Learning the craft

I've been getting a lot of e-mails lately asking me for advice about how to learn the craft of bass fishing. I certainly don't claim to have all the answers but I will offer you a thought or two on the subject. (I apologize for not being able to answer each one individually but there just aren't enough hours in the day.)

If you expect to learn to catch fish you have to catch fish. You can't fish tough waters and learn, at least not as fast as you can learn fishing easier waters. That's why I love farm ponds. They offer a small body of water that you can manage efficiently and they usually have more than enough bass in them to keep you busy for an afternoon. The best ones are usually the ones with limited access.

Don't despair. They aren't that hard to find. Here, near my home, there's a new planned community right around the corner. There are ponds everywhere in it. But they're all posted, and the "No Fishing" rules that ban non-residents from fishing them are enforced. I was complaining to Tracey the other day about that. She informed me that her aunt and uncle lived in that community. Do I need to tell you the rest of the story? I didn't think so.

In one short afternoon, I caught at least 40 bass on a topwater bait. The hot bite gave me the opportunity to try new retrieves and new hook set techniques. The learning curve was almost effortless. I knew the fish were there and biting so I had the confidence to try new things, and I was able to figure out what works and what doesn't.

Let me tell you something else. I'm not the only pro who does that. Nearly all of us practice with new lures and equipment on "easy" waters or places we know really well. Easy is in quotation marks because I don't want to mislead you. The bass in farm ponds don't just grab your lure. You still have to catch them, and they're still fish. After the first time I caught all those bass on topwater lures, a serious cold front moved into central and southern Ohio. I went back to the pond and couldn't buy a bite on my topwater plug.

The thing is, though, I didn't blame the bass or the pond. I knew I was in a place with plenty of hot bass so I knew the problem was mine. I switched baits and started catching them again. I worked that bait in a number of different ways and learned new things about it, which is why I was there in the first place. Learning this craft isn't always about fishing legendary waters from a big, fancy bass boat. It's about learning to use your tools in the most efficient manner. Ponds are great places to do that.

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