By Neil Taylor

The more you go.    Fairly simple:  We continue to do things where we are successful.    The more you know, the more you go.

So many people have decided to consider fishing as a hobby.   It is part of the American heritage.   Many of us had the luck of having the sport introduced to us when we were very young and learned what we needed to make it a successful hobby.   For others, the learning comes later in life.

There are so many things to consider, but as with pretty much everything in life, there is no substitute for Experience.   I was fishing from the time I was propped up against a rock and crawling but not yet walking.   My family made it fun for me and with those experiences, it stuck.   Decades later when the opportunity presented itself to become a guide and fishing instructor it was an easy decision because I hoped to lead people to the same success I have had as an angler.   It provides me fulfillment to see these objectives achieved.     Going with a guide is the fastest way to build skills and an experience that makes the subsequent learning much easier.

How do I do it?   There are some straightforward basics that are very logical.    Captain Mel Berman used to say “fish where the fish are.”   That is one of the number one objectives.   So, you need to think about one very big concept:  Learning an area.  Click that link to go to a much more detailed description on tips and tricks to getting the knowledge on “where” you are fishing and “when” you are going to be there.

Be aggressive.   Forward movement is something that separates a good angler from an average one.   The fish move and if you stay in one spot too long, you are missing out on opportunities.   It is very simple:   Use your time on the water in the most proficient way.    I call it “the game of probability.”   You build the blueprint for successful fishing trips for each location.   You try to find the fish in the areas that they most predictably arrive at say “a certain tide” (for that time of year).

The mechanics of fishing.    Everything starts with the long cast.    If your casting abilities are poor, your results will not be as good.    In my theory:  The longer you cast, the more water your lure is traveling through.   The more water your lures is traveling through, more fish may see your lure.   The more fish that see your lure, the more strikes you will get.  The more strikes you get, the more fish you will hook.   The more fish you hook, the more fish you will capture.     Evaluate your casting skills.  If you believe that you are not making the longest cast possible, work on it.   Again, a quality guide can work with you to change the mechanics for better performance.

Perhaps your casting deficiency isn’t exactly your technique.    A pro can evaluate your equipment.   My clients I ask them to bring their equipment with the instructions “You may be leaving it in the car to just use mine, but I want to see what you have.”   You don’t have to spend a thousand dollars on a rod and reel.    You can but it isn’t critical.   Times have changed.    The key to successful fishing?   The fishing rod with a reel with the correct amount of line on it.   In this era, high modulus graphite rods are easy to find and available in a lot of price points.    What you want is something with a good “feel.”   For throwing light lures, you want something that has a lighter feel.    Heavy action blanks are not a good choice for this kind of fishing.   Cheap fiberglass rods:  You don’t have to throw them away.   Those you can use for throwing heavier lures.    The reel is a device for retrieving line.    You want something that is durable enough to withstand the elements and has a properly functioning drag system for fighting large fish.

Be alert, be observant.   Many of the fish caught on a daily basis on my trips are the result of observation.   One of the shortcomings of beginning anglers is not having polarized eyewear and not knowing what to be looking for.    Smith Optics eyewear I use to cut the water surface glare to zero.   Clues vary from the most obvious to the extremely subtle.   Predator fish chasing baitfish, that’s an easy one.    To maximize results “get a cast into this location as quickly as possible!”   Along similar lines, small birds hovering or diving will show you where the food sources are.  Fish where the fish are?   The fish are where there is something to eat.     Much subtler clues:  The terrain.  Again, with the polarized glasses, I can see water color differences and I know where there are depressions, seagrasses, trenches and oyster bars.    My knowledge, I have a very good idea where the best location is to work a lure.

Knowing your species is something that is a wide topic. This will be information on where to find them but also how you are going to get them to eat.    A majority of the instruction I give on my charters is to refine lure movement to achieve one very basic goal:   To move the lure in a manner that makes the fish think it is a meal.    Another basic concept I talk about is “pace.”    Pace applies almost universally no matter where you fish.     Pace is moving the lure at the speed where it is in the area where the fish feed.     A majority of the species we are targeting, that is next to the sea floor.   Think about that.   Whether it is 12 inches of water or 12 feet of water are you moving the lure where it is where the fish are?    The variables:   The weight of your lure; how that lure swims; the wind impacting the lure in the water; current.

The end success is a source of happiness.   And in many cases what I call “a missed opportunity.”   You finally get that wary redfish to eat a lure.    Your rod is doubled over and the drag is screaming.   You are completely happy and excited to see the fish.    If you took four seconds right after hooked to do a quick evaluation, you are building on your fishing skills.   I call this “the mental checklist.”   You were in a specific situation.   You were doing something with your lure.   The fish ate it.   What were all of those things?     To me, after that fish is caught, the next cast, I want to use similar to identical technique.    Every retrieve technique that is successful can become part of your fishing arsenal IF you take the time to evaluate it.

Fighting the fish and finishing the capture:  Items also overlooked by the beginner, I see some awful technique on instructional fishing trips.   If you don’t know any better, then you are just going to lose more fish than the more polished angler.   Many fish have soft enough mouths where erratic rod movement during the fight, the lures will get bounced out.   Smooth technique will have the end result of less lost fish and some fish captured that were just barely hooked.    Finishing the battle:  I’ve seen more fish lost at boat side because people have not thought through the final decisions on technique to secure the fish.   I do not use a landing net.  While it is an option, I don’t think it is necessary and I do not care for the extra burdens it creates.   Management of a played out fish is all about decisions and techniques.    If you have a hold of the leader, it should be a simple process to control the fish and use both hands to secure it.

Don’t miss the point:   On one hand: Fishing is fun.   The experience should be much more than the act of fishing    On the other hand, if you are going to be out there, you may as well make the most of your opportunities.

Neil Taylor
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Neil Taylor

Full time kayak fishing guide, Neil was an advocate for conservation since before the time he started guiding.Outdoor writer, speaker and radio show host, Neil connected closely with Captain Mel Berman and did many positives with Mel to promote ethical angling. After Mel passed away, Neil managed and eventually became that web site’s owner.
Neil Taylor

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