How's Your Bass Persona?

How's Your Bass Persona? Bass anglers, are always trying to improve the techniques they use. But they might be overlooking the most important thing.

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Nice bass!

To me the most important thing you bring to your fishing ability is your own individuality. Remember that you are an original. No one can copy you exactly. And you can't copy anyone exactly. This one fact can be the greatest technique you have. Your personality and individualism are major assets if you learn how to use them in your fishing. I can tell you that if you don't let your instincts take over and use that individuality you can never be a great fisherman.
   There's nothing wrong with copying a technique from someone else, or learning all you can, just remember to apply your own personality to that. With that thought in mind, here are some exercises in extending the personality of your fishing to make it more successful.
   First, forget everything you know about fishing right now. I know that may sound silly, but you're just going to have to trust me on this one. I want you to act like you're starting all over from scratch. You'll need to rethink everything that you do now. Let yourself go on this. It's a freedom that you've forgotten all about by now. But that person who is new to fishing has it and you need to get it back.
   Remember when you were just a kid and didn't know that you were supposed to fish a certain rig a certain way or that you needed to fish a Carolina rig because everyone else was? Okay. Now you're getting the picture.
   Next, don't think about "catching" anything. I know this sounds silly, too. But you must "become" the bass. What are your needs? How do you do the things you must do each day to survive?
   I can't stress enough the importance of seasonal patterns. Read everything you can about this subject. And as you read, close your eyes, imagine yourself as the fish. One foot doesn't seem like much to us, but think about that in terms of the fish and its size.
   You should be able to quickly pinpoint a lake's productive areas if you just do a little research. Once you understand how bass live and look at that life from their perspective these areas become easier to find. It's a great feeling to know whether to back off some in a pattern or to move closer to the bank. A simple form of understanding this is done by seeing baitfish. If you see them in shallow water hanging around laydowns, how far away do you think the bass will be? Be the bass, become the fish, envision where you would be right then.
   Now what's the worst lure you have in your tackle box? Maybe I should say what's the one you hate to throw the most? Okay, now don't stop reading. Remember I want you to trust me.
   Get out your "hate" baits. If it's a crankbait, get out different sizes and throw, throw, throw. Don't take any other lures with you. I know it's hard to do, but it's something you've got to do to overcome.
   Have you ever tried to cut a piece of baling wire with regular pliers? It will get the job done, but wire snips are the proper tool for the job. It's the same with every lure you own. You must have confidence in every one of them. You also need to know which tool to use for the situation. This comes with fishing and mastering all your lures. As you use these lures, you'll start to see ways you can apply your own insight and ideas of implementation. When you do this you can feel your confidence soar. This is the personality aspect I'm talking about.
   When you throw a bait that you have modified to run a certain way you're going to have a better feel for it. You'll be more alert, more in tune with what's going on around, above and below the water. You're actually willing the bait to catch a fish. I know this may sound strange, but I swear it's true. Only by mastering the use of every lure in your tackle box can you expect to become better at fishing.
   I just recently took a nice man and his son fishing for bass. He asked me about my electronics and as I explained, I told him that at times I could tell him which fish would bite and which would not. He got a big chuckle out of that comment. I said I would show him and I think he thought I was joking. But as we idled over an area I made two passes and dropped a marker.
   On the first cast I caught a 3-pounder. The man and his son also began catching fish. We took pictures and had a great time. I had never fished the area nor known that the structure we were fishing was there. It only took about five minutes to find a killer hole with my electronics. For the rest of the day the man paid attention to everything I said.
   I did not tell this story to brag, although the Womack's are guilty of doing this, but to demonstrate the importance of the next step in your relearning process. That step is use of electronics. I'm not going to tell you what brand to buy only that you should obtain a quality unit.
   The key to using electronics is to actually use them. Most people turn them on and forget to use them. That's a big mistake. One of the things that helps me the most is to use my electronics to find places with structure similar to those where I have found and caught fish before. I learned that I needed to pay attention to my depth finder when I started catching fish. This is what many people forget or overlook. Most don't start pushing buttons and trying to figure something out unless they're not catching fish. Which is exactly the opposite of what you need to be doing.
   As soon as you begin to catch fish in an area, check your electronics. Pay close attention to how the fish are positioned on the structure. See if there is bait present. Are they positioned above the bass? It can help to keep a log of what you find. Then you will start to develop patterns. And now your personality will begin to come out as your confidence grows. You'll find that you prefer certain types of structure or cover. You'll begin to fish your lures a little bit different than everyone else because you learned it on your own. It's a great feeling. I really want you to do this and not give up. It will help you immensely.
   Don't forget the little things either. It's the little things that are always the killers. You know that maybe you should retie, but the fish are biting good and so you don't take the time. I guarantee you that the next fish you catch will be a monster, or at least big enough to snap your line. Sometimes I think the big fish just lay there and let the smaller ones wear my line down then swim up among them and say, "Okay boys, watch this!"
   Little things will get you every time. The best thing you can do is to get in the habit of checking for little problems that may arise. The flip side of this is that you also need to create little things that enhance your fishing and let your personality come out. This can be anything from changing a blade on a spinnerbait to modifying a lure to run left or right. Don't just tie a Carolina rig like it shows on the package of baits. Use the basic design and add a personal touch to it. Experiment, try all kinds of things. I promise you no one has a monopoly on how these things are supposed to be done. Let it be an adventurous journey of personal creativity.
   Okay on to the little things for fishing tournaments. I could sit here and write a hundred horror stories about the one that got away. Before you start day dreaming about that ride in the new boat you won, make sure you don't miss any little things in your tournament preparation. I promise you there is no sicker feeling than watching a $25,000 boat go down the drain because of some small overlooked item or mistake.
   Get in the habit of checking everything, even if you have to make a list. Do this every time you go to the lake. If you make a habit of going through your checklist every time it will become second nature to you.
   Each time you have a problem on the lake, correct it. If you fish two hours and hook four bass but only get one of them to the boat, stop and analyze the situation. What's going wrong? Even if you are just casual fishing take the time to figure out what's happening and correct it. It's a big mistake not to learn from mistakes and problems. They'll cause you trouble down the road. Most of the time it will be when that boat is on the line.
   The next thing I want to talk about is knowing your strengths. About 18 years ago I completely started over. I was never very good with a plastic worm. When I started rethinking everything I knew about bass fishing, I knew that plastic worms were my biggest weakness. Since I always practice what I preach I bought myself a bunch of worms, hooks and weights. I threw and threw, then threw them some more. And while I'm still not an expert with them, I have improved my use of plastic worms. I also found out they were one of my greatest strengths, even though I thought they didn't fit my style. So don't count out something just because you don't think it's one of your strengths.
   Especially when fishing tournaments you need to fish your strengths and work on your weaknesses when you have the chance. Too many of us have only a couple of ways we like to fish, but that's not always the way to catch fish. It's not hard to figure out that more (eight ways we can fish) versatility versus less (two ways we like to fish) is better.
   Now we're going to talk about on the water clues. I want you to really pay attention to everything around you when you're on the lake. There are lots of little clues that will help you in your decision making. Really good fishermen don't miss anything. Most of the time, on any given lake, there will be one or two good patterns working. Which one you decide on depends on your personality and preferences. It should also depend on what you see. If a shad flips 100 yards down the bank you should see it. If there's a crawdad hole under a willow bush you should spot it. When you see a pretty good ripple ahead along the bank, you should know whether it's a sow chasing a bluegill off its nest or a 4-pound carp.
   If you catch a good fish, ask yourself why it was there. What depth was it at? Why did it bite that lure? Was it the action, the color? Many times this little analytical approach can lead you to your next fish. It can even end up being a productive pattern all day, or all over the lake.
   What you have to do when you're at the lake is become part of it. You'll love it and you'll love what it does for your fishing.
   Now the next step is to be yourself. When I first started fishing tournaments I thought I needed to find out what other people were fishing and how they were doing it. Wrong! What happens is you try to fish like other people and abandon your own personality and instincts. While there are times knowing what others are doing is helpful as a starting place, don't rely on anyone else. When you compete, fish against yourself and the fish not the other fishermen. Try to catch the five biggest fish you can. If you do this everything else will take care of itself.
   Your very best days of fishing are going to be the ones when you figured it out on your own. Have fun and be yourself. Some of our greatest inventions came from people who had been told that something wouldn't work.
   I truly believe if you follow all these steps you can become a great fisherman. Understand that when I say that, it's not because I think I'm a great fisherman. But I know several of them and all have different methods and fish different from each other. The common thing that I see in them is that they have honed their personal skills and have a certain ease on the water. They are relaxed and just being themselves. The point is we're all individuals. It would be a boring world if we weren't. But I also believe that allowing your own personality to come out in your fishing is truly your greatest technique.
As always, keep a bait in the water.

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