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The little details can help you land more fish

Most of us that love to fish also like to improve as "catchers." Fishing is fun, but catching fish is even more fun. I have noticed that the days I am more focused and pay attention to little details are the days that I do more catching. We all know the importance of paying attention to the little things and the details that make a difference in other areas of our life. The same applies to improving as an angler.

One habit I got into in my early years was keeping a journal of fishing outings. I recorded information like date, time, water temp, air temp, weather conditions, location, technique(s) used, what worked and what didn't, how deep, wind speed and direction, and anything that I thought seemed to make a difference. Poor outings started to teach me as much as successful trips. I wanted to learn, and this process helped me to start to notice patterns.

I still continue to learn and notice different details that help me become a better "catcher." I don't keep the journal like I used to -- lots of excuses, but no good reason. The reality is, that it is still fishing, and some days it just doesn't go the way we had planned.

Sometimes I have been given the opportunity to notice something early and just didn't key in on it right away. An example of this occurred recently when we were jigging the edge of a flat. I had been catching fish the previous two days "popping" the jigs along this edge. The conditions were the same and I expected the same out of the fish this trip. We made a couple of drifts with no action. I set my rod down to change jig colors on another rod and when I picked mine up, I had the weight of a fish holding my jig in his mouth. As we are netting the fish I proclaimed, "They are still here!" We made several more passes with no luck. I set my rod down to undo a tangle and when I picked up my rod, another fish. We stayed at it for a couple more passes popping our jigs with nothing happening. I was just getting ready to move to a new spot when one of the guys pouring his coffee had his rod jump with activity. Ding! Finally, I made the connection that we needed to just drag our jigs, instead of being so aggressive with our action. Sometimes it takes me a while. Sometimes, I don't get it figured out until after the fact.

Fishing success is about paying attention to details and adjusting. What color jig, spinner, bead, or crankbait got the bite? Were we going with the wind or into the wind? What was the speed of my boat or lure? What was the depth? Going up the break or down? Was the fish warm or cold when I handled it? What bait was getting the bites? What length of leader was working? When you start asking and answering these kinds of questions (and more) of yourself, you are on the path to becoming a more consistent "catcher."

Some fishermen have their journal of fishing knowledge etched in their hearts and are just fish whisperers. They don't seem to need to work at catching. The rest of us have to practice and pay attention to the little details. I look forward to getting out, practicing paying attention to details, and getting this fishing thing figured out. I hope you make time to get out and practice too!

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