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Brad Laabs: Don’t become a creature of habit with your fishing

It is easy for most of us that fish to fall into habits of past success and not risk change at times. We will tend to stay with the same baits, the same colors, the same techniques, and the same locations. This is a normal tendency not just for fishing, but for many things in our life. Taking risks and getting out of our comfort zone can be hard. We tend to stay with what we know has worked or what we have confidence with.

I think this can be a good and bad thing for us as fisherman. The good part of staying with one style, is that we will refine our skills, and that fishing with confidence is important for success. The bad part of not trying new things is we may miss out on some more active fishing by staying only to what we know or feel comfortable with. We may not grow or learn as much as an angler by not learning new techniques.

We have all been guilty of going out on our trips and “fishing memories”. We go to the spots on certain lakes, at certain times of the year, and do certain things, and it worked. So we keep going to that pattern and expecting it to work the same. Sometimes it does, but many times it doesn’t. When “fishing history or memories” doesn’t work, we may just think that “they just weren’t biting today.” When really, the fish may have been active somewhere else on the lake doing something else.

I know I struggle with changing sometimes as I just keep expecting what I am doing is going to work! I am stubborn at times and also like to catch fish the way I want to catch them.

Many years ago I made a conscious decision to become more versatile and focused attention on learning different techniques. I also wanted to meet the challenges of learning the variations of these styles of fishing to be successful on rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. The hard part of taking risks to try new equipment, new styles, and new locations, is knowing that you will not always have success. Like anything we do, we need to practice to get better. It is a great feeling when you take a risk to try something new, maybe somewhere new, and you get it figured out and have a little success.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity over the years to get to know, visit with, fish with, and fish against, some of the anglers that are at the top of the walleye game. One thing that stands out for me as part of the lessons of these experiences is that even the best have some bad days on the water. Consistently, all have found that they have sometimes learned more from the challenging days than the days when it came easy. A common thread for those that have consistency is that they have expanded knowledge and versatility. They change things up, try different locations, and try different techniques to try and figure out what will work for that day and those conditions. Being able to translate the experiences of what works — and what doesn’t — can make us better anglers.

I also know about myself, that there are a couple things I like to do to catch fish above all other strategies. Sometimes I will stay at what I am doing as a conscious decision, knowing that something else may work better. I sometimes just prefer to catch them the way I like, and I would rather catch a few my way, than more a way that I don’t prefer as much. I like the techniques that are about having a rod in my hand, feeling a bite, and setting the hook. That is also the experiences I prefer to try and give my clients.

At the end of every open water season, I do reflect on the past season. I always set a goal for the next season to make sure I try some things I didn’t, or get back to doing some things I have done before in certain situations that I need to go back to. Set a goal for yourself for next year to learn a new technique. Part of what I really like about fishing is not just the catching, but figuring out how to do the catching.

Fishing is always fun, but catching can make it even more fun. Get out on the open water this fall and have some fun, and if you want to even have more fun, you may want to try something new.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)