1. A bass is a bass. It doesn’t matter where they live. They relate to the same kinds of structure and cover. They change every single day based on factors we may, or may not, understand. Know a bass in one area of the country and you can adapt that knowledge to almost anywhere.
2. You can't fish if you tear up your equipment. Don't kill your rig to get where you are fishing because if you break it on the way, you can't fish. And don’t abuse your tackle. You’ll fish again another day. In my world that’s called common sense.
3. Fishing during the week with only a few boats on the water and fishing in a B.A.S.S. tournament are two completely different things. Don’t try to equate the two. It is like shooting basketball in an empty gym versus playing in an NBA game. Your approach needs to be totally different.
4. Always have two rain suits in your boat no matter what the pretty weather girl says on TV.
5. You need to assemble a group of tools and parts that can get you through most problems on the water. These include duct tape, a socket set, a prop wrench, electrical tape, pliers, lithium jump box, cable ties, etc. You never know what’ll happen.
6. Routine is the key to not forgetting anything. Develop a routine for everything you do the day before you leave, the morning of your trip, and when you launch at the ramp so that everything stays as close to the same as possible. This might sound silly, but it will save you headaches.
7. Don't listen to dock talk or to the local hot stick. I know this is easier said than done but in 18 years I’ve heard it all. I don't really care how many bass or how big they were if someone else caught them. I’m not fishing for their fish. I’m fishing for mine.
8. Fish your style. Do what you are comfortable with and change when conditions change. Adapting is the key but don't try to fish like someone you are not. Just because a pro angler or a local hot stick is fishing a certain way doesn’t mean that’s your way. Stay within yourself.
9. Keeping your boat organized is big, especially for me. I fish different places and need to adapt quickly. You may not need to do that for financial or career reasons but your time on the water is still valuable. Don’t waste it looking for things, and don’t realize you have something after you no longer need it.
10. The only thing that really matters is what the fish are doing. Many anglers, including me, can get sidetracked on things like dock politics, gossip, dock talk and what happened yesterday or last year. None of that makes any difference. It just doesn't matter. What does matter is figuring out how you can catch the most, and the biggest, bass possible the day you’re fishing.
I learned some of these lessons the hard way and observed a few others. Experience is only an attribute if you learn from it.