Don’t let info overload stop your fishing journey

When I was new to fishing, the vast variety of fishing methods practically paralyzed me.

Think of all the ways there are to fish for bass. You've got the Texas rig, the Carolina rig and the Florida rig for fishing soft baits near the bottom. To fish soft baits higher in the water, you've got swimbaits, but selecting a swimbait for a given application is only the beginning. You also need to figure out which swimbait head you need for a given application.

To catch striped bass, you might need a downrigger and all that goes with it to get your bait to fish suspending deep. You might need planer boards to separate trolled lines and to get them out and away to the sides of the boat. You might want to use balloons to suspend live bait and to act as strike indicators.

Fly fishing is a world under itself, and let's not even get started on the ever changing world of electronics.

Essentially, fishing is the art of provoking a fish to bite a bait or lure. Anglers constantly tinker with finding new ways to present a bait to a fish in a manner that will provoke it to bite. If the method is simple enough to deploy and easy enough to use, it will become popular and become accepted as a legitimate way to fish. Often, anglers invent ways to put new twists in existing methods.

In 1997, for example, I introduced the bass fishing world to the swimming jig in a feature article for Bassmaster magazine. Jigs had been a bass fishing staple for as long as recreational bass fishing has existed. It had always been a simple method, chunk of lead with a skirt made of hair, rubber or silicone with an Uncle Josh pork rind attached to the hook. It is an effective way to fish heavy cover and to fish on the bottom in deep water. You flip it among wood cover, against the bases of trees or punch it through heavy grass mats. It's a slow, plodding way to fish.

In the 1990s, a few anglers in western Arkansas started using jigs in a way that was antithetical to traditional jig fishing. They retrieved them at high speeds across the tops of grass mats.

Mitch Looper, who owns a chain of pizza restaurants in the Fort Smith area, was known as one of the most proficient bass anglers in western Arkansas. Looper didn't fish tournaments, but he refined and perfected the swimming jig technique, and he used it to catch giant largemouths in places where people didn't believe they existed, namely in municipal water supply reservoirs and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission lakes. He taught it to me at Waldron city lake, Ozark city lake, Lake Hinkle, and to my greatest astonishment, Sugarloaf Lake, where I caught my largest bass to date, an 8.14-pounder.

He designed jigs with properties that were conducive to swimming. The technique required a fast reel with a 7.1:1 retrieve ratio. At that time, there was only one, the Daiwa Procaster PR33SH. Bassmaster had about 500,000 subscribers at that time. The swimming jig was an instant success and created an entire tackle niche, as well as multiple offshoots. Now, 7:1 class reels are common, and some are even faster.

In the winter of 1995, Looper taught me how to catch Kentucky bass in deep water with light tackle and small plastic grubs. It was a highly precise style of fishing, and it seems phenomenal that we did it successfully with electronic equipment that was state of the art in 1995, but is primitive now.

On Thursday -- nearly 28 years later -- the great Bobby Murray, who won the Bassmaster Classic in 1971 and 1978, described to me an even more precise method for doing the same thing with a technique and tackle that evolved from the most modern electronics.

Anglers come in two flavors. Some devour every word they can find about this stuff. Others slam squarely into the wall of information overload.

Don't let it disable you. Get proficient at one or two things and build a repertoire one room at a time. It won't take long before you will be able to catch your favorite fish, be it bass, crappie, striper or walleye, in any season. Embrace the journey, but understand that it isn't cheap.

Upcoming Events