Just like doctors and engineers stay abreast of the latest technology and innovations or get left behind, anglers who ignore the latest fishing trends and information are likely to get outfished by their partners. Although fishing is not a vocation for most, who wouldn't have more fun by catching more and bigger fish next year? With the goal of more big fish and a good time on the water, here are a few ideas for the coming year.
- Go fishing with someone new, like a friend, guide, tournament partner, or family member: Let's face it. We all get set in our ways and pretty much fish the same way most of the time. Fishing with someone else (especially in their boat on their lake) will likely open your eyes to several things you've been missing. Not only will you learn a few new tricks or patterns, but you'll also find that spending a day on the water is a great way to make new friendships or renew old ones. Other great learning ways are booking a guide trip or signing up as a non-boater in a fishing tournament. Nothing helps me learn a new lure or pattern quicker than watching a fishing partner use it to catch a lot of big bass.
- Take a young person fishing: While you two might not agree on hairstyles, clothing, or music, you'll enjoy reeling fish. Also, what young folks lack in fishing experience, they make up for in exuberance and curiosity. Watching a kid catch a big fish is exciting for all parties involved and reminds me of when I fell in love with the sport. Plus, a young person's lack of knowledge of the bass fishing "rules" often leads to discovering hidden patterns on a fishing trip. Please leave it to a newbie to rescue a slow trip with acts of fishing heresy such as topwaters on a sunny day, casting out to the middle of the lake, or pink spinnerbaits.
- Try new places: We want to catch bass during our trips, so most of our time is spent fishing our favorite spots on our favorite lakes. While that often fills our live wells, it does little to increase our understanding as anglers and gives us limited options if the fish won't bite in the same old honey holes. If you have access to various lakes in your area, try a new one. You'll be forced to read the conditions and react to the fish on that given day. Although the fishing may be challenging at first, nothing is more rewarding than figuring out a pattern and solving the fishing puzzle for that day. Or, if you are on a familiar lake, force yourself to fish in new areas. Not only will you learn from figuring out the pattern in the new places, but you'll also have extra honey holes for future fishing trips.
- Experiment with new lures: Fish become conditioned to lures, especially when you cast the same baits in the same colors and sizes to the same spots. Fishing daily, I see firsthand how quickly fish stop responding to familiar lures, and I am constantly searching for that slight edge. Often, a seemingly dead area will start producing more fish again by simply changing my bait slightly or by changing colors. Whether I try new colors like Bama Bug or Hot Motor Oil in my favorite old lures or try innovative new lures, I'm often amazed how a small change can make the difference between a big limit and no bites.
- Do some research in the off-season: Pro athletes work out all off-season to prepare to win. When conditions are too nasty to fish or if you don't have enough time for a day on the lake, take a few minutes to increase your knowledge of the sport. Now, the tools available are almost infinite: TV shows, books, magazines, videos, fishing forums, and websites. At no time in the history of fishing has it been easier to learn quicker or more accessible.
I wish you and your families the very best in the new year. It'll be your best fishing year with a little bit of work and good fortune. Here's hoping you catch the lunker of your dreams.