Three ways to make yourself a better angler for under $100
Most aspects of recreational angling are not cheap. With bay boats often costing as much as a small house and baitcasting reels that are more than a monthly truck note, it is becoming harder to find ways to improve your angling skills at little to no cost. I often try to think back to some of the things I did when I still had the proverbial beginner’s spirit and was first trying to learn angling. Ironically, it is the basic things that we seem to lose in the wake of experience. None of these suggestions are the next superfood, transformative workout or transcendental solution to life’s problems, but they offer some help in reconnecting to the roots of good angling and the art of fishing.
I used to make fun of people who watched fishing videos. It always seemed like some form of voyeurism and a statement as to our collective inability to make the time to go fishing. But, either I have changed or the video content has changed because there is undoubtedly some substantial knowledge and insight that can be found through various internet-based video sites. Just do a simple web search for a particular fishing spot or technique that you want to try or improve and you will find everything from entertaining amateurish head-cam videos to highly polished and insightful pieces from serious experts. Recently, I wanted to return to a Galveston pier that I had not fished since youth. As I searched for the pier’s website to get hours and pricing, I noticed a collection of angler videos. Clearly, they were not Pixar’s finest work, but they helped me get a feel for the pier (after 30-plus years of absence), the layout and even a glimpse into the fishing etiquette. Ultimately, it actually got me enthralled enough to back to the pier and go fish. The simple act of watching a video can give you the confidence and familiarity to expand your range of places and techniques and maybe help you find your new favorite fishing pattern.
Buy a Map
I have often been accused of being old school in my approach to fishing and buying a print map is just that. But, if you will buy a print map (they still have the Top Spot series in many tackle stores), and lay it out on a table, it will give you a view of the bay that simply cannot get on the screen of a plotter, computer or television. Even in bays that I have fished for decades, I can revisit an old map and am reminded of the natural flow of the bay. Not unlike a flyover, you can get a feel for how the bayous feed certain areas and vision for the growing and receding habitat as the bay evolves. If you want to go all-in being antiquated, mark up the map through time with details of particular habitat aspects, exact depth ranges, beacons and markers. It will likely improve your vision of the bay and make a somewhat entertaining treasure.
When I was fish guiding professionally (now more than 24 years ago), I was always amazed when a client would show up for his or her much-anticipated and fairly expensive guided trip with top-of-the-line gear and antique fishing line. Invariably, the best rods and reels are reduced to cane-pole gear if the line is decayed or irreparably coiled. Details matter in most things, and fishing is no exception. Take an hour before every fishing trip and go through your gear. Regularly change out line, hooks, split rings, jig heads and all the key components that you hope will eventually connect you with a fish. If you make a habit of this, you will be amazed how much it will improve your results.
At this point, I am beginning to sounding a bit preachy in advising you to read, but it really can make a difference. Not unlike video content, there is a seemingly limitless supply of blogs, articles and informational pieces available on the internet. Like all information, you have to know that it will range from ill-advised to highly valuable, but if you take the time to find good sources of content regarding fishing in general and the areas you fish in particular, you can pick up tips and insights that can be transformative. Also, take some time to read about areas and species that you don’t normally pursue. Through working on TIDE Magazine, I have had the opportunity to read a lot of articles about coastal regions that I have never fished. Invariably, through a year of editions, I pick up insights that may have been targeted toward Calico bass or Columbia River salmon, and I get a thought that influences my approach to the wildly different bays of Texas.
One of the many things that drives anglers’ passion to fish is that not unlike golf, cooking, or whatever pursuit you love, you always have the chance to improve. Fishing is a beautiful blend of art, science and passion, and through focusing on some of the very basic aspects of it, you can always improve your results.