You know, it’s not easy in this world for a young angler. The sport is expensive, the competition is fierce and often times the support is minimal. Fortunately, for me, I’ve had a little help along the way. After one year of competitive fishing with the junior section of a local bass club it didn’t take long for me to realize this was something I wanted to move forward with, but I also realized that if I was going to attempt to take the next step I was going to need a little help.
For aspiring anglers, the biggest advantage of a rapidly evolving technological world is social media. The ability for anglers to connect to with fishing companies, promote themselves, and quickly find out about tournaments as well as other news. I took advantage of these opportunities and through Facebook made the connections I needed to get myself sponsored. Many fishing companies realize the importance of youth in our sport and that they are the future of fishing therefore are more likely to offer sponsorship opportunities or junior pro staff positions to kids who can promote the product and market themselves efficiently. Good sponsors can be a great thing for an angler as they open new doors and offer discounts on products which is very beneficial as most young fisherman are on a very tight budget (I know this first hand all too well). Fortunately I was able to meet some great companies who I really enjoy working with and who treat me extremely well but this is not always the case. Remember, not every sponsor is a good one.
I fished my first Adult only tournament at the age of 16, it was the biggest wake up call in my fishing career. Fishing against kids your own age, at your own level is one thing. Stepping up against guys that have been doing this for longer than you’ve been alive, well that’s a whole other story. I fished from the back of the boat, in 36 degree weather in the pouring rain on a river system I’d never been too. I managed one keeper fish in 8 miserable hours. But it taught me a lesson, I thought I was a lot better of a fisherman than I really was and it definitely took me down a notch or two off my high pedestal. In fishing, you can never get cocky, because in a lot of ways you have no control in what happens. You may be in the right spot, with the right bait, at the right time but it’s still up to the fish whether or not they choose to cooperate and bite which leads me into my next tip. It’s not you against the other anglers; it’s you against the fish.
The easiest mistake an angler can make in a tournament is worrying about what the other competitors have. You have no control over anyone else on the water and so all you can do is focus on catching the biggest 5 fish you can and let the scales decide the winner for you. Ignore the dock talk, other anglers like to brag about all the giants they’re catching and more times than not these stories are just full of hot air with nothing to back them up. If you let the competition get in your head then they’ve already won.
Another key to becoming a better angler is the ability to learn and adapt on the water. Every time you fish is an opportunity to learn. Take a moment to note every fish you catch. Observe its size, the location you caught it, weather, time of day, and bait it hit. Asking yourself these questions will help you form a pattern and in return catch more fish. Also, don’t be afraid to try new things, especially if you’re fishing from the back of the boat. If the person in the front is flipping jigs along a row of docks it is futile for you to fish the same spots with the same bait right behind them. Look for areas that the person hasn’t targeted for example the areas in between the docks and give the fish a presentation they haven’t seen yet. Heck, it sure beats fishing used water the whole day. And finally, don’t fish for the bass you caught yesterday. Many anglers get caught up in how they caught fish the day before instead of letting the bass tell them what they want today. This can happen to anyone especially if you
were on a hot bite the day or the week before. Remember, fish are not stationary creatures they move with the weather and the time. Realizing this and adapting to where the fish are now, in the moment will help you to catch more fish than ever before.
It’s not easy being a young angler trying to find his way in the ever-changing world of bass fishing (trust me I know). But if you take these tips and use them in your fishing it might just make things a little bit easier. I’m not saying you’ll be the next Kevin VanDam but hey, it’s a start.