This past October, I spent an exciting week with my son Aaron. His sponsor, Nationwide, took us on a tour of Hendricks Motor Sports and a Hot Pass for the NASCAR race on Sunday at the Charlotte Speedway. Of course, we met Dale and Danica, and I’ll be writing about that fabulous weekend soon. Today, I want to share what I learned fishing with Aaron the other week. In three different states, we fished three lakes in just four days. It was a blast.
Back in the 80s, Aaron and I learned how to bass fish together, and we learned on our own by trial and error. We initially joined a club but soon graduated to a couple of tournament circuits. After years of experience fishing as a team, Aaron went pro in the mid-’90s. I went pro as well so I could keep fishing tournaments. It’s evident today that one of us was cut out to excel and had the fish calling. It’s widely known that Aaron has a God-given gift for the sport, along with lots of nicknames like A-Ron, Spin, the Natural, and Hog Snatcher. Some believe he came from another planet, but I know that’s not true. But yes, some things set Aaron apart from the others, and why they think he’s from another universe. You may feel the same way after reading this.
It’s always fun to fish with Aaron, but this time I decided to be more observant of what he does differently from me and other anglers. I think it’s the little things, in addition to the obvious, that I was able to capture this time around. I learned things I can’t wait to change or do myself, and maybe I can inspire you as well.
Boat and Vehicle Care:
Much of Aaron’s time is spent maintaining his truck and boat. He is a firm believer in using top brand gasoline, oil, additives. He is always aware of the condition of his tires, air pressure, loose bolts, electronics, batteries, and trolling motor. Trash is not allowed to live for more than one day in his space. I learned not to drop a bread crumb on the boat's floor because the humidity would turn it into a mold that draws ants and other critters. Who knew? So it’s evident that no food or food containers and wrappers are allowed to float around or stay overnight. You wouldn’t want to smoke or spill a drink while on his boat unless you wore earplugs to block out his comments. And forget having dirty shoes or stinky feet. I’m not kidding when I tell you these things. Aaron is highly protective of his belongings and always has been. However, before we criticize him too harshly for being anal, it’s his strange characteristics that make him a top angler in the world today. People love Aaron, but it takes patience on both ends to spend a day together on a boat. Ask any family member, marshal, reporter, or friend, and they will tell you I’m right. They will also tell you they had a wonderful time and learned a lot. Aaron enjoys people and having company when he fishes far more than being alone, and that’s a fact.
Not Sure You Help?
After fishing, Aaron takes off his electronics, throws out all trash, and covers his boat before traveling home. He rarely leaves his boat uncovered unless there’s a good reason. I’ve tried many times to help when he prepares the boat for launch or to go, but this time I realized that he performs his ritual of tasks in a specific order. Trying to help just slows him down. I learned just to stand by and wait for him to ask me to do something. There is only one way to do each task when you're perfect. Many of us are the same. We forgot to put the plug in or remove the straps because someone was helping us, and we thought they did it. Correct?
Rods and Reels
Aaron carries many rods and reels on his boat and keeps them in three different cupboards. He always keeps each rod and reel covered from one day to the next in those flexible plastic tubes and special covers for the reels. He does it to protect them and keep the line and baits from getting entangled. When storing, the line must always be wrapped 3 or 4 times around the rod. He makes sure that the bail and handles don’t rub on each other and insists that when you lay your rod on the deck, the bail points upwards, and the reels are not rubbing together. This especially applies to spinning setups. He keeps his reels maintained and listens for the slightest malfunction. He listens to how the line goes thru the guides and checks the guides often. He insists you don’t put your hooks on the guides, and that’s why his rods have little metal keepers on the handle. Do you see a pattern here? There’s more!
Baits Get Special Treatment
For years Aaron would put his plastic worms in designated boxes, but I noticed that has changed. Lately, he selects a variety of plastic worms before we even go out and leaves them in their original bags in a special little cupboard that we both can easily reach. He wants the bags closed each time you take the bait out, and you must keep the baits straight in their bags. The used baits will end up in the little cupboard next to the new ones. He made this suggestion for those of us who hate throwing away a new worm just because it’s crooked. Lay them tightly together in a plastic bag, roll the bag up, get rid of all the air, and store them for a while. This will straighten them out. Aaron feels every bait should look and smell perfect. I tend to disagree because I think fish are stupid and eat almost anything perfect or not. But then I still have plastic baits from over 20 years ago. Some of us may be hoarders and not perfectionists?
Aaron stores his favorite reaction and go-to- baits on the inside of the middle cupboard lid. Many of us have discovered the carpeted lids in our boats make a great place to hang our lures. But maybe you need to rethink what’s hanging there now and take some time to reorganize them?
It’s neat the way he stores his Sunline on the boat. He keeps all his spools lined up in two lines in a Rubbermaid box with a lid. If he wants to change the line on a reel, he pulls out the box from the back cupboard and re-spools right from the box. It’s genius because the line stays on its spool before and after he uses it, and it’s a one-step operation. I’m sure the line is in order of weight, and he probably has duplicates. He feels strongly that the fishing line should be kept in a cool place to maintain its strength and durability. He changes line a lot depending on the weather, water conditions, and quagga mussels. Fishing around quagga mussels can destroy your line even more than heat and water conditions. I’ve seen line break and fish snap off because of our mussel problems out west.
All Hooks are not Equal.
People make fun of Aaron because he sharpens new hooks. Every hook he uses must pass the stick on your finger test. I’m surprised he hasn’t bled to death by now! While many of us are focused on selecting the right size and colors of baits, Aaron is probably scrutinizing the hook he’s using for a drop shot, jig head, or spinnerbait. Could it be that a straight and sharp hook determines a good fish catch more than any other factor? Aaron is such a stickler on the importance of hooks that he has been busy developing his own. I used his new (not out yet) drop shot hook prototype, and all I can say is WOW.
One of Aaron’s constant complaints is his time working on his tackle. I have a news flash for everyone, including Aaron. He likes it! He loves it! I think he enjoys tweaking, inventing, and selecting baits more than catching fish. Who else catches a fish and then sits down in front of his go-to-baits or pulls out tackle boxes to see what else they might bite? He does this while the fish are still boiling all around us! He did this repeatedly while I used my same bait to catch another one! Why fix it if it’s not broken? Because Aaron is always pre-fishing, I think he wants and needs to know what might work some other time or place if his current bait doesn’t work. He is well known for his versatility and making quick and effective changes during a tournament. That’s what it all boils down to.
In part two, I’ll continue sharing what I’ve learned, and maybe by then, I can share from personal experience how it’s helped me. Now it’s time to organize my tackle.