Somewhere deep down all bass anglers have it, that little voice in the back of their head or pit in their stomach that says fish here or cast there. I’ve talked about this before, how experience on the water helps develop a gut feeling; however, let’s take it a step further.
If we strip away how mankind has evolved and our developed creature comforts, man would have to rely on his senses, survival instinct, and learned experience to live from day to day. When you get right down to it, we have core life concerns that are equal to any animal in the wild — food, shelter, and reproducing. However, mankind achieves those things in a much more civilized manner than say a wild bear. If we had to live as they do, we would be competing for the same food sources and shelters, yet we would have to be vigilant in knowing where the bear was. An encounter with the bear may be life ending.
Keeping all that in mind, creatures in the wild live by what they see, smell, and hear. They use these senses to make life and death decisions every day. We, as civilized creatures, live by what money can buy. However, we all (animals included) have this little thing called a “gut feeling”. It helps us with decisions every day. For mankind, it could be as simple as – don’t eat at that restaurant; in the wild it could be more life threating like – don’t go to the watering hole just yet. Where do gut feelings come from?
I’ve talked extensively about this with a couple people, my team tournament fishing partner mostly, and there are a wide variety of answers. My belief is that our subconscious is processing inputs from the world around us and developing these ideas known as gut feelings.
You’re on the water and something tells you to try that lily pad field that is 100 yards away. Once there, within a couple casts you hook up with a bass. One could argue that past experiences are what lead you to the idea to give that pad field a chance and I would partially agree.
But what about your mind’s subconscious. The whole time you’re on the water, your mind is mulling over what you should do to catch fish. This is done by reflecting on your past experiences, what you’ve researched, and what your fellow anglers have told you. This is a conscious effort. I believed, at the same time, our brains are working on a subconscious level as well.
If we weren’t civilized, catching bass could be the difference between a good night’s sleep on a full stomach versus going hungry and dying. So the animal instinct in us is constantly taking in data from our surroundings. Mankind has not needed the majority of this data for centuries and our brains have been conditioned to tune it out as white noise, but your subconscious is still taking it in.
I’m talking about things like slight changes in wind direction, the sounds of shad on the surface, various species of birds around the water, air temperature changes, humidity changes, smells, light changes, maybe even pressure changes. The list of possible minute pieces of information that your brain could be taking in, either on purpose or subconsciously, is truly endless.
A more experienced angler has learned that some of these subtle changes can be used as an advantage. Simply through time on the water, the more experienced angler has reconditioned his brain to recognize opportunities to catch more bass. So yes, experience helps develop an angler’s gut feeling. However, what led the angler to those conclusions that created positive and negative experiences? Was it simply hunt and peck or trial and error, or is the hunter instinct stronger in some anglers.
The next time you’re out bass fishing, try to take in all the subtle indications of where and what bass might be doing, but never ignore that gut feeling. It might be based on a lot more information gathering of current conditions and just might put you on a winning pattern.