It’s no secret that I’ve rubbed elbows with countless pro bass anglers over the years. Many of them had their bass game dialed in incredibly well. But the irony—which the public may not realize—is that many of these experts are only experts at fishing for bass. To me, it’s always been ironic that someone could be a champion at one type of fishing fishing, and not have a clue when it comes to others. It boils down to diversity. Trout fishermen have to develop a feel for light gear and small moving waters. Saltwater anglers need to master tides. Walleye fishermen have to become fluent in live bait presentations and trolling. Then you have the tourney bass angler, which I often see being hailed as the ultimate outdoorsman. It’s not that they never had a grasp on other fisheries, but that knowledge and up-keep often slips away over time. This loss of diversity is especially hurting today’s young pro anglers.
As we all know, learning to fish the “right way” comes from fundamental lessons learned over the course of many years. As time goes by, you get better and better, and you relate what you learn in all arenas to the one you love the most. But the truth is that these days, many tournament bass anglers skip middle school, if you will, and jump right to college. Sure, there are a select few folks that quickly become smart and talented enough to compete at high levels without spending time in the minor leagues, but if you ask many young tournament anglers about what other species they chase in their free time, or how to catch bass on live bait, many just don’t have a clue, nor do they spend any time chasing different species. In my opinion, targeting other species and fishing live bait are 101 skills that make you a much better bass angler. My point is that tunnel vision often infects the young bass guys who are seduced by prizes, and money, and sponsorship.
So how does an angler wipe the tournament mentality out of his head (at least temporarily) in order to add another skill to his fishing resume? Basically, he needs to set fishing goals other than tournament wins. Many of these guys would be surprised how much getting away from bass teaches you about catching bass and fishing bass tournaments. What I mean, for example, is that you should go saltwater fishing for big fish with live bait instead of lures. Learning about live bait presentations that work or don’t work, and/or how your sore arm teaches proper fighting technique to reduce arm fatigue is very useful. Or, go borrow a fly rod from a buddy and learn some crafty ways to entice brook trout from the pockets and eddies of a little mountain creek. The lessons of precise presentations in that scenario are irreplaceable in the school of bass fishing. You’ll be amazed at how much more respect you’ll get on and off the water, and how much more you’ll win, when you apply these non-bass lessons to your game.