It is New Year’s Day. No doubt you are already eating well, exercising regularly and have long ago sworn off all your bad habits. So why not focus on fishing when it comes to making a few New Year’s resolutions?
These next few suggestions will go a long way toward making you a better angler in the span of the next year, if you are diligent about pursing them. Pick just one or pursue them all. Let’s get started. ...
RESOLUTION No. 1: I resolve to keep a detailed, written log of my fishing successes and failures.
If you have ever visited my website (www.HoldingTheLineGuideService.com) or Facebook page (Facebook.com/BobMaindelle), you will find at the bottom of my detailed fishing reports a concise summary of the conditions I faced on a given fishing trip, the success I enjoyed, where that success was had and any other items of note.
The data I include in each “snapshot” are: date, start time, end time, starting ambient air temperature, water surface temperature, wind speed and direction, percentage of cloud cover, results (fish caught) and location (based on the GPS coordinates of waypoints I place on the areas I fish using the chartplotter feature of my sonar unit). Other items of note include statements like “saw first sunfish in the shallows today” or “first gulls of the season arrived today,” etc.
By starting such a log, you will be able to refer back to a given time of year at that time of year in the future and build on past successes.
I now have a 25-year database with over 3,700 entries covering everything from floods to drought, and from 14-degree mornings to 109-degree afternoons. Rarely do I encounter conditions that I have not encountered and taken note of in the past. This helps me to be successful.
RESOLUTION NO. 2: I resolve to choose one body of water and fish it exclusively.
Because we are blessed with multiple, productive bodies of water to choose from here in Central Texas, it is tempting after experiencing a bad day on the water to “go somewhere else” in hopes of finding better fishing.
As the saying goes, “Even a blind sow finds an acorn now and then.” Yes, you will occasionally happen into some good fishing by skipping around to various lakes or by chasing the latest reports on the various fishing websites out there. But there is no substitute for having the confidence that comes with experience, and experience is had by putting time in and searching out fish-holding cover and bottom features and then getting a bait down there and observing what happens next.
Fishing one body of water for one year in all manner of conditions will make you a better angler.
RESOLUTION NO. 3: I resolve to go fishing with a professional guide.
I’ve taken at least one guided trip per year every year since I graduated from college 25 years ago. I do not regret a single one, nor did I fail to pick up some tip or tactic or tidbit that I was able to apply to my own fishing upon my return home.
When you go with a guide, do your homework and go with someone who excels at something at which you do not. If you are a great soft plastic angler, but you just cannot seem to catch fish in deep water on a slab, then do some research and find someone who is good at that. Then find out what time of year is best for learning that technique and communicate your intentions to the guide.
As a guide, when someone tells me they want to learn a particular skill during their trip, I will often fish differently in trying to accomplish that for the client versus how I would go about conducting the trip were the goal simply to catch fish.
RESOLUTION No. 4: I will take the time to learn to use my sonar unit better.
Other than occasionally fishing for surface-feeding fish that I have visually located, I simply don’t fish for fish that I haven’t verified the presence of on sonar first.
Modern sonar is an incredibly effective fish-finding tool, yet most anglers barely scratch the surface on putting sonar’s full potential to use.
The first step in getting better with sonar is separating your fishing from your sonar education. I suggest that you dedicate several on-the-water sessions this upcoming year to “playing” with the buttons and variables on your sonar unit while not in pursuit of fish.
Take along a rod rigged with a ¾- or 1-ounce bell sinker so you can let it down directly under the boat and get your unit dialed in to watch it rise and fall in the water column in up to 40 feet of water.
Adjust things like sensitivity, color line, surface clutter, noise rejection, contrast, etc., and, as you do, just study the screen and what happens when you make those adjustments. This will be infinitely more helpful than watching videos online or reading the owner’s manual.
Next, drive over a bed of hydrilla, and then over a boat ramp, and then over some standing timber, all so you know what it looks like both on your colored sonar screen and on your down- and side-imagingscreens.
If you are just starting off with your first sonar unit, ask a buddy who is good at using sonar to help you understand what is going on, or ask around at your local tackle shop for a recommendation on someone to help you out.