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 02, 2012

The Secrets To Angling Success

by Stan Fagerstrom

If you ever hope to wind up catching your share of fish you need to accept the necessity of practice and preparation.

That sounds simple enough but ever so many fishermen fail to give these points the attention they deserve. The result? They usually wind up not catching their share of fish or in being able to fully enjoy the wondrous memories the sport has to offer.

Over a lifetime of fishing and writing about it I've seen what I'm talking about transpire again and again. I've seen it apply to everything from rods and reels and lines and lures as well as the ability to use any and all of these items with the skill demanded if you're to take fish consistently.

Part of that preparation I've mentioned means having quality, balanced equipment that will best enable you to solve the problems you're confronting. Those problems will vary. You'd better be prepared when they do.

Let me provide an example of what I'm talking about. I really didn't care all that much about the guy who was in the boat with me. Even so, I can't recall a time I've wanted more to see a companion hook a good fish.

If you think that desire was coming out of the goodness of my heart---guess again. Fact is, I was ticked off at the guy I had along with me. He really didn't know his bass from a hole in the ground, but in no way was he about to accept the advice I'd attempted to share with him.

I'd tried my best to convince him the lightweight spinning rod and 6-pound line he insisted on using at the outside edge of the cover we were fishing wasn't adequate should a good largemouth grab his lure. He wasn't listening. Though he really hadn't done all that much bass fishing, he had all the answers.

There will be many times and places where a level wind reel will be your best tool for angling success. Are you master of it?

"Listen," he snorted pontifically, "I've used this spinning outfit all over the country. Don't tell me I can't handle a big one with it. You show me where the fish are. I'll take it from there."

My silent wish was granted less than an hour after the trip started. I asked the guy to flip his floating lure up next to the edge of a heavy pad field. We were on my home lake and for a couple of weeks I'd been catching some dandy bass along this one stretch of heavy pads. My companion cast, waited, then twitched his lure. I saw the pads quiver ten feet away and a heartbeat later a fish smashed that floating plug with hair-raising fury.

"I got him!" my guest shouted.

It was debatable who had who. I knew what was going to happen. As soon as it felt the hooks that brute of a bass turned and headed back into the cover. You could see the direction it took because it tore up pads as it went. The man holding the spinning outfit was powerless to do anything. The line peeled off his spool. Then the fish wrapped the 6-pound line he was using around some pads and there was no more movement. The line was busted and the fish was gone.

The bass that fellow lost on a beautiful May morning was the largest he'd ever hooked. He needn't have lost it. What he did need was to match his equipment to the problems he was up against. That's something I've been preaching about at outdoor shows and in the outdoor columns and magazine features I've been writing since shortly after I got home from World War 11.

Matching your gear to the problems you're up against is one of the keys to angling success. Unfortunately, it's a key that's ignored over and over again among the anglers of this country. It's too bad, because matching your equipment to the demands you make of it is one of the real keys to angling success.

The same thing is true where the spinning reel is concerned. You'll find many angling problems where an open faced spinning reel best helps you face the problems you're up against.

Like casting practice, it's one of the few things you can do to actually control the number of fish you catch. The answer is simple: You've got to match the equipment you're using that's best suited to the problems you're facing. Fail to do this and you'll likely wind up like the guy I told about hooking that big bass.

I've been around a heap of fishermen in a lot of different places over decades of fishing and writing about it. I've witnessed a tremendous change in angling equipment in that time span. Fifty years ago it was often difficult to find the rod, reel and line combination best suited for the specific type of fish you were after.

That's not true anymore. Today you can tailor your tackle to any need. When you do, you're a cinch to realize the satisfaction and enjoyment having the right outfit brings and you'll also catch more fish.

You're looking at the results a good friend of mine got a trip to Mexico's famed Lake El Salto. He wouldn't have taken the beauty he's holding without having the right angling tools and the ability to use them.

As anglers eventually find out, there is no one rod, reel and line combination best suited for all kinds of fishing. What works like gangbusters in your home lake might not be worth a toot in another part of the country. While the level wind reel is a superior tool for many kinds of fishing, it doesn't begin to match the performance you can achieve in handling lightweight lures with a spinning outfit. While one line might be great in the clear water of your favorite river, there will be others twice as effective where the cover is heavy and the water stained.

There really aren't many things a fisherman can do to control the number of fish he puts on the bank or into the boat. The experts who catch more than their share are invariably those who are most knowledgeable about the tackle they employ and the uses they make of it.

Once you have quality equipment and practice until you can handle it properly you can expect to get results like you see going on here. Believe me, it's a goal worth pursuing.

If I had to come up with the three most important things beginning anglers might do to assure their angling success it would be to get quality equipment and then achieve mastery of it through practice. After those two steps the next is to then match their equipment to the problems they're up against.

You've probably heard than some 10 per cent of the nation's anglers get about 90 per cent of the fish. Be assured those who are in that 10 per cent bracket follow the steps I've outlined.