Expanding your horizons

Last time we talked about fishing style and how most anglers develop a style based on where they learned the sport. It's vitally important to expand on that fishing style and become more versatile if you want to improve as an angler, but that can be tough to do. How do you go about learning new techniques and new baits?

I've always been really eager to try new things. I love that there's always more to learn about the sport. It keeps things new and exciting.

One of the best sources for finding out what's new in the world of bass fishing is Bassmaster Magazine. When a new technique gets hot or has some success in tournaments, that's the first place it gets exposure. I still look at every page of Bassmaster when I get it, and I still try to learn all the worthwhile new techniques that come along.

I said "worthwhile," because I tend to be pretty skeptical about new baits or methods. Some of them are pretty gimmicky and not really valuable to the serious angler. I want to make sure they're real and will actually put more fish in my boat before I spend a lot of time and effort trying to master them. But once I make the determination that the technique or bait is a good one, I want to learn it fast and well.

I haven't always done a good job of that in my career. I remember that I had some Slug-Gos in my boat for about a year before I ever gave them a try. Then, once I started fishing with them, I realized what a great bait style they were and how important soft plastic stickbaits could be. I probably lost a lot of money by not spending more time with them right away.

Once I decide it's time to add a new bait or technique to my arsenal, I try to read all I can about it. I want to learn from the experts — the guys who designed or invented it or the pros who are winning with it. I may not agree with everything they say about it, but I still want to know what they're doing. That can give me a great head start.

Then, when I'm ready to actually try the bait or method, I go to a body of water where I know I can get lots of bites — someplace with plenty of bass and very little fishing pressure. You can learn more by having some immediate success than you can with hours and hours of failure.

Don't try to learn something new when you're practicing for a tournament, either. You'll be wasting valuable practice time and not giving the new stuff a fair try. Learn it between tournaments when you have time to experiment.

Not only do you want to see what the new lure or technique can do, but you want to experiment with the best rigging method, the best hook, best line, rod action and everything else that goes into your presentation. You can't do that when you've got a tournament coming up in a day or two.

Quickly and thoroughly learning new techniques is a big part of becoming a better bass angler.