You, Fish You
By Chad Hill, U.S. Anglers Choice contributor


  If you spend any time at all watching fishing shows, streaming tournament coverage or attending seminars, there is a phrase that you will hear over and over. “Fish your strengths.” I have a little different phraseology, “you fish you”. To me, there is a bit more to it than simply fishing your strengths. An angler must know and be comfortable with his or her fishing style to maximize time on the water and be as productive as possible. While angling versatility is growing ever more important on today’s highly pressured waters, an angler must fish to his/her personality to know sustained, repeatable bass fishing success.

In order to “know” your fishing personality, complete this simple, thorough two-part analysis. Jot down thoughts that come to mind for a variety of questions on each topic. Be honest with yourself. Draw upon your natural instincts, tournament history, previous on-the-water experience, and the realities of life so that “you can fish you”.

Let us begin with the first part, the more obvious questions that define your angling personality. What lures/techniques do you reach for without thinking? What are your “go to” techniques when you need a bite? On what lakes and in what situations are you most comfortable? Learn from your previous on-the-water experience. Review previous trips on which you experienced tremendous success. Contrast those experiences with trips on which you struggled mightily. What were the differences? What were the keys that differentiated the successes from the struggles? If you are a tournament angler, study your tournament history. For those events in which you finished in the check line, what allowed you to do so? For those events in which you just on the outside looking in, what factors turned you in the wrong direction? For those events in which you totally missed the boat, why did that happen?

Now, the second part, the realities of life, obvious to some and taken for granted by others. What are realities of life? They include: the types of lakes in your area, the climate you live in, the type of boat you have, and the amount of time you have available for fishing. These are all key ingredients to the recipe of who you are as an angler.

In a recent article, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bill Lowen applied the theme of this discussion to himself. Mr. Lowen was in the middle of evaluating his performance on the Elite Series over the past few seasons. He felt as though he had left some success on the table. He had two choices: (1) to radically change his fishing style because his current style was not good enough to climb the next steps on success’ ladder, or (2) rededicate himself to what he knows best, what had gotten him to the status of a Bassmaster Elite Series professional. He chose option 2! He explained, “I made up my mind this year that I was going to fish shallow with swim jigs and when I wasn’t doing that I’d be flipping and pitching. That’s what got me here. It’s what I know.” Mr. Lowen went on in the article to illustrate an example of the successful application of his choice during the 2019 Elite Series event on Lake Guntersville this past June.

While the abundance of questions listed above might sound like an interrogation and the steps may remind you of a school homework assignment, the process isolates key information about your fishing tendencies and successes and combines them to show you what the strongest, best fishing “you” looks like. Let’s examine a fictitious angler to illustrate the process. We’ll call the imaginary angler Fict, for short.

In a perfect fishing world, Fict would throw a jig, a spinnerbait, and a buzzbait 24/7; he is beyond comfortable with those. However, he feels on today’s pressured fisheries it is not a recipe for success, so Fict reaches for a shaky head to get bites. He is comfortable with a spinning rod too. Fict also has a ton of confidence in a variety of topwater offerings and will throw them at any time.
Fict is usually successful getting bites and catching numbers of fish. Quality bites come and go. Fict is historically successful throwing topwater, cranking, and working a variety of soft plastics, catching fish successfully throughout the year with early to mid-summer, and late fall to early winter being particularly good. Fict has known big success in the spring, but it is much more feast or famine.

Fict has competed in numerous local and regional tournaments. Fict is usually competitive but does not have a reserved spot in the check line. Fict has known the winner’s circle a few times, being most successful when the tournament bite is considered to be tougher than normal. Despite his enjoyment from throwing a buzzbait, jig, and spinnerbait, Fict does not shine in a slugfest.
Living in the Midwest, Fict experiences a strong dose of each of the four seasons as they change throughout the year. Although Fict runs a typical 20-foot fiberglass bass rig, he lives within a reasonable drive of several smaller bodies of water, some of which are large enough to hold regional tournaments. There are a handful of circuits, mostly team formatted, with divisions in his area. Most of these divisions fish a single venue for the entire season. Since there are several smaller fisheries in the area, Fict has the option of fishing a good variety of conditions. Fict works an 8 – 4 Monday through Friday job, so fishing opportunities are limited mostly to weekends and holidays with the occasional vacation day on the water.

So, what is Fict’s angling personality? How should this angler approach bass fishing on a regular basis? How could he find more sustained success?

Fict should use his comfort with a buzzbait, spinnerbait, and jig to his advantage mining shallower water for every bass he can catch. While today’s fisheries are pressured, especially the smaller ones like those he fishes most often, those baits are quality bite “getters”. As the bite toughens when the temperature heats up, the topwater and shaky head should become his primary weapons. His previous success with crankbait shouldn’t be over looked, and should be mixed in shallow to deep from spring through summer. His focus should turn to schools of baitfish and bass at this time.

Being a “numbers catcher” is probably why Fict is competitive but does not cash checks regularly, and why he does excel in “tough bite tournaments”. The combination of techniques that fit his comfort zone reinforces this theory. He uses a shaky head to get bites, and most likely picks up the occasional “bigger bite” on a tough day on a jig, spinnerbait, or topwater offering.

The fact that Fict is a “weekend warrior” living near mostly smaller bodies of water means that fishing pressure and generally a tough bite are going to be facts of life, and thus creates a bit of a paradox. Fict must balance his “want” for throwing power techniques such as the jig and buzzbait with his affinity for success with a shaky head. And, topwater offerings should be mixed in.

Going through this exercise paints a pretty clear portrait of Fict’s angling personality. He would be most successful in the spring and fall staying in his comfort zone with the “big three” and mixing in a shaky head. In the summer, he should fish the mirror image of that by rolling with the topwater offerings and shaky head, mixing in one of the quality bite “getters” to coax that occasional kicker into biting. And, every-now-and-then he will catch multiple kickers during a single trip and have a “big” day. In late fall through the fishable winter in his region, Fict should ride his historical crankbait success and mix in other shad-imitating baits such as a swimbait to get numbers of bites from the shad-focused largemouth in his region.

Let us not over-simplify this formula by stating that an angler who vastly simplifies his/her approach will find greatly increased, sustained success. However, “weeding out” lures and techniques that are much more of a temptation than a “fish-catcher” for a given angler can only be a positive. If an angler spends a greater percentage of a limited amount of fishing time plying lures and techniques that he/she associates with success, the angler is going to be more successful on a more regular basis. It sounds simple enough, right? Often, however, anglers get caught up in trying to fish every technique out there in an effort to cross paths with the “magic fish-catcher” that does not exist. Instead, comfort and confidence go a long way when “you fish you”.