“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.”
That was the advice of Jessie Potter, the featured speaker at the seventh annual Woman to Woman conference held in 1981, according to Quote Investigator.
This line of thought can be applied to most any facet of life, including fishing.
No matter what species one pursues, in freshwater or salt, in flowing waters or impounded, there comes a time when you reach the end of your own limited ability. If you choose to remain there, future improvement will be stymied.
So, how do you go about intentionally avoiding a rut once you realize you are headed toward one or are already hemmed in?
In my own experience, searching out those who are successfully accomplishing what I desire to accomplish has been a sure-fire approach to personal improvement.
Even though I make my living as a full-time guide, I specifically set aside two weeks each year to fish with other full-time, professional fishing guides. Although catching fish during these trips is great, I only consider that icing on the cake, with my primary goal being in-depth discussion about why we are doing what we are doing.
Sometimes I connect with guides who fish similar species and bodies of water, other times I seek out those who ply their trade in environments and for species totally dissimilar to the ones I focus on.
This approach has led me to adventures on Flaming Gorge Reservoir, Utah, to vertical jig for 30-pound lake trout, to Queensland, Australia, to fish heavy metallic spoons for suspended Australian bass in Lake Borumba and Lake Somerset, to the Kenai River in Alaska to fish for multiple species of trout and salmon, and more.
However, the destinations need not be world-famous nor expensive to help me improve as an angler.
One of the best lessons I ever received about fishing live shad for hybrid was given to me by professional, full-time Dallas/Fort Worth area fishing guide Roger Gray, the originator of the GrayLine Bait Tank.
I simply called him up and asked if I could buy him dinner and pick his brain. He said he would be glad to help if he could, and the date was set. I prepared a list of questions which I emailed to him ahead of time so he could be prepared for me.
We sat and talked for over two hours at a burger joint in Hillboro and enjoyed one another’s company while I absorbed decades of bait-fishing wisdom it would have taken many years to learn by trial-and-error had I stubbornly, pridefully decided I was going to do it on my own, or not at all.
I got a similar lesson, this one on-the-water, from Chattahoochee impoundment fishing guide Tommy Mike of LaGrange, Georgia, when I lived there, this time on fishing bucktail jigs for largemouth, white bass, spotted bass and hybrid stripers.
On the flip side, I routinely accept invitations to lunch by others seeking input on some of the disciplines at which I do well, including the use of sonar in fishing deep, open water, and catching white bass in southeastern and southwestern reservoirs.
Very often the voices on the other end of the line are well-intentioned fathers or mothers whose sons or daughters have gotten involved in competitive high school bass fishing. These dads and moms want so badly for their kids to do well, but are either not themselves anglers or do not have the experience to help their own children develop.
I encourage them to come up with a list of questions to help guide our discussion. As we meet, my answers to these questions spawn more questions. I have never had one of these meetings end with the folks I met with going away disappointed.
Once upon a time, a team of competitive, amateur bass anglers hired me to show them how I fished slabs vertically in deep water for white bass, because I had shared that while doing so, I routinely boated quality largemouth bass.
The men came out excited and full of great questions. They were keen observers and picked up on nuances many anglers would never notice. When our morning on the water was over, they both thanked me heartily, confident that they had just made an investment in their own fishing future.
As I have mentioned previously in this column, there are times when, as anglers, we just do not know what to do nor what to try in order to improve on results that we personally consider unsatisfactory.
Many anglers will just resort to doing what they have always done and “push through it” or “knuckle down,” which, loosely interpreted means “keep doing what doesn’t work until it works again sometime in the future.”
So, here is a test for you. If you were fishing and saw a nearby angler doing quite well while you were struggling, what, if anything, would keep you (from a courteous distance, or back at the boat ramp) from asking, “Would you mind sharing what you were using to catch those fish, and how you were using it?”
Whatever that “thing” is that would keep you from asking that question is the very thing that ensures you will not progress beyond where you now are in your own abilities.
Perhaps 2021 will be the year your fishing improves as you overcome obstacles like this to intentionally pursue improvement.