Winning against the best anglers in the world is more than simply being able to cast better, find more fish or have the fastest boat. Great anglers employ a solid mental approach to fishing to overcome adverse weather variables and fish more effectively.
Greg Hackney doesn't shy away from fishing in the cold and has a system to take it out of the equation.
“No matter what any of the guys say, cold weather impacts us,” Hackney said. “I don’t care who it is—they’re thinking about it. How you manage it mentally can be the difference between winning and entirely losing focus.”
Never skimp on quality clothing
Buy the best cold weather clothing you can afford and incorporate it in layers. The clothes need to keep you warm, but most importantly, you have to stay dry. Staying dry both under the clothing and from the outside is important and all of the new breathable fabrics make a huge difference. Knit stocking caps are best for cold weather and he rarely wears a regular cap when fishing in the wintertime. When running between fishing spots, he prefers a neck gaiter over helmets due to the danger of blind spots.
“Helmets take away your peripheral vision and your hearing ability,” Hackney said. “Those are the two most essential senses you have for driving a boat at high speeds, so you’ll never see me use one.”
Gloves are your friend
Although cumbersome, it’s important to learn to fish with gloves on. In addition to keeping your hands warm, gloves also allow for better fish handling as their teeth and slime will stick to most types of gloves. He uses jersey gloves that don’t stretch a lot when they get wet.
“From being an avid deer hunting and fishing throughout the wintertime at home, I’ve gotten used to them,” Hackney said. “I’ve learned to efficiently use both casting and spinning reels with gloves.”
Extra sets of dry gloves are a must-have. After a long day of casting and handling fish, wet gloves can be uncomfortable and also dangerous. If you notice your gloves are wet, change them immediately
Don’t show any skin
When driving your boat, wind chills decrease exponentially. If you’re fishing in below-freezing temperatures, a 70-mph bass boat ride can quickly lower the temperature to single digits.
“If you think it’s cold just sitting still, a boat ride will make it a lot worse,” Hackney said. “Wear as many layers as you can when moving to different areas and don’t allow any skin to be exposed to the elements.”
It may be uncomfortable, but don’t be afraid to run to different areas. If you’re not getting bites, add some layers and move to better fishing grounds.
“If you’re putting in the effort to fish in cold weather, you might as well do everything you can to catch ‘em,” Hackney said. “Being cold stinks, but not catching anything in the cold is even worse.”
Duplicate your combos
If you’re in a time sensitive tournament situation, build several rod and reel combinations with your go-to baits. Cold weather and iced-up line guides can have a serious impact, so having spares is critical. Don’t let a frozen or broken rod and reel take you out of the game.
“Tying knots is really tough in cold weather,” Hackney said. “If they’re biting a specific bait, have a couple of them tied on to minimize your downtime and frustration.”
Exceedingly cold weather is very dangerous, especially on the water. If you can’t fight the itch to go fishing, follow Hackney’s guidelines to make the most of your day. If it can wait, don’t press the issue.
“If you don’t have to go fishing on ultra-cold days, don’t do it,” Hackney said. “Stay home and sit by the fire.”