One of the most enjoyable aspects of fishing to me is the problem solving aspect. Catching fish is like trying to solve a puzzle that is always changing. How many times can you remember feeling like you had things all figured out and could catch fish at will, only to have something change, and then completely strike out on the next trip? That's the addicting part that keeps me coming back, and if you're reading this, spending the time online to gather info, you're probably in it for the same reasons.
I experience more than my fair share of frustration chasing fish around, trying to get them to eat my hook. I didn't wake up one day knowing how to fish, or read something some time that suddenly opened the door. Things aren't like that. But when I look at myself from the outside in, and I try to analyze myself and understand why I've had success catching big bass or other fish, it keeps coming back to the same thing.
And that thing is what I'm going to call, "writing your own book." When I look at the lures, techniques, etc that work for me and that have consistently caught big fish for me, it's 80 to 90% things that I have developed in my own way. I'm not saying I invented the lures, not at all. I'm not saying I invented how to work a jig or swim a swimbait, not at all. What I'm getting at is an overall methodology that works well to catch fish.
When I say methodology, I mean, the rod, the reel, the line, the lure, the cast, the retrieve, the shake of the rod tip, EVERYTHING that goes in to how you fish a specific technique. There are certain combinations of rod, reel, line, lure, cast, retrieve, rod movement, that have proven to me that they work very well in certain situations. At first when you start fishing, you stumble in to stuff like this. I can remember when I felt like the best two lures for bass were the 7" power worm and the 2 and ¾" rapala. With each of these lures, I had two techniques. With the power worm, I would hop it back with a texas rig, or I would fish it weightless on 6lb test and deadstick it on the bottom and wait for the bass to eat it. With the rapala, I would reel and twitch constantly underwater, or I would go twitch, twitch pause and leave the bait to sit on the surface for a long period of time between twitches. How I figured this out, I can't even remember, probably a combination of random experiences that caught fish and spending hours reading fishing magazines when I was 12. We've all had these kind of experiences and we all have 'pet' techniques like this that we use.
An example of a methodology I use now would be like this. I use a Castaway FR76 flipping stick with a Curado 200b, spooled with 20lb Triple Fish Camo. I tie up a 5/8oz Assalt King Kobra Jig with a Zoom Brush Hog trailer. I work my jigs slow and steady, not too much twitching and I pull them along the bottom a certain way. When I pitch that out and it's 100% pure confidence on the line. When I go to a 1/2oz jig on that combo it doesn't feel right. When I use my other 7'6" rod it doesn't feel right. When I go up to 25lb test it doesn't feel right. That combo is just 'it' for me. Finding these combinations of gear and technique that really work is really key.
And what is going to make you a danger to fish populations everywhere is when you start making a concerted effort to develop new methodologies all the time. There's a lot of ways to work out your own methods. You can learn from articles, friends, internet, TV, watching another guy fish, or any number of other little ways that we all pick up info. BUT, once you get your feet on the ground, once you start building up your arsenal of methodologies, that's when you need to get serious and kick the status quo to the curb and starting trying stuff out on your own and doing everything you can to get away from what's considered normal. Because what's 'normal' to the fishing world as a whole also becomes 'normal' to the fish pretty darn quick! And when fish get used to the same things over and over, those techniques lose their effectiveness. I'm not saying this is true for all fish. You can throw a surface iron for ocean fish for 100 years and still catch them, but I'm talking more about freshwater bass that get caught and released repeatedly to the point where they start to get very smart and conditioned.
Ask yourself this question. Think of the last big tournament you heard about. Now think about who won the tournament. Go read the press release again if you need to refresh your memory. Now think, did the guy who won that tournament win that tournament from reading a fishing report online, reading a magazine article, using his buddies' baits, or using what he heard worked in the last tournament? 9 out of 10 times, that is not the case. The guys at the top of this game write their own books. They do things the way they do it based on their instincts, using their methodologies that they've developed and fine tuned over years of experience. Sure they might be using the same lure as half the rest of the field, but it's not just the lure that catches the fish. It's the rod, the reel, the line, the lure, the cast, the retrieve, the shake of the rod tip, EVERYTHING combined that catches the fish. And the more unique you can be, the more successful you will be.
I don't think I will ever give better fishing advice than the advice I'm giving right here. If you want to be successful in fishing and get the old cliche of "catching more and bigger fish", start by examining every aspect of your methodology as described above. Then spend as much time as you possibly can trying to develop new methodologies at all times. Use stuff that's not supposed to work at your lake. Use stuff that's not supposed to work a certain time of year. Use line that's too light or too heavy. Use baits that are too big or too small. Prove everything to yourself. If something doesn't work, prove it to yourself. If something works, prove it to yourself how good it works. Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your approaches. Be brutally honest with yourself. Kick down the door that says 'Status Quo' on it. You'll waste a lot of time on things that don't work, but when things do click for you, you'll be the guy winning the tournament, catching the giant fish, or the most fish and probably ... if I had to guess ... having a damn good time doing it. Which is what fishing is all about :)