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Evaluation and Goals: the 50-fish rule and the 20-fish rule

by: David Harrison 10/30/2013

I will focus on walleye but bass require somewhat of the same process. 

Walleye react to six major presentations:   jigging, trolling crankbaits, trolling spinners, lindy rigging, slip bobbers, and bottom bouncers.  How well do you recognize when to use these tactics and how good are you at executing a plan for each of these tactics?

The 50-fish rule is a goal I made up while fly fishing.  If you haven't caught 50 fish using a dry fly, nymph rig, or streamer you do not fully understand the tactic.  I remember starting to nymph in a small stream with many hungry trout and in three days I added up my 50 fish.  I took my new skills to a much tougher stream and although I didn't slay them, I knew my right from wrong and I for sure knew what a strike looked like when I saw one.  Same goes for each of the above tactics (for bass, add drop shot, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and other lure types).

For walleye I realized that I had not caught my 50 fish trolling suspended spinner rigs, bottom bouncers, or slip bobbers.  Two years ago I booked a trip with Tightline Outdoors to learn susended spinners and I had every intention of using them this year but failed to put them on even once (I did use them on other boats this year, just not mine).  I did pull bottom bouncers twice (no luck) and did catch two walleye on slip bobbers at Pueblo in the brush.  I was successful developing a system for Lindy Rigging Soft Plastics (like Berkley Gulp!) that hopefully will be covered in the magazines next year so it isn't like I spent all year leaning on my crutches. 

The other rule is the 20-fish rule.  It applies to each technique but on a daily basis---have I ever caught 20 fish in a day using a single tactic?  This brings in decision making, boat control, retrieve control, lure choice, mental focus, and many other details to light.  My best day rigging has been 36, my best day jigging has been 25, and my best day trolling for walleye was 12 (but that was in 3 hours).  Usually a day for me is 5 to 6 hours as I don't get out for a full day that often. 

You could extend these rules for ice fishing, tip-ups, shore fishing, fly fishing, and for seasons. How many bass have you caught on beds?  How many trout have you caught while sight fishing?

By running these two evaluations, it is clear that I need to pack the spinners and slip bobbers much more often next year.  I updated my spinner tackle from JT Custom Tackle and will spend the winter tying spinner rigs.  The slip bobbers also involve anchoring skills that I used a couple of times this year but not enough.  Maybe I need to put new slip bobber rods on my Christmas list.  I am sure a 7' Fenwick would fit under the tree.

Thill Pro Bobbers with the brass grommet at the top are my favorites, but I need to use them more.
The JT Custom Tackle Mr. Freeze color worked wonders at Pueblo this year (on Wiper).
Blog content © David Harrison
Member comments
Opry99er, CO   10/30/2013 6:16:07 PM
A very cool article. Spincasting Panthers up in Clear Creek, I have both hit the 50 fish rule and 20 fish rule many times over. Trolling Panthers in a rubber raft up in high-elevation lakes I have hot both the 50 fish rule and 20 fish rule many times over... However, that's about the extent of my trout fishing, to be honest with you... I've become comfortable with a particular style of fishing BECAUSE of those rules and how easily I hit the mark using my particular methods... Perhaps I should seek to expand by achieving the 50 and 20 marks on every possible method of fishing for those brooks and browns up in the creeks and lakes... Fly fishing dries, fly fishing nymphs, using big jerkbaits, spoons, etc... An interesting challenge, to be sure. =) Thanks for the blog!
 
opencage, CO   10/31/2013 11:10:05 AM
As a teacher I definitely appreciate measurable goals and assessments, even for fishing. Based on the 50 & 20 rules I have a lot of learning to do, heck regardless of them I have a lot of learning to do. Good blog. I'll think about these rules when I set goals for myself as I'm sure they've made you and could make me a better angler.
 
David Harrison
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