Angler Evolution

Evolution is defined as “a process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage; especially a more advanced or mature stage.” The modern day bass angler perfectly fits this definition. From year to year…

Evolution is defined as “a process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage; especially a more advanced or mature stage.” The modern day bass angler perfectly fits this definition. From year to year, we change our tackle, our baits, and even our presentations, all in order to become more successful on the water.

Think back to when you began fishing; whether it was as a child with your family, or in your adult life. Your desires were, most likely, basic. You simply wanted to catch fish, no matter the size or species. As time went on, you began to fine tune your mechanics. You were able to cast farther and with greater accuracy. You were changing, evolving.

I do not remember my first fish. Some of my earliest memories are fishing in a local catfish pond with my family every weekend in the summer months. At this point, my skill level was minimal. Dad would rig my rod, bait the hook, and cast the line out. All I had to do was wait and reel the fish in. As I got older, I began baiting my own hook, and casting the line out on my own. This was the first step on a long road of knowledge.

Although I had never caught a bass, all my life I had heard about them. This single species seemed to be held at a higher level than other fish, a Holy Grail of fishing. Around the age of eight, I commandeered one of my brother’s spinnerbaits. It was a Mann’s Classic, with a kind of gold, translucent skirt. I had been throwing that spinnerbait all day, when something tried to take the rod out of my hands. That poor bass, that probably didn’t weigh a pound, never knew what hit him. I pulled back with every ounce of sinew in my body and sent him flying through the air like a little green missile. That was the only fish I caught that day, but the thrill and satisfaction I got from that single fish hooked me. It was that day that my true evolution as an angler took place.

As I said, I was hooked. I devoured every piece of literature I could find about bass fishing. Magazines, books, anything. Saturday morning cartoons quickly turned into Saturday morning fishing shows. Roland Martin and Kevin VanDam took the place of Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles. I learned how to tie knots, and drastically over-estimated my skill level. I thought I was ready for the Classic at age ten. Big dreams for a little kid, right?

Equipped with a few spinnerbaits and plastic worms with colors you might find in an opium induced fever, I hit every pot hole and mud puddle I could find. My casting slowly but surely improved, but I was still limited to a few techniques with no concept of different retrieves. Every fish I caught was a trophy to me, one worth bragging about at school the next day. A two pound fish might as well have been a ten pounder. But, no matter the degree of success I achieved, I always wanted more. I not only wanted to catch fish, I wanted to know why that fish bit that bait. Always changing, evolving.

I began to experiment with new baits and different retrieves. Some were successful, some were not. The techniques that did not provide me with instant gratification were sat to the side and ruled as a waste of time. I bought a baitcasting reel; one of the old Shimano Bantam’s for $40, mainly in pennies. After a few world-class backlashes, I sat the reel to the side, too. Without instant gratification, there was no desire for me to endure the learning curve.

After a few years of sub-par success, I entered a new realm of learning, and my evolution as an angler continued. Instead of throwing something down because I didn’t understand or didn’t have immediate success, I began to actually analyze what I was doing, seeing, and feeling. I began working plastic worms instead of reeling them like a spinnerbait. I stopped trying to emulate what I saw on television, and began to learn on my own. This was a turning point. I began to branch out, become a more versatile angler.

Now that I had a more techniques under my belt and a higher success rate, it dawned on me that there was a reason for each bite. Although like people each fish is different, they all share the same basic instincts. They all feel the same urges to feed, breed, and seek shelter. There was a reason that I caught fish from grass and not off of stumps on certain days, and a reason for catching them on a worm one day and a crankbait the next. There was also a reason to use a baitcasting reel versus a spinning reel, and Medium-Heavy rod instead of a Light action. Each is simply a tool that has its own time and place. Change is constant.

That brings us up to date. I now understand seasonal patterns, can analyze water conditions, and have an idea (although it is not always right) of what tool to use when. Although reading magazines and information on the internet can help immensely, it all means nothing if you cannot apply it to your fishing. I do not claim to understand everything about bass, and pray I never do. But, one thing I do know is that I will continue to learn. I will continue to seek new ways to locate and catch fish, and continue to fine tune my mechanics. As a new boat owner, I know I now have a completely new learning curve to endure, and it is one I welcome with open arms and an empty wallet. As an angler, I have evolved from the most basic skills and rudimentary knowledge to where I am today. I hope to continue my evolution as an angler. If not, then what is the point in fishing?

Here’s To Change,
Blake Rutherford

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