It is very easy for a budding angler to believe he is a good one. However, that is rarely the reality. So when does one actually become "good" at fishing?
Here in Louisiana we have really good inshore fishing. It is unreal how fast the action can be and our generous creel limits fill coolers every week.
Especially during the fall and spring, it is incredibly easy for an angler to leave the dock with live bait and return with a limit of fish.
It is then, in that moment hubris takes over and the angler mistakenly believes he is good at fishing.
It is only a matter of time until the marsh proves him wrong.
Inevitably the tides will change, the cold fronts will arrive and the bait will leave. When that happens will he still produce results?
When do you become good at fishing?
I have spent a lot of time thinking about this.
Fishing for me is just as much a philosophy as it is technical know-how. This is because, for me, it is a way of life.
For many, fishing is a pastime, spent rocking gently in a boat, enjoying the outdoors and relaxing.
To those people it may seem superfluous to take fishing seriously, but knowing where I measure on the yard stick is invigorating.
It's nice to know my hard work pays off.
Fishing Spots Isn't It
In the beginning I had a few spots in an area that did well for me. I'd come home with a limit of trout and conceded that I was a Conqueror of the Marsh.
Once the conditions worsened with the onslaught of cold fronts those spots no longer held fish and I was at a loss as to what to do.
If an angler is just fishing spots and not fishing the conditions then he is setting himself up for eventual failure.
By only fishing spots he is demonstrating his dearth of knowledge. You can usually detect this when they ask for spots.
An angler who is truly good at fishing doesn't need to know spots, just general areas and conditions.
One Dimensional Tackle Isn't It, Either
What do I mean by "one dimensional"? I am referring to the type and variety of tackle an angler has in his arsenal.
For example, if you were to crack open Kevin VanDam's bass boat you would find an array of different fishing rods, reels and lures that all serve a variety of different purposes.
However, at the boat launch on Saturday morning I see a lot of boats launching with just spinning tackle and popping corks. This is one dimensional tackle.
For the record... I believe spinning tackle and popping corks are great tools in the toolbox.
They're just that. Tools in the toolbox.
I guarantee you will see them in our boat when we are fishing redfish tournaments because we roll out fully armed and ready to work.
However, one dimensional tackle is indicative of someone who doesn't want to try new things because they are uncomfortable or unfamiliar.
It's kind of harsh saying that, but it's the truth. A lot of anglers lose interest in inshore fishing and eventually quit because they never tried new things that are rewarding and fun.
And it's not a lot of other things as well...
Things like catching a fish by accident
If you didn't target it in the first place then how can you say you really caught it?
Things like catching fish on a trip planned and executed by someone else
It's like taking credit for a Super Bowl win you watched from the couch.
And much more...
So what really defines a "good" angler?
In my opinion, and based from my experiences, a good angler can go into a completely new area and produce results.
If you have listened to my inshore fishing podcast then you have heard me say it before:
If you were to start out in a brand new area where you knew no one, but had a full tank of gas, your boat and all of your fishing tackle, how would you go catch fish today?
A lot of our guests have a solid answer for that. Anyone who can legitimately answer that question has a load of inshore knowledge to share with others. You really ought to listen to my podcast.
I believe a great trout angler from Golden Meadow can locate, close with and catch trout in Delacroix. I believe a great sight angler in Dularge can find success in Venice. I have seen this over and over again.
Anyone who fishes "spots" will be unable to find success in a completely new area, as they never learned to understand why the fish are at their "spots" in the first place.
Fishing spots is not Fishing Smarter. Fishing the conditions and understanding fish behavior is.
What can we learn from this?
Firstly, no matter how good we become we can always get better.
Fishing is great for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that I never stop learning. It seems like every trip I learn something new and if I'm not learning then I am not enjoying myself nearly as much.
Secondly, always maintain a little humility and be ready to show it.
Lastly, understand that some days are better than others. Some days you will be on top of the world and others you will come home with nothing to show.
Once you understand that you can never win every time you launch the boat you will reach a new zenith of fishing excellence.