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So you want to be a better fisherman?

By: Don


So you say you would like to be a better fisherman? If that's the case you are certainly in good company. The fishing tackle industry wouldn't be the multi-billion dollar business that it is today without its legions of customers to buy up their products promising to make them better fishermen. If things were that simple, we could all take a loan out and spend thousands of dollars on the best fishing equipment and all become professional anglers in no time at all. The truth is, it doesn't matter how much skill you have; having the most expensive fishing tackle does not make you the best fisherman. In my experience, the most successful fishermen have three things in their arsenal that no amount of money can buy. They have knowledge of their quarry, confidence in what they're using, and experience. In my order of importance, I believe the best thing a fisherman can hope to obtain is...

#1 - Knowledge of your quarry

Knowledge is power. Better yet, knowledge can empower you by knowing where to fish for what kind of fish. For example, I know that odds are I won't be catching my favorite fish, the smallmouth bass, in a farm pond. I have gone to great lengths to understand river dwelling smallmouth bass inside and out because I absolutely love catching smallies! My knowledge tells me that river smallies can be tough to find sometimes but once you do, odds are that you're going to have a honey hole for years to come. I know that smallmouth bass can often be caught in the same place year after year and that's why I can enjoy the fruits that my knowledge has sown.

Smallmouth bass are just a microcosm in the importance of fishing knowledge. If you really want to be a better fisherman, start with picking up a book about your favorite quarry. To know your favorite fish inside and out, know what it does and why it does it, what it eats and when it hunts it, and where it lives and when it lives there. Knowing those three things will go a VERY long way in making you a better fisherman.

#2 - Confidence in what you're using

Knowledge has brought you to a new fishing spot and experience tells you what lure to use for the situation, but the only thing between you and catching some fish is your confidence in the bait you choose. Having confidence in your rod, reel, and line are important as well but most of us make those choices before we get out on the water. It's the choices that we make when we're on the water that usually make the biggest difference and most notably are our choices in the lures we use. In my experience, confidence is truly the decisive factor when it comes to choosing which bait to use for any given situation. My confidence in a bait literally changes the way i fish with it for the better. I find that I fish the baits I have more confidence in more slowly, with much more patience, and far more effectively than a lure I have little confidence in.

Take crankbaits for example. Most people would say that they're a great lure and I would agree. Crankbaits can be the perfect searchbait when you want to find your quarry fast. Years ago, I absolutely hated crank baits because I felt like they didn't work for me. I had no confidence in them and as a result I didn't fish with them the proper way. I used to just toss them into any old body of water hoping I would catch something, anything. Now that I know what species I'm fishing for and where they're likely to be found, crankbaits have taken on an entirely new role in my tackle arsenal as my primary search bait. I typically throw a crank bait out when I'm wet wading in shallow water. I'm mainly looking for a reaction strike so that I can isolate potential spots where more smallies may be holding up. Once I find a likely hot spot with my crankbait, I will usually toss in a soft jerkbait like a Super Fluke Jr. This combination usually turns out to be a deadly 1-2 punch that smallies can't resist. Four of my favorite crankbaits can be seen in the picture below.

(The Lucky Craft Rick Clunn RC 1.5, the Bandit 100 and 200 Series, and the Strike King Bitsy Pond Minnow are my most beloved crankbaits)

My confidence lures are legion, but I would like to show you my best of the best when it comes to my favorite confidence baits. These are the baits I rely on day in and day out for my fishing needs and some of them are my go-to lures when absolutely nothing else can get me a bite. I have no doubt that you and I will share some of the same confidence baits because many of them are legendary for their effectiveness. Legendary lures don't become legendary by just looking pretty; they become legendary because they work!


(My favorite soft plastic baits)

These are my best of the best confidence soft plastic baits in no particular order:

1 - 3" Gary Yamamoto Senko
2 - 4" Gary Yamamoto Senko
3 - 5" Gary Yamamoto Senko
4 - Zoom Finesse Worm
5 - Zoom Trick Worm
6 - Zoom Super Fluke
7 - Zoom The Fluke
8 - Gary Yamamoto Flappin' Hog II
9 - Yum Craw Bug
10 - Gary Yamamoto Kreature
11 - Zoom Baby Brush Hog
12 - Strike King Coffee tube
13 - Venom Tube

(My favorite hardbaits)

These are my best of the best confidence hard plastic baits in no particular order:

1 - Terminator Tiny-T Spinnerbait
2 - Booyah Counter Strike Buzzbait
3 - Strike King Bitsy Pond Minnow - Ghost Minnow
4 - Lucky Craft Skeet Mini Series Crankbait
5 - Lucky Craft Rick Clunn Crankbait 0.5 deep diving
6 - Lucky Craft Rick Clunn Crankbait 1.5 deep diving
7 - Lucky Craft Rick Clunn Crankbait 1.5
8 - Bandit Lures Crankbaits - 100 Series
9 - Bandit Lures Crankbaits - 200 Series
10 - Bandit Lures Crankbaits - 300 Series
11 - Lucky Craft Bevyshad 75
12 - Lucky Craft Staysee 90SP
13 - War Eagle Finesse Spinnerbait
14 - Stanley Wedge Plus Accent Spinnerbait
15 - Lucky Craft Sammy 100
16 - Lucky Craft Sammy 85
17 - Megabass Vision X-70
18 - Megabass Trick Darter X-80
19 - Daiwa TD Minnow
20 - Lucky Craft Pointer 65
21 - Lucky Craft Pointer 78
22 - Lucky Craft Flashminnow 95 MR
23 - Yo-Zuri Pin's Minnow 2 3/4"
24 - Strike King Mini King
25 - Luck ''E'' Strike Rick Clunn's Trickster Spinnerbait
26 - Optimum Baits Furbit the frog
27 - Spro Frog 65
28 - Rapala Husky Jerk HJ06
29 - Rapala Husky Jerk HJ08
30 - Rapala X-Rap XR08
31 - Rapala Original F07
32 - Rapala Original F09
33 - Jointed Original Rapala F05
34 - Jointed Original Rapala F07
35 - Jointed Original Rapala F09
36 - Yo-Zuri Pin's Minnow 2"

These are the lures that work most effectively for me. I learned about how great these baits are and what colors are best to use from A LOT of trial and error. When I'm fishing for river Smallies my SUPREME go-to lure is the Zoom Super Fluke Jr. in the pearl white color. I can't begin to tell you how insanely effective this bait is in mid summer through early fall.

One of the most important things any angler can do is find what baits he or she has confidence in and build on that confidence with different uses and techniques. If you're a beginner, I would tell you to not concern yourself with the millions of different styles and techniques like drop shot or pitching and flipin just yet. Find the lures you are good with, build on your confidence and experience, and then when you're ready try to branch out into something new.

#3 - Experience

When I think about the word "experience" and how it pertains to this article I think about an old fisherman I know. I don't like this man at all and frankly there have been a few times when I almost whipped my G. Loomis across his face. He is ALWAYS in the same spot almost every time I see him when I'm at the Montour creek mouth. This old man knows from experience just as well as I do, that this spot is the best spot at the creek mouth. This fishing spot is right on a point that drops off into this bottomless super pit of Walleye, Sauger, and White bass just waiting to be caught. I swear this ridiculous old man just lives to hog this spot for the rest of his life. This old dude certainly seems to enjoy taunting us about how he's the only one who ever catches fish and how we all suck.

I recall one day after suffering the indignity of listening to this man's unintelligible ramblings while watching him catch 15 walleye to my 3, for once he said something that actually had some worth. He told me in a pathetic toothless babble, "I'll tell ya, 10% of people catch 90% of the fish!". After getting over my initial urge to whip him in the face with my fishing rod I realized that he was probably right. There were a lot of other people there that day now that I think about it, and him and I were the only ones who caught any fish. Maybe on that day he wasn't actually making fun of me like he usually does. Maybe that was his infinitely feeble attempt to compliment me about how we were the only two fisherman with any experience down there that day. We both know from experience where the best spot is and because of that we usually end up fishing right next to eachother. It's times like that when I wish I was less experienced...