Patrick Pierce: Becoming a better fisherman

Who are you? I’m guessing that most of you who clicked on this column are wondering that about me. And, since I’m not one of the Bassmaster Elite Series pros, you’re expecting me to answer that question. But that would be boring … even to me.

I’ve spent the last month thinking about how to kick this thing off, and that’s not the way I want to do it. If I get to keep writing this column (and you continue to read it), you’ll probably learn a lot about me, but there are more interesting things to talk about.

For now, I’ll stick to the basics. I’m an “Opens pro.” I fish the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens — all of them … or nearly so. I run the Star Tron Triton, and with the support of the Star brite folks and a lot of other great sponsors, I get to compete on the tournament trail.

For me, qualifying for the Elite Series is a goal — not a dream. (I think there’s an important distinction there.) I have a “day job” outside the tournament world. It’s a good job, and I’m grateful for it, but I look forward to when I can “fish for a living.” My background is in fisheries management. I have a couple of college degrees to back that up, and I’ll throw a little science into this column every now and then, just to spice things up and show my professors and classmates that I was paying attention.

I have a wonderful wife and a terrific young daughter who make sacrifices so I can work toward my goal. Our lives might be easier if I had a different goal, but they support me in this one, and I plan to repay them by making it a reality.

That’s enough about me for now. This column needs to be about you … to serve you. Since you’re reading this on Bassmaster.com, you’re either a bass angler or one of those annoying people who tries to sell stuff in the comments below. Maybe you compete in tournaments, maybe in a club, maybe with a buddy … maybe you’re one of my competitors in the Opens or an Elite pro. (Hey, thanks for stopping by!)

Whoever you are, my goal is to make you a better fisherman. In the process, I’ll get better, too.

Recently, I was standing around an Open weigh-in with a veteran outdoor writer. A young competitor who had just notched a Top 10 performance came over to meet him, anxious to share the story of his tournament and maybe get a story written about him.

The young angler was obviously confused when the writer’s first question was, “Who’s your favorite pro – your hero?” rather than some question about his key lure or the details of his pattern. The young angler stammered a bit, then threw out the name of a young gun in the Elites.

“He’s inconsistent,” the writer fired back. The young angler threw out another name – another popular but inexperienced angler. “Lacks versatility,” shot back the writer.

It was like a tennis match … or a train wreck.

The way I saw it, the writer was teaching the young angler a lesson. We all have mentors. Some we know personally. Others we’ve only seen in Bassmaster Magazine, on Bassmaster.com or ESPN2. They’re the people we listen to, that teach us new techniques, mold our strategies and help define who we are as anglers and competitors.

Even top pros have mentors. When Aaron Martens talks about the subtleties of drop shotting, everyone listens. When Rick Clunn pulls out the crankbait box or Tommy Biffle is trimming a jig, other pros pay attention.

Tournament bass fishing doesn’t have coaches or trainers. But every position on a pro football team has its own coach. There are pitching and hitting coaches in baseball. Even golf has swing coaches.

Have you ever heard of a casting coach? A cranking coach? Anybody out there doing reps with a flipping stick?

With no coaches, we have to learn from each other. Who you are as a fisherman is the sum total of the skills, techniques, patterns, ideas, styles, rules and superstitions of your mentors. If you want to get better, you need mentors who can help you get there.

It took me a while to realize this … and to adjust my thinking as it comes to mentors.

Which brings up the question: Who are you and who are your mentors? Are they helping?

I’ll tell you about some of mine a little later.