Confidence in your angling ability grows with experience. Great fishermen don’t leave the dock without it. Here are three surefire ways to jumpstart your confidence’s growth.
It was not the kind of day most people would be ecstatic to go fishing. The morning was dank and gray, with a light overcast out, diminishing any hopes of sighting redfish from above. The cold bit at exposed fingertips as we made our way down Reggio Canal in an aluminum flatboat, which, given its metal interior and gray coloring, contributed to the sensation of cold and lifelessness that proliferated across the horizon. It was February, the time of year most people stay home, unknowing how to tackle the shallow and dirty water of the marsh. But not I. I knew how to, only after spending countless man hours chasing my quarry in virtually every kind of condition. And it was this morning that I knew I was going to crush the redfish.
I brought the boat off plane with our first spot just ahead. Dropping the trolling motor and climbing into the stand I readied my rod and reel. It was time to smash redfish!
That fishing trip was special to me because it was the first time I had fished that area for reds. Typically, when I launch out of Reggio to sightfish I run to stalk places as far away as Lake Calebasse. This time I decided to stay close and it was the first time I had fished that marsh near the launch. Despite the 15 knot north winds and low, dirty water I was confident we were going to see and catch redfish…and we did!
We found redfish right away. Nobody told me to go to that particular spot, I merely selected it off of Google Maps on my cell phone. It just looked “good” based off my previous experiences fishing for reds. Some other spots looked “good” as well but did not yield any fish. When this happened, I kept my head in the game, re-evaluated and then moved on, eventually finding more fish. I was confident. I knew I was going to get the redfish I was looking for.
The best feeling in the world is launching the boat knowing you are going to accomplish your goals. This kind of confidence is only had after years of fishing the marsh and utilizing good practices. Here are three of those I know will set you on the path to becoming a more confident angler.
KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT INSIDE AND OUT
The most confident anglers are familiar with their equipment; everything from each lure and its presentation to where the spare propeller is located and how to change it out. They understand features on the equipment and how it best serves their needs.
Knowing is critical. A fisherman who understands his equipment is empowered. How can you confidently navigate the marsh if you don’t know how to change out a propeller with a spun hub? You can’t.
Make a list of things you don’t know how to do, then use the search function on this website and the Internet to learn them. Here are some examples to get you started:
Do you know all of the menu functions of your GPS and depthfinder?
Do you have a VHF radio? Do you have all pertinent channels programmed and/or memorized?
Do you have spares for all critical items? e.g. spare boat plug, spare fuses, extra propeller, etc.
Is all of your life saving gear present and in serviceable condition?
Do you understand the various drag and braking functions on your reels?
When was the last time you took all of the twist out of your fishing line and re-tied your knots?
When I can’t go fishing I will take time to familiarize myself with equipment and techniques. I’m really just practicing. This way, when I do launch the boat, I am spending my time actually fishing, not learning something I could have done at home.
I have a couple trips to Lake Okhissa planned this spring. I know my pitching and flipping game isn’t that strong, so during my breaks I practice pitching into a five gallon bucket in the backyard. I am getting better and will be prepared to give those bass a hard time!
The more time you spend on the water equals the more experience you will gain and, consequently, the more confidence you will garner through eventual success. Being out there, trying new techniques and catching fish by doing so is how one reaches new zeniths of confidence.
However, not all of us can fish 3-4 days a week. Few people do! Maybe you fish once a month, and that is okay. The point is you should fish as often as you can, even if the conditions are poor. So the water is low, cold and dirty? That’s a great time to learn how to fish those conditions. Imagine, if you went out there and caught fish you would become ten times more confident because you defeated some of the nastiest conditions known to inshore anglers!
Waiting for “perfect” conditions to go fishing is nothing more than cheating yourself. You lose out on the opportunity to gain new experiences, improve your fishing skills and, subsequently, build your confidence.
Don’t ever give up when you are fishing. When you walk out because things are not going as expected you have committed yourself to failure. It is a nasty mindset that can offer itself to other parts of your life; never set aside your goals. Do what it is you set out to do. When you eventually beat all the odds you will create a growing confidence in yourself and your ability to get on a great bite.
STOP DOING THE SAME THING
It was somewhere I once read that “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.” Wondering if people ever judged me to be insane, I have become a strong believer in doing new things within the realm of inshore fishing. In Episode 5 of our Inshore Interviews podcast our guest, Lou Da Fish, speaks continually of always being open to new ideas by trying new lures, tactics and techniques.
One day you may grow tired of fishing and it won’t be because you have conquered the sport. Instead, it will be because you never rose to new challenges. Most people spend their fishing pastime using the same tackle, going to the same spots and producing menial results. When they stop catching, they grow wearisome, go home and find something else to do. The fire inside them subsides and the passion doesn’t glow as brightly as it once did. But, if they were to change their experience by going to a new area or finding a new way to catch the fish they love (likesightfishing for redfish) that fire would be rekindled and burn anew. The experience of catching a fish in a new area or with a new technique is like re-living the discovery of fishing all over again.
With this in mind, if you are used to fishing Hopedale, then try Cocodrie. Louisiana has so many options for inshore anglers, hence why it is called “Sportsman’s Paradise.”
Try using a new lure. The time to do it is when you are on a great bite. Go with something radically different. Toss a hard bait like a MirrOlure if your fishing trips primarily see soft plastics adorning a jighead. If you have never thrown a topwater then do so on the next day you have clear and smooth water.
For years I primarily used braided line and grew accustomed to its superb sensitivity. I could feel everything on the end of that line. Yet, I observed the top anglers in Lake Pontchartrain using monofilament for jigging. That and after much cajoling from Jamie Mumphrey I finally switched one of my baitcasters over to monofilament. Weeks later, on a great trout bite in Delacroix, I used that rod to practice feeling the trout bite, setting the hook and manage drag settings. I’m more than ready to chase trout on the Trestles this spring!
Using different techniques is just as important as trying new areas and tossing different lures. Steady retrieves are a given, but shouldn’t be used all the time. Try jigging the your favorite soft plastic instead. It may very well be that speckled trout want to see a jig-jig-glide along the bottom of the water column rather than a standard retrieve above their heads. Experimentation is key and your confidence will soar when you start boating fish next to people who are not.
Above all, don’t psyche yourself out. Letting a bad day of fishing get to you is poison for your mindset. Consider it a learning curve then bounce back, ready to tackle another day on the water. Your mindset is the most important tool you have in the tackle box. Build your confidence, have a great attitude and it will show in your fishing endeavors when you produce great results!