Another day with only a few fish. I thought I knew how to do this. I was a better fisherman than this. “WAS” is the key word. I guess it has been about 15 years since I had seriously fished and I felt rusty. Making matters worse, I moved 400 miles away to Western Oregon. I moved to the other side of the Cascade Mountain Range and the waters are very different. There are a lot of small ponds and rivers. A far cry from the 60 lakes within 60 minutes slogan of Eastern Washington where I had grown up. A growing family necessitated that fishing had to be put on the back burner, but I finally had the chance again.
Growing up in the Northwest, bass fishing was not the hot pastime that it is in other parts of the country. I didn’t have access to famous fisheries, but what I did have access to, I knew how to fish. When I was younger, every spare dime was spent on bass fishing. I had an absurd amount of tackle compared to my friends and I consistently out fished everyone I fished with. This time around however, things are different. All at once it hit me. I’m starting over.
My goal in this article is not to bore you with my struggle, but to equip you with four tools that I have used, to help you navigate the frustration of starting from scratch. Whether you are new to the sport or made a regional shift like I did, there is a steep learning curve. Here are my hard earned lessons from the past two years re-learning how to bass fish in a new location.
Tool No.1: YouTube is your friend. Unlike any other time in history, we have access to incredible information on the internet (don’t get me started on the alternative). Many bass fishing pros today make a better living off of YouTube than in actual tournament fishing. I can’t imagine what an on the water lesson would cost from one of these top tier guys, but on YouTube you can get their tips and tricks from the comfort of your couch and completely free of charge. If you want to learn a new technique, you are a few clicks away from how-to’s and common mistakes to avoid. You have to wade through the haters, rant-masters and personality based channels with little meat on the bone, but it’s not hard to find good nuts and bolts practical channels like Fish The Moment, Tactical Bassin’ and Matt Stefan Fishing.
Tool No. 2: A good fish finder is worth every penny. Last year I picked up a Garmin Striker Vivid 9SV and it changed everything. All of a sudden I had new, unseen areas to fish that I was unaware of before, because I just couldn’t see them. Additionally, I cut out unproductive areas that look promising above the waterline. Once I have charted my local bodies of water it helps me be strategic and use my time on the water more wisely. I can cut out entire sections of lake and help me be strategic about what bait I’m fishing and what depth to fish at. My side view helps me see fish and structure that I was completely unaware of before. Most recently this equated to a 3lb. smallmouth in the middle of the channel, that wasn’t associated with any structure or cover. Why didn’t I do this sooner???
Tool No. 3: Set realistic expectations. You are learning. Every trip out is a learning experience, boom or bust. Truth be told, I have had quite a few “I’ll never go there again” experiences in the last year. But, as I sit back and look at them objectively I realize it was a weather issue, a depth issue or the wrong time of day. Desire does not equate to skill and experience, and as such you won’t go out and slay hawgs all day just because you want to. I live in the Northwest and am far from any sizable lakes, so I’m just going to catch bass like I’m in Florida. This is the deceptive side to YouTube. I have yet to see a video where a guy goes out and struggles all day and only lands a few dinks. Guys that are making those videos leave that on the cutting room floor, but they have those days, too.
Tool No. 4: Fishing is better with friends. We all need the occasional day to decompress from life and have some solitude, but it’s just not as fun to key in on a school of fish or celebrate a big fish by yourself. Make friends with someone who is a local and learn from them. Like most things in life the best way to get good at something is to learn from someone better than you. No one is going to give up their spots or tips to a stranger. So, don’t be a stranger, be a friend.
Andy's Adventure Gear List
Written by Andy Ulrich, Feelfree Competitive Fishing Team Member
Edited by Bobby Ulrich, Feelfree US Pro Staff Team Member