Disclaimer: “Bass Fishing For Dummies” is not meant to be condescending in any way. What it’s meant to signify more than anything is a simplification of your approach to catching more bass. And while this is easily aimed at the beginning bass angler, I also believe that it behooves ALL of us to take a step back sometimes and take a look at what we’re doing and how we approach this great sport. I hope that my forthcoming articles will help someone in their bass fishing endeavors. Good luck!
Bass Fishing 101- The Confidence Factor
It has become apparent to me after all these years of bass fishing that CONFIDENCE rules when it comes to success, or at least in becoming successful on a consistent basis. And that’s what it’s all about, right? We want to catch bass, period.
Okay- don’t judge me. I like those magnificent sunrises as much as anyone. I appreciate a beautiful day on the water, maybe spent with a friend or a loved one as much as anyone, and even more so as I get old-er. But I want to catch ’em. I want to jack them up. I want a thumb, no a PALM bleeding day, when the big brutes come out to play like no other. Success is appreciating all of the above, for sure, but success for me is all about catchin’ bass. Simple.
And I’ll argue that being successful on a regular basis requires confidence. Confidence in what you’re doing and where you’re doing it at. Confidence in the bait that you’re throwing, confidence in your electronics, confidence that when you set the hook that, more often than not, there will be a bass on the other end of your line and it’s going to make it to hand. Put all of these together and you will be a better bass fisherman. You bet.
I fished a buddy tournament once with a, well, I guess a BUDDY. My partner was a great guy but he was highly susceptible to “dock talk”. He listened way too much to what others were saying, and what the local tackle shops were selling. So when we started this derby he had it in his head that a Carolina Rig was the only way to catch bass. Because that’s what all the studs had said all week long.
Problem was he had very little experience with the unwieldy C-Rig. In fact, I’m not sure that he’d ever thrown one before. The absolute worse thing that could happen was that he caught a small keeper on it right off the bat, so of course the game was ON. He threw than darn thing most all day. He threw it in trees. He got hung up sometimes every cast. He re-tied and changed baits regularly. He even changed out hid sinker weights and bead colors… Meanwhile I caught a limit, and culled his little one, on a large ten-inch worm fished for suspended bass in submerged tree tops. The furthest thing from a perfect scenario for what he was doing.
Late in the day my partner had abandoned the Rig and was going through his tackle box in a frenzy, a muttering frazzled mess, looking for that perfect lure. His lack of confidence in a technique and bait was his undoing.
Learning confidence in a lure or technique may be a simple as having one decent day while using or doing something new. Learning to change the lure and how you fish it differently under new conditions and waters over time will add to this confidence if done successfully. This simply takes time. And it also requires patience and the wherewithal to accept some defeat to gain this success. It’s all worth it in the end if you can get to the point where you have confidence in the what, when, where, and how you are fishing.
But there are many other factors besides the “am I using the right lure?” question. You also have to have confidence in the type of water that you are fishing. Some anglers are never confident when fishing stained or muddy water, or conversely crystal clear water.
The same goes for the type of areas that you are plying. Weeds, boat docks, timber, current situations, very shallow or very deep water- these all post challenges to us when we are trying to get answers while chasing bass. The answer to all of this is called “fishing your strengths”. It simply means that you need to fish those whats, whens, wheres and hows the way that YOU feel confident in doing so. The best anglers have less preferences and are able to put it all together no matter what the conditions are.
It was November of 1987, and I was coming off of the best season of my young tournament career. I had won seven tournaments that season. Yes, they were all club and buddy-style derbies, but still, I was on top of the world in my confidence that I was going to catch bass, period. I had even won a CRAPPIE tournament that year. It’s what being confident in your abilities can do for you, and going into that last club derby of the year while fighting a points chase I was as confident an angler as I have ever been.
Except after three days if practice I had not caught even one keeper bass. Ouch.
The main thing that I remember about that day was my bulldog determination that I was going to catch them. And I don’t think that I’ve ever had a better day execution-wise. I made perfect casts, made perfect decisions, and when the smoke cleared I brought three keepers to the weigh-in. I knew hat I needed about 8- 1/2 pounds to take the points championship if the guy in first zeroed, and my seven-something pounds fell short of that. In fact it was half the weight that I figured I’d need.
But, fishin’ was tough all over, and only one other keeper was weighed in out of over thirty anglers in our club. And I even saw that one get caught.
Another club fished out of that ramp that day, and out of their twenty-something fishermen only ONE managed any keepers, and he weighed in two of them. This guy was also a friend of mine and we’d fished together some that fall so I also knew where he was at and what he was doing to catch his bass. So think about this- not only did I win my derby, but I also knew exactly how and where every other keeper that was weighed in that day was caught. Talk about CONFIDENCE. I’ve never been any higher than I was as I left that tournament. I was on top of the world. For a while.
I keep alluding to tournament angling, bit this confidence thing goes to all kinds of bass fishing. Having confidence will catch you more bass and help you make better decisions as quickly on a farm pond as it will on a large reservoir.
It takes time to get confident. Learning not to second guess yourself will make you a better and more successful angler. And trust me, that beautiful sunrise, sunset, full moon or whatever will be even more magnificent when you’re hoisting up a big ‘ole bass at the same time.
Here’s wishing you bloody thumbs. And palms. Especially palms.