The truth about equipment

About the author

Mark Davis

Mark Davis

Mark Davis is 3-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year and the 1995 Bassmaster Classic champion.

I get a lot of questions about equipment — what to buy and what’s needed to be successful as a bass angler. We’re going to talk about that, but before we do I want to remind everybody that the most important piece of fishing equipment you have is your head.

Good equipment is a nice thing to have. There’s no doubt that new, specialty rods and reels will help you do certain things. But, and this is important to remember, they won’t help you if you can’t cast, if you can’t hit your target and, especially, if you don’t have confidence in your abilities.

Just because you don’t have the budget to buy the newest and the best doesn’t mean you can’t catch bass, and it doesn’t mean you can’t compete. I know several successful pros who do very well with a half-dozen ordinary sticks. They do not have a rod for every type of lure they carry in their boat.

The same thing can be said about lures. Every so often there’s a lure of one kind or another that’s a “must-have” bait for the serious angler. That thinking usually starts when a pro wins a big tournament with it. If you have an unlimited budget, I suppose it’s OK to go out and buy several of them. But keep in mind that no lure will catch bass that aren’t there.

There’s a reason why the old standbys are old standbys. Basic Strike King lures will get you through most situations you find yourself in.

Boats are no different. I fish out of a Skeeter FX model bass boat. It’s a fishing machine. I couldn’t be happier to have it, and it serves a very real purpose on the Elite Series trail. At the same time, though, at home I fish a lot out of an ordinary johnboat. Not having my Skeeter under me is no excuse for not catching fish.

Now, I’m going to say something that might upset a lot of anglers but I’m going to say it anyway. I see a lot of guys who try to compensate for a lack of basic fishing skills, and who do not have confidence in their own abilities, by spending money.

They think if they could go faster, have a more expensive rod and reel or grab a handful of the newest baits they could catch them like the other guys. They forget that you have to find the fish first and then make them bite.

That brings us to the one exception to what I’m talking about. If there’s a place where you might want to spend money on the newest and the best, it’s with electronics. The new stuff is amazing. Sometimes I can’t believe what it will do.

I’m primarily an offshore guy. There was a time when I had a distinct advantage out in the middle of the lake with my flasher. No more. Almost any angler who owns a good unit and is willing to spend the time to learn how to use it can find my best spots.

But even here there’s a point of common sense. I own a Lowrance HDS-5 Gen 2, HDS-7 Gen 2, and a couple of HDS-10 Gen 2 units. Truthfully, I use the 5 and the 7 about as much as the others. There’s a HDS-5x Gen 2 that sells for around $500. Relatively speaking, that’s not a lot of money. And I’ll tell you, it’s a whole lot better than anything I was using just a few short years ago.

What I’m not saying here is that you shouldn’t upgrade your equipment. I am saying that you have to develop basic skills and know how to use what you have before you spend a lot of money on upgrades.

Fishing is mostly a matter of confidence, and nothing will destroy your confidence faster than buying something new and still getting whooped in the next club tournament.

Believe in yourself. Learn to fish. Buy what you need.

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