Can you believe that your success on the water as an angler is often tied directly into your mental habits and normative psychological behavior? How you are wired to think and react and your approach to fishing do impact your ability to catch fish?
To grow and improve as an angler, it’s important to have a few select traits when it comes to your personal fishing psychology.
Do not target “whatever is biting.” In a number of angler surveys conducted by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, interviewed parties are asked what they are fishing for. One of the most popular answers is, “Anything,” or, “Whatever is biting.”
This response usually comes from the most casual of anglers and accompanies empty catch and harvest entries. If you hit the water without a plan of what you will fish for, where that species is found seasonally and what the best presentation is to use, you are blindly tossing a dart at a target and are likely to miss badly.
Do you have a favorite lure? One that seems like it never fails and always catches fish? Then you have your confidence bait.
It’s something that you’ve fished effectively and believe in, each of which goes together in yin and yang. It likely fishes so effectively because you believe in it. There are other lures that would likely work just as well, but just don’t get the chance.
Harness the power of confidence lures, but don’t let them become a crutch when you should be trying other techniques or presentations.
A confidence lure gives you something of a placebo effect. We all have a buddy who swears by a certain color lure.
One of my friends has to have a gold fireball jig. Is he catching fish because he is using a gold colored quarter-ounce jig? Maybe. I suspect that the location fished combined with the action, size and profile and, lastly, color of the jig all contribute to the bite and fish caught. The color at that point is likely just giving him a placebo effect. And if that’s what is needed to have confidence and catch fish, great!
Angling is a results-oriented business. There rarely are silver bullet lures but some anglers keep searching for them. The tackle industry knows this and capitalizes on hype by selling lures designed to catch more fisherman than fish.
Talking about confidence lures means talking about confidence in general. As one of my coworkers likes to say, don’t leave home without your “positive mental attitude!” Your approach to fishing should be a glass half-full outlook.
Do you agree with me that by having a positive attitude you’ll catch more fish? The half of you that agree are right and the half of you that disagree are also right. Basically, if you think you can catch fish or think you can’t catch fish, you’re right either way.
Dropping a line with a positive mental attitude and outlook will help you catch fish or at least help you be adaptive to trying new things until you can catch fish rather than giving up and quitting. Positive attitudes and mental toughness go hand in hand.
One fishing psychology to avoid is the fallacy of congregated boats and fish houses. I like to call it the herd mentality: “Wow, there’s a lot of people fishing over there, they must really be nailing them!”
On occasion, you will see concentrated fish in a single spot. But more often than not, I have a negative connotation with the herd mentality. I prefer some space, peace and quiet, which definitely doesn’t come with the herd mentality.
My experience is that fish get pushed out of locations by the herd mentality more often than they stick around. Avoid the herd mentality — find your own spots that hold fish and be mentally prepared to seek out places independently to catch fish.
One of the beauties of fishing tournaments is that they force anglers to find their own spots by way of rules governing how far apart they must stay. You could identify a lot of great fishing spots from pre-fishing or history on a water body. But if they are occupied during a tournament you are forced to find new locations.
Being adventurous is a great psychological characteristic one can have as an angler. If you always do the same thing and fish the same spots, you’re likely to get bored, even with success. Adventurous anglers push their limits by trying new spots, new techniques, new water bodies. In doing so, they become better anglers by forcing themselves out of their comfort zone.
If you are weak in a particular technique, why not practice it so you can improve? If you know Lake X like the back of your hand, what can you take from Lake X and apply to a new lake? Try new things — lures, techniques, and locations and be adventurous in your angling.
Manage your expectations. Having a positive mental attitude is useful in fishing, but reasonable expectations are good too. High aspirations with low expectations can make for pleasant angling experiences.
If you are going back to similar spots on a favorite lake with a favorite technique and the weather is perfect for fishing, by all means ratchet up your expectations. But if you are trying something new, tamp down your expectations. Some could say this is a defensive mechanism against failure. Call it what you like; it’s about keeping an even-keel mentally when you hit the water.
Don’t wait for the right day or right conditions to go fishing. They may never come.
Fishing is best done by adaptation. Tomorrow you could meet your maker. Go fishing whenever the opportunity presents itself and roll with whatever you are dealt. You’ll be glad you did.