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The Art of Angling

By Meagan Russell
In Fishing with Kenny
Dec 4th, 2020


In the past few years, I have been asked to captain high school fishing teams in their local tournaments.  As a captain I can drive the boat and, if need be, run the trolling motor while the kid’s fish.  It’s something I enjoy doing and each time I have participated I have ended the day with a very positive impression of the young anglers I have shared the boat with.  The future of our sport is in great hands. 

Fishing has always been an individual sport.  Even if you are sharing the boat with your buddy or fishing a team event with your team partner, your results are based on what you, as an angler, are doing. With the introduction of high school and college fishing teams I see more and more young people on the water.  Each time the opportunity presents itself, no matter if I am in a local tackle store or on a body of water, I try to offer advice and words of encouragement to the younger anglers. 

While I had quite a few fishing influences growing up, most of my identity as an angler was developed by spending many hours fishing alone. I won my first tournament when I was sixteen and the fire to improve as an angler still burns almost 40 years later.  If I only knew then all the tricks and tweaks that I know now but for this month’s Bayou Life article, I thought I would share my ideas on how to become a better angler. 

Before I start on my list, I want to emphasize that becoming a good fisherman has nothing to do with luck.  It is a sport that can be learned and mastered, and your results will be reflected on the amount of work you put in.  Anyone can win a tournament, but can you win two or three.  Anyone can win Angler of the Year, but can you do it multiple times?  Luck has very little to do with consistent successes. 

Here are some things I believe anyone who is trying to become a better angler can use to improve their angling abilities. No matter if you are a young person trying to compete in high school or college events or someone a little older who is just picking up the sport, these suggestions are based on years of on the water experience and will help you better enjoy the sport.
LEARN TO PROPERLY USE YOUR EQUIPMENT. No matter if it’s a new reel you are trying to throw or just trying to get the feel of a trolling motor you put on your boat.  Take the time to understand how it works.  Once you do this you will get the most out of your equipment making your days on the water much easier.  Today’s young anglers are so good with their electronics they forget about some of the basic concepts of the sport.  For example, one of the things I see in young anglers is a need to work on their casting accuracy. 

STUDY THE SPORT, BE OPEN MINDED AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS. What took me years to learn, now can be learned in a matter of a few days or hours because of the technology we have.  YouTube has more “how to” fishing videos than you could ever imagine and a lot of them are very good with the information and explanations.  However, nothing in this sport is an absolute so keeping an open mind while on the water is something that comes with experience.  In bass fishing the question “Why?” should always be in the back of your mind.  Why was that fish under that dock?  Why did they stop biting once it started raining?  But don’t be afraid to ask. 

DEVELOP YOUR OWN STYLE AND WAYS YOU LIKE TO DO THINGS. I am a shallow water fisherman.  I can fish deep and have won numerous events doing so but I prefer to fish in water less than five feet deep.  It is where I am comfortable.  I have learned to apply big fish lures and tactics to the shallower areas of a lake and have been quite successful doing so.  I fished with arguably the best deep-water angler, the late Glynn Blankenship, that ever launched a boat in this area.  While our styles were completely different, we both became much better anglers by learning each other’s tricks in our respective areas of expertise. 

KEEP GOOD RECORDS AND NOTES OF EACH FISHING TRIP YOU TAKE. Fishermen are good at a lot of things but remember specific details isn’t one of them.  I have been keeping records of my tournaments going back almost thirty years.  I list the lake, the time of year, what I caught, how I caught them and what the result of the day was.  I will also list things I should have done different, lures I should have tried and if possible, how the winning fish were caught.  Earlier I mentioned asking questions;  you don’t want to ask for specific information, just try to get enough information to get a general idea. 

Instead of asking what color spinnerbait someone was throwing, ask about the blade combination. Instead of asking about a particular area, ask them if the fish were caught shallow or deep.  General questions, not specific questions, will get you more information.  Once you get this information then you can do a better job of assessing your day on the water. 

SPEND AS MUCH TIME AS YOU CAN ON THE WATER AND FISH AS MANY DIFFERENT LAKES AS POSSIBLE. There are no shortcuts, no magic lures, or secret spots.  You can’t depend on your buddy to put you on the right fish to do well, you must fish and a lot of times it will be alone.  One of my proudest accomplishments as a tournament angler is that I have won tournaments on twenty different lakes.  

Fishing as many lakes as I have over the years is experience that is an advantage I don’t take lightly.  These experiences have allowed me to make quicker on the water adjustments, as well as allowing me to become more focused when trying to figure out what the bass are doing on a particular day.  There is no substitute for experience. 

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR ABILITIES. Bass fishing, especially tournament bass fishing, is the most humbling sport in the world. It is every bit as difficult as hitting a major league fastball.  You are trying to make a creature, that you usually can’t see, hit an artificial lure while you take into consideration the weather, the time of year, the type of lake you are on, not to mention the other variables you will take into consideration.  All this just so you can take a creature out of his underwater world and bring him into yours.  It’s no easy task but always believe you can do it. Confidence will always be the best lure in your boat. 

Well, it looks like we have run out of time again for another month.  I sure hope we were able to share some information that will help you become a better angler. Keep a positive attitude, your lure wet and good things will happen!  Be careful in the woods and if you are on the water catch one for me, and I will see you next month! 

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