Stan Fagerstrom

Stan Fagerstrom is a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Stan is also known internationally for his casting skills. Stan welcomes your e-mail comments at [email protected]

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February 01, 2013

How Are Your Habits?

by Stan Fagerstrom

Part 2

It was one of those days you dream about. The bass acted like they'd been waiting for us for a month.

For the first 45 minutes we were out we caught, missed or lost more fish than we usually got out of this particular lake in a month. Every darn one of them had grabbed our favorite spinnerbait, the one with two blades and a chartreuse and white skirt.

The day had been a winner, no doubt about that. But it also posed some potential problems we might not have been aware of. What? How in the world can that be? We caught more bass that morning than we normally get in a month? We should have more problems like that!

That potential problem I mention has to do with those bad habits it's so easy to develop where sports fishing is concerned. I make that kind of comment because I've been there and done that. Let me explain what I'm talking about.

Just what lure do you suppose someone who has had such a great day will throw the next time he goes back to lake where he caught all those fish? Chances are he'll have that spinnerbait with the chartreuse and white skirt all rigged and ready before he pushes away from the dock.

So what's the problem? There's a problem, you see, because this time the bass don't pay the slightest attention to that lure. Does the bass man we're talking about change his tactics? All too often he doesn't. He's well on his way to developing one of the kind of bad habits I mentioned in my previous column.

Nice largemouth don't have fixed feeding habits. You should avoid having fixed fishing habits yourself when you're trying to catch them.

Chances are you've undoubtedly read someplace or other about how human beings are creatures of habit. Are we ever! As I pointed out in my last column, habits also have a way of creeping into the way most of us do our fishing. We often take the same lure or bait, especially if we've had good luck on it before, and present it to the same spots in the same way hour after hour even if the fish we are after aren't paying the slightest attention.

You might have clobbered the bass the last time you were out with this interesting spinnerbait. But that's no guarantee they will even look at it the next time you're fishing.

We even let this habit thing play a major role in determining the tackle we employ. Just the other day I had a friend ask me what test line I used for my bass fishing. I told him it depended entirely on where the fish were located. I emphasized the importance of matching my line to the problems I was facing.

"That's not what I do," he said. "I fish strictly with 6-pound test monofilament. line. I use a long, flexible rod along with it. The rod is so flexible I can get by without breaking my line."

Now I've got nothing against 6-pound test line and long, flexible rods. I may use that same kind of gear when the conditions are just right. I sure as heck wouldn't be using it where the bass were in heavy cover. Then I might well be rigged with a stout rod and braided line that tested as much as 60-pounds.

The good kind of habit to develop in this regard is to learn to match your tackle to the problems you're up against. Suppose, for example, you are planning a trip to Mexico's Lake El Salto. You know that lake has some monstrous largemouth and you've decided that's what you'll go after when you get there.

I've a friend who has probably taken as many bass of 10-pounds or more than anybody who has fished Lake El Salto. Most of the time he does his fishing with braided lines testing 50-pounds or more and he doesn't even mess with a leader.

This guy catches most of his fish on a jig and plastic trailer or a hollow bodied swimbait. Many of them come out of submerged trees and stumps. A 6-pound test line would last about as long here as a bluegill in a lake full of barracuda.

There's another area where ever so many anglers develop a habit I've never been able to understand. What is it? It's to simply not learn how to use all of the tools available to them.

Can you imagine a professional golfer ever learning to shoot par if he didn't develop the habit of practicing with every club in his bag? Top golfers spend as much or more time in practice as they do when it counts. They learn to use all of their tools and then match them to the problems they are up against.

How many anglers do you know who refuse to use anything but spinning rods and reels? You won't have to look far to find them. You'll see some of them next time you're on the water. As far as I'm concerned this is another common bad habit for anglers to develop.

I'm not putting down spinning gear. I use it often myself, but there are times---depending on the problems you're up against---when a level wind reel and a casting rod is a far better choice.

Are you one of the many who'll only use a spinning outfit because you've never learned how to use a level wind reel? You'll improve your results if you develop the habit of learning to use all the tools available to you.

I attended all but two of the first 30 Bassmasters Classics, an event often called the "World Series of Bass Fishing." The first Classic took place in 1971. More than one angler in that first event used only spinning gear. Others didn't even carry a spinning rod and fished only with level wind rigs.

You won't find this among Classic contenders today. Now, just like a professional golfer, they carry all of the tools available to them. They select the tools---and they might be either casting outfits or spinning rigs---that will best enable them to solve the problems they're facing. They've developed, you see, the good habits that are essential if they are to attain the ranking they seek among today's professional anglers.

What about you? Have you developed some bad habits in your own approach to fishing? You're the only one who can do something about it if you have. And if you do odds are good you'll wind up putting more fish in the boat.

It doesn't matter whether you're after panfish or beautiful peacock bass like the one pictured here. You've got to be flexible in your fishing habits to catch either of them consistently.
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