Concentrate! A big part of successful fishing is about being engaged with the “now”, being well aware of all the nuances in front of you. Try being more in tune with your line and lure to increase your odds. How many times have you made a cast and reeled it in so quickly you knew it wasn’t going to produce? Have you cast and not really focused on what is happening under the water once the bait drops? Have you been distracted by the sights and sounds around the lake? Don’t confuse this with noticing your surroundings, such as where birds feed on a lake- that is helpful! If you’ve ever “sight fished” or seen an angler on YouTube doing so, you’ll notice how in tune with the fish and water the angler is. Why? Because they can see the fish! Typically you can’t see the fish you are hoping to catch but if you believe the bass are near you, why not make each cast as if a new personal best bass is there looking to feed? One of your casts that will indeed be the case or it may have already passed you by because you didn’t believe it!
Learn a certain type of lure really well. It could be a plastic worm, a spinnerbait, a jig, or any type of bait. Pick just one type of bait and get to know it thoroughly. For example, you might regularly fish a worm Texas-rigged but do you also know how the action changes on a wacky rig, a drop shot or Carolina-rig? How does the action change with hooks of different sizes than you typically use? Do you know how quickly the worm falls so you can count it down after it hits the surface? What does a twitch of the rod tip do to the action? What distance will the bait cast? Work on understanding all of these details to really become an expert of that bait. If you can become an expert using one specific lure this year, then by next year you can be on to the next one. In a few years, you’ll have in depth knowledge and experience with several baits. This isn’t suggesting you only use that particular bait for an entire year but just focus on it over others for a given time period and make a plan to learn a new aspect about it when you are out on the water.
Participate in fantasy fishing. There is a small chance you’ll win a prize but if you spend a few minutes reading before and after each event, you’re guaranteed to learn! Learning the anglers’ strengths and experience, the lake conditions, and following the results, you’ll learn more than you can imagine. For example, the 2016 Bassmaster Classic was interesting. Grand Lake flooded twice in 2015 so it was still muddy with only 6 to 8” of visibility. The water temp was 44 degrees starting out. So when you go to a muddy lake on a cold day and wonder what to throw, you could see what the pros do here as an example. It was a 3 day event and after the first two days Jason Christie had a big lead. He fished a spinnerbait; I know that because I read it and saw it in video clips online. Many other anglers who did well also fished a spinnerbait. Aaron Martens placed 3rd overall and said he caught all but 1 fish on a crankbait. He claims the sharp treble hooks were a big part of the reason he was able to stick the picky fish. So it makes sense, in muddy water, fish needed the vibration to know the bait was near. Another key takeaway is that many fish the first two days were caught in shallow pockets. They weren’t so much spawning as they were going where light penetrated the murkiness a little better. Evers even claimed it had to do with the bright moon during the tournament time. Then on day 3 it changed a bit. Edwin Evers caught 29.3 lbs in one day to beat out Christie! He mainly did it on a hand tied jig-brown, green and orange to be exact. On day 3 the fish seemed to move a little deeper from what I’ve read. They were still tight to cover in the muddy water, so a jig made perfect sense. Evers fished the moment (see tip #1 above) and didn’t assume what worked on day 1 and 2 would do the trick the final day. I wouldn’t have known about this without being into fantasy fishing. It gives you a reason to pick certain anglers and it is fun to follow up after each event and learn from it. Just like anything, you have to put in the work to get the output. Put a few minutes into deciding your fantasy fishing picks and covering results and you’ll improve your own bass fishing skills by learning from the best!