Before I really get into this article, I want to make it clear that I'm a pretty stubborn guy. I'll admit that and so will my wife. I have, however, really tried to open my mind a lot more lately when it comes to bass fishing. I have always been the world's worst in regards to totally missing a bite because I'm too busy chasing yesterday's bite. It has cost me a lot of money in fishing tournaments throughout my life.
I've written about my stubbornness before, but I've been thinking a lot this year about whether or not it can be good for my fishing at times. Now, I certainly believe that experimentation with new bass fishing techniques is essential for your growth as an angler, but is there a best and a worst time to experiment?
Honestly, I think there is. For me, at least. I could totally be wrong and if you think I am, hop in the Facebook comments and let me know. Your opinions matter just as much as mine. But here's what I've been thinking about a bunch lately.
What about when the fishing is tough?
I am most comfortable with shallow-water power fishing. I've done it all my life and that's how most of my local fisheries line up. So let's say I'm pitching and flipping for several hours without a bite. What should I do? Should I double-down on what I'm currently doing or start tinkering with a totally unfamiliar technique in deep water?
My answer is simple. While I could possibly change up and start throwing a squarebill or spinnerbait around the same shallow cover, I don't think it would be smart for me to totally abandon ship and start chasing my tail. When the fishing sucks, I don't believe it's best to start experimenting with a bunch of different stuff you're not comfortable with.
Confidence is key in bass fishing. I think it's probably the most important characteristic of the world's most successful anglers. But how can you gain confidence in a new technique when the fish simply aren't biting?
I used to have this problem a lot throughout my college years. My fishing time was limited during the week due to classes and exams, so I'd go whenever I possibly could. It could be 30 degrees outside, blowing 20 mph and I had class in two hours, but by gosh, I was hooking up that boat and going fishing. Because this mindset often forced me to fish in some pretty unfavorable conditions, I would get spun out pretty easily.
The fish weren't biting hardly anywhere in the lake, but instead of sticking with what I'm best at in shallow water, I'd be floating around in the middle of the lake trying to drop shot because I thought that's what you were "supposed" to do when it got tough.
But there was only one major problem-I'm not a good drop shot fisherman. I never have been. I don't even like drop shotting. And wandering around like a blind hog in the middle of the lake on a 30-degree post-frontal day certainly didn't make me any more confident or enjoy drop shotting any more.
So guess what? I got to a point where I absolutely loathed drop shotting and probably didn't throw one for four or five years. Because I kept trying to force it when the conditions and fishing completely stunk, I wrote it off and really stunted my growth as a more well-rounded fisherman. I think it's largely due to the fact that I was experimenting at the wrong time.
What about when the fishing is good?
Although I love the shallow-water stuff, I've always had somewhat of a knack for winding a deep crankbait for some reason. I'm certainly not the world's best at it, but I can definitely catch a few on a big plug when the conditions call for it.
With the help of my friend and our publisher, Jason Sealock, I've been working really hard at becoming a better deep-water angler in recent years. Sealock is one of the best deep guys I know and he has been teaching me different nuances and answering lots of questions from me. Above all, he has stressed to me how important versatility is in the deep game. I took that as him nicely saying that I need to get off the big plug and learn how to catch 'em other ways, too. I'm stubborn and he knows it.
But this time, I waited to experiment until I landed on a mega school one day this past June. I immediately caught two on a crankbait and I could tell they were stacked and biting like crazy; it was one of those special schools you probably only find once or twice per summer. When I would normally crank until they quit biting, I actually made myself put up my cranking rods and I just started throwing everything I wasn't comfortable with.
Drop shot that I felt such repugnance towards? Yep, I caught like 10 on it. Football jig that I kept losing fish on? Yep, I caught four or five on it. Big swimbait that has always intimidated me? Yep. I caught a bunch on it. Damiki rig that I had seen on BASS Live but never tried? I didn't know what the heck I was doing, but I caught some nice ones on it.
Am I a master of those techniques now? That's laughable. Heck no, I'm not. But because I waited for an awesome fishing day to try 'em, I'm at least moderately comfortable with them. If I'm ever guiding a fishing trip or fishing a tournament during a tough day, I feel like I can maybe scratch up a few important keepers on that stuff now. That one afternoon taught me a bunch about proper hookset methods, casting angles and presentations. If I would have tried all of that stuff on a tough fishing day, I would have gotten frustrated, put the boat on the trailer and had even less confidence than before I started.
Again, this is just something I've been thinking about a lot lately. I have never claimed to have all the answers and of course, every angler has their own style and way of doing things. What works for me may not work for you, but I thought my musings might help some folks as we enter into maybe the toughest bass fishing period of the year.
What do you think?