Baseball is often called America’s favorite pastime, and being a big fan of pro and college ball, I don’t necessarily disagree. But I’m going to go ahead and say bass fishing may hold down a close second, and the two are kind of similar. Both baseball and bass fishing are long, drawn-out games that can seem boring to lay people. Maybe they’ll watch the action-packed moments that make the highlight reels. If you’re intimately involved in either sport, however, you may be more impressed with the skill or decision-making that lead to a quick snippet in a highlight reel. In baseball, a great overall player is measured by the 5 predominant tools he possesses, which include hitting for average, hitting for power, overall speed on the bases, fielding prowess, and arm strength when throwing. In bass fishing, I have never really seen 5 performance tools laid out, so here’s what I came up with based on my experience and “scouting” other great anglers. What are your strengths, and where do you need improvement?
Fishing What You See: Understanding how to attack and decipher shallow cover is a huge component of bass fishing. And I’m not just talking about choosing the correct bait. I’m referring to the ability to choose the prime shallow locations based on variables like time of the year, picking the best cover when there’s tons of other great looking cover available, and the ability to gauge if that piece of cover is worth the time to fish. Good shallow fishermen decipher this well; great shallow fishermen dissect the most finite details of what their spot should hold and how to use it to get results.
Fishing What You Don’t See: There is something about fishing deep that creates a roadblock for many anglers. Great deep fishermen precisely calculate all the measurements of their boat electronics, boat position, and strike-inducing casting angles. They possess the uncanny ability to feel their baits on the unseen structure. The average angler has difficulty with deep-water fishing because there are usually no immediate visual cues or feedback associated with each cast or each fish caught. It’s a hugely important tool that some never develop, but a very necessary one to master if you want to conquer bass during all phases of their annual cycles.
Adapting to the Conditions: It may be a little difficult to pinpoint an accurate measurement of this tool, as it would be in the case of timing a home-to first run in baseball, but it’s still very important. In bass fishing you are dealing with many variables like weather changes, water clarity, barometric pressure, wind…this list could go on and on. The ability to adapt to the given situation–or changing situation–requires a lot of data absorption, processing, and recalculating. Doing it well often takes a great deal of mental fortitude and a willingness to roll with the punches without panicking or giving up. Some have it, and therefore can make split-second decisions to move, stay, or change lures. Others are “one trick ponies,” or spend too much time weighing options, which inevitably results in less bass in the boat.
Casting: Not only is it necessary to have pinpoint accuracy at all distances to score high in this category, the presentation, landing, and overall manipulation of a particular bait to get strikes has to be second nature at all times, especially during the pressure-packed moments. In baseball, a great hitter uses all parts of the field with both power and average in mind and holds the bat like a magic wand, even in the clutch. So must a great casting angler, regardless of what style rod, reel, or lure is in his or her hands.
Endurance: If you think both physical and mental conditioning doesn’t play a part in the success of the modern bass fisherman, you are dead wrong. A day on the water is a long drawn out game, and if you lump three or four days together you are talking about a very tiring process for the mind and body. I often find that poor decisions made on the water are the result of an angler being tired. So, an angler that scores high in this category must be able to look beyond what the body and mind tells them not to do after the 7th inning stretch, and do it anyway to afford the opportunity of a win in the bottom of the 9th.