s no magic lure, no single rod or reel, or one particular tip that’ll make you great. The solution, as many have opined, is more time on the water. It’s not just about the pure number of hours spent, however, it’s about quality time, too.
I’ve been fortunate to fish with a number of great tournament champions, record hunters, guides and captains across numerous species and multiple continents. Some are introverted, some are extroverted. Some are tall, some are short. Some are male, some are female. Indeed, there are plenty of things they don’t have in common, but across their differences just about all of them shared a sense of discipline that you can work on at home.
Here are three ways to start:
Work on Your Memory
The best anglers in the world can memorize the dips and turns of a grass bed after one quick pass. They remember every strike, every landed fish and every missed opportunity, no matter how long they’ve been fishing. And across all of that data, they see patterns and probabilities.
Many of us have seen our memories deteriorate through age or as the result of too many hours in front of the television. Indeed, for those of us not chasing records, trophies or tournament wins, fishing is often a time to disengage mentally—but if you want to be great at it you need to keep your mind sharp. Find the mental challenge that fits your needs and fits your schedule—it can be Sudoku puzzles or word games or something else, but stay sharp to the point that your mind does the heavy lifting for you. Just about anyone can run a trolling motor or cast, but not everyone can find and pattern fish in a vast lake or ocean – be someone who can do it all.
Get Enough Sleep
In the tournament days of my twenties and thirties, I recall plenty of anglers who’d light up the scoreboard and then fizzle out on Day 2. It wasn’t always just that they’d used up all of their fish. Often they’d used up all of their energy. They’d stayed up late yakking or drinking beer or playing cards and the 3:30 am wake-up call came way too early. Some anglers need 4 hours of sleep a night while others need 8 to function. Figure out which camp you fall into and enforce it rigidly.
I know that some guides remain highly functional during their “high season” on minimal winks, but they’ve settled into a pattern that allows their muscle memory to guide them on less sleep than they’d normally need. If you’re a once-a-week or one week a year type of guy, err on the side of more, not less.
Pay Attention to Posture
I’m not going to wade into the long-running debate of whether fishing is a “sport” or “athletic.” That’s just meaningless semantics. I’ve known plenty of unathletic people who could barely cross the street without tripping who were exceptional on the water. With that said, the best anglers I’ve seen all have great posture. Watch bass champions Kevin VanDam or Brent Ehrler, or musky virtuoso Spencer Berman—they all stand like a hunting dog on point when they’re in the zone. It’s not coincidental. Not only does remaining alert and ready to spring put you in position to react to changing circumstances or opportunities, but it’s a demonstration of fitness.
If your core muscles aren’t strong, you’ll get sloppy after 12 hours of casting a “Pounder” for muskies or slinging a giant 10XD for offshore bass. The increasing reliance on “video gaming” with electronics may hurt this trend, but being fit never hurt anyone’s performance, while being out of shape can clearly hurt it severely.