Anglers often settle into a rut, or at least a pattern that can be detrimental to catching at times. I see this on the forum when folks are frustrated that their spot or method isn’t producing like it they think it should.
I’d like to say this doesn’t happen to me, but it frequently does. In large part I believe figuring out a pattern is one of the keys to catching lots of fish. The downside to patterns is we, or at least I do, remember old patterns and often try those techniques/areas first before trying to match methods to the current conditions.
A second issue anglers, including me, sometime fall into is a herd mentality. Simply, it worked (notice the past tense) for someone at some time so it should work for me. That thinking is loved by lure manufactures, as everyone wants the “hot” bait. The downside is that before long everyone is fishing the same fish in the same areas with the same techniques.
Last night’s mini bass tournament drove home why breaking away from the norm, such as fishing your favorite spot, pattern, or tried and true techniques, especially if the crowd is doing the same can be a winning strategy.
Thanks to the draw I was one of the last boats out, and as such I was aware that most, if not all, of my favorite bass holding waters would be fished before I had a shot at them. Given I fly fish, I know my techniques are enough different that I often don’t think about technique as much as I should.
Jim my non-boater suggested we head the opposite direction of the other boats and fish a section of water that I knew would hold a few fish, but I didn’t consider it prime bass. I agreed, in part, because I know that having a section of water to oneself is often better than competing head on with everyone else.
I managed the first bass using my standard techniques, which ultimately was unfortunate, as it reinforced my view that my method was working (partially true). Especially as my experience suggested under the conditions (hot water) fishing slow and deep (pack mentality) was the way to go. Jim however had a different idea and went almost exclusively to top water baits.
I was surprised how effective top water was and by the time I switched over I wasn’t able to make it work for me. Oh, I got hits, and like Jim, I lost a few on top water, but unlike Jim I wasn’t able to boat a fish during the short period I worked a crease fly, whereas, Jim managed enough fish to take first place. Although, I wasn’t unhappy with my third place finish given I blanked on the last three outings, I also know that sticking to my “guns” cost me.
Simply, fishing away from the pack with unique techniques was the winning combination for Jim. Had I changed up sooner, maybe I’d of done better, then again maybe not. Regardless, I learned a lot last night, which is why I love tournament fishing. At the end of the day, you get to compare your choices with those of your fellow anglers. If you come out on top, great, you made the best choices that day. Most times you won’t finish first, but you still win, in that you get to see the results of others' choices and can use that information to improve your fishing skills.
For me, anytime I can end the day with a bit more fishing knowledge, I’m a winner.