Patience is a virtue in fishing, but with careful observation, I have realized the best anglers seem to disregard this. They take more of a carpe diem approach: they seize the day. Sitting on a proven fishing hole with a proven bait and waiting for the fish to bite is a strategy that makes sense. At one time, I lived by this, but I am here to tell you this strategy prevents you from discovering a lake’s full potential. Today I’m going to share some tips on how to get out of your comfort zone on the water. Protect your boat with a KeelGuard, SkegGuard, and ScuffBuster, then take the bull by the horns.
Early in my bass tournament career, it was typical for me to begin a day with a few good fish, and then struggle finishing out my limit. Frustration and poor finishes were the result. I was guilty of waiting for the fish to show up instead of pursuing them. It was not until I began studying the anglers who consistently finished high in the ranks that I discovered a similarity amongst them: they are constantly on the move. It was out of my comfort zone.
Further proof is backed up in the “Day on the Lake” articles in Bassmaster Magazine, which feature professionals on an unfamiliar body of water. They are constantly on the move, exploring new water and changing lures. It took a while, but I got the message. As uncomfortable as it makes me at times, my success rate increased exponentially after adopting this philosophy. And it can for you too, once you learn how to get out of your comfort zone on the water.
The strategy began paying off for me in big moments. During a prestigious tournament on Lake Michigan in 2014, I began by driving 25 miles east from takeoff. This was not by coincidence; I finished as runner up the previous year from this spot. But slinging jigs, tubes, and crankbaits for two hours produced only a single keeper. So I did the painful thing, I left.
And it was painful. It began by running 40 miles west across Lake Michigan. But the suffering just continued as this area also failed to produce. The pain was then amplified by running an additional 10 miles west. Luckily, I landed three solid keepers here in 20 minutes.
Now, my situation was much improved, but I still lacked my fifth keeper. Thus, I ran another five miles west.
Again, I failed to connect. With little time remaining, there was no choice but to keep moving, and it paid off. After another mile west, I landed my fifth keeper to complete my limit. At the end of the day, a 13.45 pound limit landed me in the top five amongst an exceptionally competitive group. Had I remained in my comfort zone, I likely would have failed to complete my limit. As a result, I was counting money. Even if you’re not looking to count actual money, it will pay off big time when you learn how to get out of your comfort zone on the water.
This openness and getting out of your comfort zone on the water will help all anglers. During a family vacation to Northern Minnesota, I went fishing with my brother-in-law, who has a rich history on a 58 acre lake. He has spots on this lake that produce year after year by throwing plastic stickbaits, frogs, and topwater. However, this trip was different. Despite hammering his favorite spots several times, they failed. With some encouragement to get out of his comfort zone, we began fishing deeper than he had ever before with a crankbait. It worked. We caught big limits of bass and northern pike over the next two hours.
Without question, my most memorable run and gun approach was my first professional event – the B.A.S.S. Northern Open tournament on Lake Champlain. Despite locating big schools of smallmouth bass in practice, the first day of competition found me struggling. My best areas failed to produce, and I was stuck with a small nine-pound limit with less than two hours remaining. Just as I did on Lake Michigan, I kept plugging away, and after struggling through seven spots, number eight brought the money.
Humility and openness were important though. After arriving, my co-angler unknowingly gave me a big clue. While I was slinging a crankbait, he landed two fish by dragging a tube in just a couple of minutes. This encouraged me to throw one as well, and during the last 90 minutes, I culled up to a 15-15 pound limit of smallmouth bass, which tied me for 31 out of 180 professionals. Not only was I high in the standings after one day, but I had an area with quality and quantity.
After roaring to the same spot on day two, the fish played hardball. They showed themselves by surfacing and on the sonar, but after 30 minutes my livewell was empty. Before leaving, though, I slung a darter bait and immediately began catching smallmouth. I soaked the area for all it was worth: 18 keepers for a 15-8 limit and finished 24th with a total of 31-7 pounds. I credit the success to my persistence of running to new areas and trying new baits until I found something that worked. Early in my career, I would have stuck it out in an area and died by it. Once you know how to get out of your comfort zone on the water, you’ll start seeing results too.
As the 2018 season progresses, resist the temptation to settle for a mediocre day; instead, seize the day. Get out of your comfort zone on the water. Do not hope for luck. Chase it down. It might just lead to a grand discovery.
And of course, remember as you’re hitting the lake, protect your boat with the very best. When your boat is protected with Megaware products, you can feel confident leaving your comfort zone behind.