Beware of shared information

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Steve Bowman

A few weeks back I wrote about fishing Mille Lacs. Zackre Kiefer put a post up in the comments section saying there’s no bass, walleye or muskie in the lake. He directed everyone to Falcon where he heard they were biting.

Of course, he was just messin’ with us. It was all good natured fun, and we took it that way. But it got me to thinking. Can we really trust the information we get from other anglers? Does it help us catch bass to turn a secretive ear towards a couple of locals talking about their day?

The answer is no.

I’ve fished all my life, and since turning pro I’ve done it all over the country. Out of all the anglers I know and have met over the years I can count on my two hands the number of anglers I believe.

It’s not that they’re all liars, although some guys do seem to relish the thought of passing out bad information. It’s that a lot of the time they don’t know what they’re talking about or that they don’t give you enough information to be useful. In some cases that’s intentional. In other cases they don’t know what they were doing right and so they can’t tell you.

The first guy I’m going to warn you about is the one who volunteers information before you even ask. I guarantee you he’s a liar. If you doubt what I just said, double check by looking to see if his lips are moving. If they are, I was right.

Guys who know don’t tell you. Fishing is a secretive kind of activity and, to make matters worse, top anglers are fiercely competitive. Information is rarely given away. That’s not a part of fishing culture.

A much bigger problem, though, is that a huge percentage of local anglers suffer from tunnel vision. They think the only way to catch bass from their lake is to throw a certain lure — usually narrowed down by size and color as well as type — at a certain type of cover or structure.

This problem is compounded if a local hot stick is involved. The information about how he’s catching them is usually second or third hand and probably wasn’t reliable the first time it was told.

Most of these guys mean well, but their information is usually useless. I might catch them in Kentucky Lake on a Texas rigged, Red Shad Anaconda or a Bull Worm from Strike King on the ledges but another guy will come along and catch them with a drop shot and a white plastic minnow.

If there’s any doubt in your mind about the truth of what I’ve said, watch the Elite guys hit a lake. They’ll show you ways to catch bass you never thought about, much less tried.  

The deal is to ignore dock talk. It’ll get in your head and foul up your fishing. A lot of great information from the right source is helpful but just a little bad information will be disastrous. No information is better than bad information.

I want to emphasize that nothing I’ve said is intended to be personal towards anglers who really try to help. It’s just that help like that doesn’t help. It hurts. Stay away from it. Use your own instincts and your own fishing knowledge. In most cases you’ll do better.

Most of the information you need — the stuff that will really help you — can be had from local tackle shops. I wrote a column about how to use them effectively. It was called Tricks of the trade. I respectfully suggest you read it.

For those of you who insist on talking to other anglers, I’ll give you some tips on what you should ask them next week.