Planning for Success June 23, 2006

Each year we bass enthusiasts get all pumped up on how we're going to be so much more successful. Positive thinking is great, however, our downfall is that we generally don't change anything from one season to the next. We simply go out and repeat the steps that we've taken season after season in hopes of different results. It seems like the season just slips up on us every year without any real preparation, just a lot of anxious talk.

So this year lets do something different. For instance, my fishing notes started in '95, but I find myself repeating only recent patterns. When I sat down the other night and reviewed some of the older notes for January and February, there were some great catches coming from places that I had all but forgotten about, and using techniques that I wouldn't have tried. Some of the notes were from my own catches and some were from reliable friends. Hopefully after every tournament you have been making notes about where the heavy stringers have come from and what the water and weather conditions were during that time frame. If so, you can go back and try something different that you heard about before the actual crunch time. It might just open up a new area or new approach to an old area.

If you haven't been keeping good notes, shame on you. Most bodies of water change at least a little each season. Certain places are only good producers during certain water conditions. Some good information that can't be left out of a days notes are; local river stages or lake leves, tides, sky conditions, wind direction and strength, water color, water depth, cover type, am or pm bite, and most of all a realistic account of how many and what size the fish were. What lure and how many strands of chartreuse were in the skirt is nice to know but trivial in comparison to the water and weather conditions.

There is also another aspect to early season preparation that I think we all enjoy - toying with your tackle. Take an inventory of what you have and what you need to replace. Don't wait until it's too late to find out you only have two black and blue trailers left and all but one of your favorite crankbaits got left in the stumps last season. What I like to do is actually sit down and count out how many of my favorite go to baits I have left and in what sizes. That way I can make one tackle order and be set for most of the season. That will cut down on those last minute scrambles for key equipment.

After you've reviewed your notes and organized your tackle make some decisions about what you wish to accomplish this year and set them as goals. Set out to gain confidence with at least one new technique like pitching bulkier soft plastics or jigs, or maybe using big spinnerbaits. Perhaps there is an area of your fishery that you have historically neglected to learn. I talk to more people who have geographical limitations rather than technique limitations. For whatever reason, we fishermen taste success in a given area and then marry it, never giving ourselves an opportunity to expand our confidence to other portions of a given fishery. In fact, you can travel all over the country and observe the same phenomenon. Don't fall into that trap.

In order to experience more success, or "change your luck" as everyone likes to put it, make a conscience decision to get a handle on at least one new technique and one new area each season. Sit down right away with a map and make that decision based on your old notes and your historical weaknesses. If you will do that, just think how much more meaningful your notes will be for the following seasons.