The More You Know

THE SEARCH FOR KNOWLEDGE

In the popular Austin Powers series, Dr. Evil stated that his key to maintaining dominion over his evil empire by saying…..”I gotta have the innnnfoooo!” We have all heard the phrase that 90% of the fish are caught by 10% of the fishermen. I think knowledge and preparedness are the keys that separate successful anglers from those left frustrated and discouraged. 

Consider that you are a hunter who stalks big fish. Taking on a hunting mentality will help you in your pursuit of bass, especially the big ones. I am an avid bow hunter and I have found that the same principles that make me a better hunter also make me a better angler.

Similar to bow hunting, the only real disadvantage to fishing from a kayak is the range limitation. Even in the fastest models available, covering more than a few square miles effectively from your kayak is not feasible.  However, in both sports, the limitation can be the reward when used to challenge yourself. It forces you to work harder for results. Bow hunters must consider all the variables in order to get their quarry within range. Kayak anglers must gather information and learn to better predict fish behavior to overcome their range limitation.

Becoming a student of the science that defines the behavior and activity of a bass is a must.  Besides preparing you with information, pre-trip planning also has a psychological benefit. When you head out prepared, your positive mental attitude keeps you in the game longer. You expect to catch fish, so you fish harder, concentrate more, and are more aware of the factors that prevent you from succeeding. By acknowledging these factors you are better prepared to overcome them.

Teams that run out on the field prepared are amped because they know they are ready. They try harder and expect to win. Every yard gained builds that confidence and they become unstoppable. Fishing with this mindset is not arrogance or being cocky. It is having that “eye of the tiger” outlook and going out and making stuff happen.

It is the reason that 10 percent of the fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish. Fishermen who are “in the know” catch fish because they have stacked the variables in their favor. They have reduced the luck quotient substantially by arming themselves with knowledge.

Here are few sources of information that will help you prepare and give you that competitive advantage.

Magazine Articles

Magazine articles can be useful and insightful pieces of information. This is especially true for innovative lure or technique ideas. Outdoor writers routinely profile some of the very successful pros or newcomers that are making a name for themselves. These profiles aren’t riddled with useful information but there are usually one or two nuggets that are well worth the cover price.

Maximize the effectiveness of your investment by cataloging magazines for future reference. Keep the entire publication or remove the article that had the useful information and place it into a catalog and file it by species and then by presentation and/or season. This may seem anal and somewhat fanatical but it will routinely help you overcome a slump or dissect a fishery that you are having problems figuring out. Again, the effort is well worth the return on investment.

Concentrate on articles that are comprehensive and don’t just show you a bunch of fish that were caught without giving you the information to duplicate the experience. An informative piece should not just tell you what they caught or how, but also elaborate about why that particular presentation was used. Additionally, if several other less productive approaches were used to establish the pattern, this information is useful. The photography used in articles also provides keys that the writer may have left out. If the conditions were not covered, then take notice of any clues that may be gathered from the accompanying photos. Odds are these photos were taken at the same time the article was written and very shortly after the fish was caught. In some cases, however, you will figure out that the picture isn’t valid for the circumstances and you can discredit it altogether. Shadows that are too long for spring, foliage undergoing color change in a summer shot or other miscues can tip you off. Paying attention to these subtle details can be beneficial as well and shed light on the circumstances of the catch beyond what is written.

Instructional Videos

For years, I would pass these products on the shelf and thought that they were a waste of money. My first set of videos was purchased at a yard sale. After being blown away by how much useful information it contained, I have since used numerous series for supplementing my fishing education and understanding of different techniques and seasonal approaches. Instructional DVDs are yet another way to increase your understanding of particular presentation styles, how to employ specific techniques, and proper gear selection.

Fishing techniques are often about the subtleties and little adjustments that best translate by being able to see what the angler is doing. The professional anglers that make these DVDs are forthcoming with tips and techniques and give you a comprehensive look at the way they approach a particular presentation, species, or location. Of course you are paying for it, but if you pick up one valuable tip that puts more fish in the boat each time you are out, then it is well worth the price. Fishermen are generally optimistic towards their own fishing endeavors and skeptical of the tales of other anglers. Videos offer the advantage of “seeing is believing” and the added confidence can help you master a technique much more quickly. I have made it a point to ask friends while out on the water this question. Would you give a dollar to catch a fish right now? The response is usually, “Hell yeah, sheee-it ma-an, I would give ten!” If you think about it in these terms then these products are sound investments. You have already spent the money on your gear, gas, invested your time and headed out to the water. Place the odds in your favor to get maximum return. If you catch one extra fish per trip, the video quickly pays for itself.

In addition to traditional video options, on line video sharing has become a very effective method for sharing ideas and learning new techniques, presentations or just picking up a few pointers. These video seminars, or webisodes, allow short segments of larger projects to be shared quickly and in smaller portions. If you don’t have an hour or two to set aside for taking in an entire video, these webisodes are great for a quick fix to pick up easy to use tidbits. I personally share mine through the Kayak Bassin’ TV and KayakBassFishing Channels on YouTube.

Books

There is a ton of information available on the Internet, in magazines and through television. Books offer another source of information to improve your knowledge and understanding of a particular subject. The books in my fishing library have done more to fill in the gaps than any other medium and have accelerated my learning curve substantially. Because books tend to be more comprehensive, they help to develop a better understanding of the subject than articles.

Purchasing books designed for specific species is your best bet. Read about fish that share the same habitat as your target species. Knowing forage and predator species and their habits is sometimes as important as your primary game fish. Since the predator follows the prey, it is critical to understand their specific behavior and spawning habits and migratory tendencies.

I have been influenced by and adapted successful techniques from my favorite books, Big Bass Magic by Bill Murphy, Knowing Bass by Dr. Keith A. Jones, How Fish Work by Dr. Thomas J. Sholseth, and Bass Wisdom by Homer Circle. These books offer scientific insight and fishing tips in areas most fishermen never consider. In many cases, a friend lent me the book and I later bought my own copy to use as a reference.

I recommend adding these books to your library as references and as a supplement to the information that I will share with you in this book. My desire is to provide an exceptional reference guide that you will use for years and refer back to regularly. However, I will not be able to include everything you need to know. I use the books listed above in much the same way and hope to acknowledge their creative suggestions while offering additional suggestions to improve your success while fishing for bass from a kayak. My overall goal is to provoke thought and stimulate development of your own revelations and breakthroughs to help you continue down the road to becoming a better angler. As a supplement to the book, I created KayakBassFishing.com to continue to offer insights, have open dialogues and gather some of the best resources that I use into one location.

Seminars

Seminars conducted by local, regional and nationally recognized amateurs and professionals are a great venue for improving your understanding of a particular topic. Most offer question-and-answer sessions for you to get answers or at least discuss some of your most troubling dilemmas. I have had quite a few personal breakthroughs by bouncing my ideas off of professional anglers, charter captains, subject matter experts and outdoor writers. They are often receptive to discussing their ideas and potentially picking up a new idea from someone that attended their seminar. The revelation that you heard may very well have been a result of that speaker’s interaction with a member of a previous seminar. Engage your seminar provider and you will likely get more out of the experience and so will the other attendees.

I personally conduct several seminars each year. I enjoy the interaction and learn as much from the participants as I deliver in my presentation. I try to provoke thought instead of just giving a this-is-how-you-do-it monologue. I try to relate to the audience and help them understand how to catch more fish instead of telling them what to do.

I recommend volunteering as a speaker for your club events, meetings and other functions. Getting in front of a group of anglers of varied experience levels will help you evaluate your grasp of the subject matter. In my early attempts, I made absolute statements that were quickly rebutted by anglers in conversations afterwards. Those conversations helped me gain a better overall understanding of the subject matter. If you decide to volunteer as a guest speaker, ensure that you maintain an approachable demeanor and make yourself available afterwards for question and answers. The most valuable information exchange usually takes place during these sessions.

Tournaments and Demo Days

Placing tournaments and demo days in the same category will seem odd. As this sport evolves and manufacturers of fishing products attempt to get more exposure directed at kayak anglers, the tournament makeup may change. However, at this time, most kayak fishing tournaments are conducted for charities and the atmosphere is more about camaraderie and having fun than serious competition. I was fortunate to have participated in most of the early kayak-specific tournaments. To a certain degree, these early tournaments helped increase the visibility, awareness and credibility of kayak fishing as a serious sector of the fishing industry.

For kayak anglers just getting into the sport, attending a kayak fishing tournament is a great way to interact with other anglers of various experience levels. This will provide exposure to various rigging ideas, kayak models and accessories. A sport where the professionals and everyday anglers compete on the same playing field has drawn criticism from some, but it’s an advantage to the angler who wants to learn. In addition to learning about kayak specific knowledge, you will likely pick up some great fishing tips, tactics, lures and presentation ideas.

Demo days are traditionally a retailer’s opportunity to allow customers to try various models and find the boat that fits their particular needs, body type and paddling style. The frequent inquiries about fishing accessories, information and rigging ideas at these events has convinced retailers to include kayak fishing sections in their stores. They seek out members of the local kayak fishing community to come out and show off their rigging ideas and interact with customers while educating their staff members.

Retailers invite manufacturer representatives, offer discounts and provide free paddling clinics and fishing seminars. Demo days are excellent opportunities to try new models and check out new products even if you have been a kayak fisherman for some time. The interaction between customers, retailers and manufacturer representatives is essential for continued dialogue and innovation.

Entering a local tournament or attending a demo day is a great way to help improve your angling abilities, kayaking skills and represent the growth of the industry.

Online Resources

The Internet is a powerful tool for gathering information to improve your odds. The information available is mind boggling. Using this information to your advantage will increase your productivity. Here I describe the main sources of information on the Internet. I also include a thorough list of useful websites in the Reference section.

Discussion Forums

Discussion Forums are a valuable resource for all types of fishing. With the growth of kayak fishing, the forums are much more informative and useful to new fishermen than forums that cover fishing alone. These kayak fishing–specific forums offer valuable and specific information on almost every topic imaginable.

During the initial growth of kayak angling, discussion forums were the only real outlet for idea exchanges. In these early days, there was no flagship publication or periodical that covered the sport specifically and most major publications that profiled kayak fishing treated it as a novelty. Today several major publications have begun to profile the sport, along with numerous television shows that have incorporated kayak fishing into their broadcast format. Yet the Internet maintains its importance as these media outlets each use discussion forums to develop the basis for their content, to understand the needs of their target audience and to identify recurring topics that warrant coverage in their issues.

Discussion forums can be very informative sources and cover a variety of topics. These topics include subjects like kayak rigging, product reviews, local retailers, launch sites, weather, tide charts and fishing reports. Message boards dedicated to finding fishing partners or getting information about fishing a particular location are available. The use of discussion forums can easily save hours, if not days or weeks, of research time and will increase your chances for success once you make it out to the water.

The time spent reviewing topics or asking questions in these forums will be worth the time invested. The information is also archived in most cases. To get answers to frequently asked questions, new visitors to the site can perform a historical search and review previous discussions of their topic of interest. This prevents the forums from becoming cluttered with redundant questions and keeps the discussions open for exchange of new ideas and requests for information.

Fishing Reports

Fishing reports can be useful and provide excellent information for approaching a particular area or fishery. There are several important considerations when using fishing reports as the basis for developing your fishing strategy: the timeframe the information covers; the frequency of the report; the size of the region; the number of species covered; and the reliability of the source.

A great source of information is a regional website that has links to fishing reports from previous years. Generally, fishing reports are covering events that have already happened and therefore may be of no value of your next fishing trip. So I prefer to review archived information or fishing reports that I saved from previous years to help decided what areas and presentations to fish. This allows you to use fishing reports like an almanac. By going back and reviewing the previous year’s reports from the month after you are fishing, you are likely to identify patterns and locations that will produce in your current situation. However, it is important to consider the weather trends, temperature, water temp, rainfall, barometric stability/instability and seasonal progression as they relate to the previous year. I try to convert “fishing reports” into “catching reports” by filtering out useful information and discarding the rest.

Aerial Photography, Maps and Charts, Bathymetry

There are lots of options for maps, charts and aerial photography. The best advice that I can provide is to use them. The best one to use is the one that you can access easily, is user-friendly and affordable. Several companies offer commercially available map, chart and aerial photography software and there is a plethora of websites available with free material or content for purchase. I have used Garmin products almost exclusively for years and have found their usability, features, reliability and customer service to be topnotch compared to other products I have tried. Services such as Google Earth, Map Quest and Live Search are excellent resources for exploring and dissecting your fishing grounds. The web address of each of these is provided in the Reference Section.

The benefits of using this information are saving time and gathering an understanding of the area you intend to fish before you head out. You can also refer back to the information after each trip and compare success rates with prominent features and work to establish better patterns and future predictability. Using your fishing journal in conjunction with research and post-trip assessments will increase your likelihood of success for future trips and accelerate your learning curve.

Bathymetry information is probably the most useful yet hard-to-find information available. It is basically the underwater version of topography. Most available sources are expensive and many of them sell outdated and hard-to-use information. More and more software companies are offering versions of this information and affordability and quality are improving. Most websites have a sample version that will allow you to view very small portions of a particular location. An inexpensive yet time-consuming option is to print out the free samples and piece them together. I have done my fair share of that. State departments of fisheries websites usually offer some form of this information for the locations that they manage. Smaller bodies of water may or may not have this information available. With a little research, a few phone calls, an Internet search or visit to a local tackle shop, you can find some form of bathymetric data. I use the National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) website and Free Geography Tools for most of my research. Refer to the Reference section for their websites.

Most of this information is now available free in one form or another online. I used the website Angling Technologies (www.findyourwater.com) for several years to make compiling this information very simple. It makes most other mapping software products that I have purchased in the past nearly obsolete. However, purchased software is still useful for accessing information when fishing in a remote area or on a trip where Internet access might be a problem. This is especially useful if conditions change and you are forced to reevaluate your game plan. More recently, I have began using what I consider the most effective tool for hunting and fishing that I have found yet. That resource is ScoutLook Weather (www.scoutlookweather.com) and whether you hunt, fish or enjoy multiple outdoor activities, ScoutLook offers an unparalleled set of tools and features.

Putting it All Together

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

—President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

It is not practical to expect to use every bit of information that you gather before you head out or that everything will go according to plan. However, by going through the process and making yourself aware of the variables, you are poised to better respond to changes and diversify your approach when your preconceived plan of attack didn’t produce.

If you do not go through the process and put in the time to make a fishing plan, you are putting all your eggs in one basket. After several hours of no fish, you will be scratching your head with no plan for salvaging the trip. Additionally, you will not gather valuable information for future trips. Figuring out a pattern with only a portion of the trip remaining is a success in itself. That experience becomes a reference and it will be part of that sixth sense that tells you to go to that presentation sooner when that set of conditions presents itself again. This is especially true if you take great notes, do a post-trip analysis and compare your data to other available information.

I hope these recommendations help provide a little insight into being better prepared so that you are more successful on future outings. Feel free to drop comments and suggestions for anything that I may have overlooked.

Now get out there and HOOK 1!

– Chad

 

This excerpt was taken from Kayak Bass Fishing by Chad Hoover

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