Time in the woods

I love fall because one of my favorite offseason activities is spending time in the woods. Hunting offers a great way to unwind after a busy year, so it’s not uncommon for most of the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers to trade their fishing rods for a shotgun, a bow or a rifle.

It’s nice to get away from the tournament lifestyle for a couple of months, but I’ve learned that there are many similarities between fishing and hunting. In fact, lots of the lessons I learn in the woods can be applied to my trips on the water. Even if you're not a hunter, there might be some things that you're overlooking that could improve your fishing success.

In the wild you either find yourself as a predator or prey. Bass can be both, and whatever the scenario, they’re relying on all their senses to maintain awareness of what's going on around them.

This is why it's so important to use stealth as you pull into an area or fish through it. Boat noise like closing compartments, deploying your trolling motor and even heavily stepping around in the boat can spook wary fish; just like noisily climbing into your deer stand can alert animals to your presence.

Scent is another big factor that I keep in mind, both for hunting and fishing. As an archery hunter, concealing your scent is one of the most critical aspects that determine the difference between success and just another good hunting story where it almost happened. 

For fishing, I think of scent in both a positive and a negative aspect. On the positive side, I frequently use scent to encourage a fish to hold on to the bait a little longer. This is important for any subtle bites, but I always use scent when smallmouth are in play. 

On the negative side, I think it's important to take care to prevent substances like boat gas and sunscreen to touch your bait. That’s why I keep an ample supply of Fish-D-Funk wipes in my boat. Regularly cleaning my hands keeps any contaminating smells off my baits.

One last aspect to keep in mind is sudden movement. While glassing for elk during a recent trip, I turned my head to notice a cow elk had me pegged about 150 yards to my right just by the sun reflecting off my face when I turned. 

Fish are no different. They have to survive herons, diving birds and all kinds of danger from the day they're born, so they become very alert to sudden movements. For example, quickly leaning down to pick up a rod or even casting a shadow over them could render your next cast completely ineffective.

I always want to fish ahead of my presence so they focus on the bait instead of me. If I see a fish I really try get my bait ahead of them so the presentation dominates their attention.

Hopefully, these tips will help you put a few more of those key fish in your livewell. If you're heading back out to the woods soon, then good luck on your hunt and remember that going undetected will make all the difference — for hunters and fishermen.

Follow Cliff Pirch's hunting and fishing activities on Facebook or Instagram or #basselite.