Fishermen are always looking for ways to expand their knowledge. We read, listen, observe, discuss, theorize, hypothesize, and otherwise obsess over how to catch more and bigger fish, which will presumably happen if we can only increase our knowledge. It is a never-ending drive for those of us who have, for better or worse, dedicated our existence to the pursuit of fish. After all, if fishing knowledge was finite, what the hell would we do with the rest our lives?
Not long ago, ESPN ran an add campaign depicting knowledge as a large, hairy ball with a personality of its own that followed you around, apparently so the rest of the world could actually see the sheer size of your knowledge. ESPN went so far as to promise to grow your knowledge, in this case of sports, by watching Sportcenter. You could then go to the local bar and display your newly swollen knowledge to your friends. While this might be a bit out there, the premise that your personal knowledge is forever growing and changing is a good one. Just be glad that your knowledge isn’t a beast that follows you around for all the world to see because here in the New Millennium where size definitely counts, some of us would be seriously image conscious.
In angling, there are several kinds of knowledge in play. Some are more helpful than others when its time to catch fish. For instance, local knowledge is invaluable for finding fishing spots, which certainly helps in catching fish. If you know how to navigate the lake, that helps, too. But why then are most big money derbies won by out-of-towners? Well, its because knowledge in and of itself is of limited value. It’s the application of said knowledge that puts fish in the boat. These days, anglers have many sources of local knowledge. There are no secret spots. So it comes down to the angler that can apply that knowledge to the current conditions who will win the dough.
Knowledge can be first hand, but more often, it is second hand gleaned from any number of sources. Hang around any fishing counter or dock and sooner or later someone will regurgitate some tidbit of fishing knowledge that you think you can use to load the boat. Fishermen need to be wary of second hand knowledge however, because the guy relaying it may withhold or warp pertinent details maliciously or otherwise. In a subculture famous for lying, taking advice is risky at best. Second hand knowledge will speed up your learning curve, but it needs to be seasoned liberally with your own first hand knowledge to taste right. And if the source is soured, no amount of mixing will make the tip applicable.
Books, magazines, and especially fishing reports, are common sources of second hand knowledge. But even this information, made credible by the print media, is to be taken with caution. After all, Ben Franklin said he refused to read the newspaper because he’d “rather be ignorant than misinformed”. When it comes to fishing reports, this little gem of wisdom can definitely be taken to heart.
The credibility of the source is often perceived knowledge. That guy doing demonstrations on the Hawg Trough at your local sporting expo might not know any more about catching fish than you do, but you perceive him to be a genuine expert because he’s on stage and thus file his words and theories in your knowledge folder to be applied the next time you dunk a bait. In reality, the only thing you can be sure of is that he knows more about fishing shows than you. And that may not even be true.
The best type of knowledge is, without a doubt, first hand – or actual – knowledge. Actual knowledge is something you learned through personal observation. It takes time, years in most cases, to build a solid angling foundation of actual knowledge. Some learn faster than others, due in part I suppose to superior powers of observation. In a cruel twist of fate to fisherman who compete against them, anglers who grow their actual knowledge quickly seem to be able to apply it well, too.
When soaking up new knowledge, a fisherman is well served to check the new information against common knowledge. Common knowledge is essentially knowledge of the masses. It is a congruency among all the data. For instance, bass move shallow to spawn in spring. Every bass fisherman knows that and therefore any insight that includes related information without contradiction can at least be taken into consideration. Common knowledge is the building block upon which you pile actual knowledge.
The road to enlightenment, or at least the fishy mother lode, is paved with common knowledge, navigated with local knowledge, and traveled with application. Actual knowledge gets you around the potholes of misinformation.
So the bass guy at Tacklerama tells you to fish in shallow sheltered water on Lake X in spring. You should combine that with the common knowledge that bass spawn on such banks, and the local knowledge that they do this in May in your area. Apply this tip with an appropriate lure based on your actual knowledge, and you might just get lucky.
And getting lucky is what we all think will happen… if we can just grow our knowledge.
About the author, Chad LaChance: Known as Fishful Thinker, Chad LaChance is a professional fishing guide, author, and instructor based in Fort Collins, Colorado. He is the host of "Fishful Thinker TV" on Altitude Sports Channel and guest host and weekly contributor on FM102.3 and FM 105.5 "ESPN Outdoors". Chad is a seminar speaker at various consumer shows including the International Sportsmenís Expo, a columnist for Sportsman's News, and a field editor for FishExplorer.com. Equally at home with fly or conventional tackle, he has been featured in the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Fishing & Hunting News, Western Outdoor News, The Coloradoan and others. Fishful Thinker is proud to be sponsored by Sportsmanís Warehouse, Toyota Trucks, Pedersen Toyota, St. Croix Rod, Evinrude, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Camp Chef, Ranger, Lowrance, Bullhide 4x4, Fuel Off-Road, Costa, and Crowley Marine. Contact Chad