Some of you may have been to one of my fishing seminars and heard this “speech” before. If you have, now you can see it in writing, if you have not, this is an introduction that I like to use for many of the fishing seminars I have given. To get people’s attention I have used the bold statement that the longer I fish, the more I am convinced that “luck” has nothing to do with catching fish. Folks who always seem to catch fish or who seem to catch the biggest fish are often referred to as the “luckiest so-and-so’s”. I do not believe they are “lucky” at all; I believe they have figured out some things that work for catching fish on the waters they fish.
Do not get me wrong. There is a certain amount of “randomness” in fishing that cannot be predicted. But, I believe the very first step in learning to become a better angler is to eliminate the belief in “luck”. If you continue to believe that catching fish depends on nothing more than providence, you will never begin to develop the skills it takes to become an accomplished angler.
However, if you want to hang on to “luck”, I believe you can think of “luck” in a couple of different ways. For example, I have heard “luck” defined as “the residue of hard work”, and I believe that is true. The best anglers I know are also some of the hardest-working, hardest-fishing anglers that I know–they spend as much time as possible on the water and every second they are on the water they are doing everything they can to catch fish. If you fish that hard, you are bound to catch fish. I have also heard “luck” defined as “preparation meeting opportunity”, and again I believe that very much applies to fishing. An angler may have no control over the “randomness” of fish and their behavior, but they can take advantage of the opportunities to catch fish by being completely prepared to catch fish when the fish are ready to start biting.
This will sound contradictory, but fishing is a game of playing percentages. I am not going to rely on “luck” to randomly determine when I catch fish; instead I am going to put as many of the percentages as possible in my favor. There is nothing in fishing that works 100% of the time; there are no magic baits that always catch fish; there are no guarantees. But, if you learn how to put as many of the percentages in your favor as possible, you will be much more successful. How does a person put the percentages in his or her favor? Well, that is something I can blog about for the next 10 years, and I might. In its simplest, you put the odds in your favor by being in the right place at the right time fishing with the right baits. I know, that tells you absolutely nothing, but it does break the challenge into parts that can be mastered. Fundamentally, you have to understand something about the fish you are pursuing, their behaviors and habits; that should tell you about the habitats those fish use and some things about their movements; and then once you have an idea about the fish and where you can find them you can tailor your presentation, baits, lures, rods, reels, lines, etc., etc. to put something in front of them and get them to bite. A friend of mine, and one of the best Nebraska anglers that I know, summed it up this way: “Fishing is mostly about understanding fish.” (thanks Bruce!)
If you see me fishing and ask if I have had any luck, my answer will always be “no”. I do not believe in “luck”.