What’s a normal catch?

One of the great things about bass fishing is that it’s no respecter of persons. Any angler can catch as many bass as a top pro on any given day. And, no matter your level of expertise you can return to the dock with nothing.

The Bassmaster Elite Series is a great example of what I’m talking about. Check the standings as one of our tournaments goes along. You’ll see some astounding weights and catches that’ll make you drool. At the same time, though, you’ll see where some of the best bass anglers to ever live struggle to catch a couple of ordinary keepers. 

That’s why I say that there’s no such thing as a normal day on the water, or if there is, it’s that normal means there is no normal. The catch for every day is different.

I’ve fished six or eight tournaments on Lake Guntersville. It’s one of the legendary bass lakes in the country. I kept hearing about 100 bass days like it was no big deal. 

Well, during the first few tournaments I fished on her I hadn’t seen anything close to 100 bass. It was good, but not that good. Frankly, I wondered what the other guys were talking about. I knew some of them so I knew they weren’t lying but still…

Then things changed. I fished another event down there, and I did boat 100 in one day. It actually happened two days in a row. I learned from experience that at least the first part of what I was hearing was true.

A few years after those 100 fish days, I was in another tournament on Guntersville. I was really struggling. It was past noon. I didn’t have a fish in my livewell. I started making adjustments and stumbled on to something. In just a little over an hour I put 19 pounds of largemouth into my livewell. I learned then that Guntersville is special. I also learned that when you catch them doesn’t matter.

That’s what bass fishing is all about. Some days you’re the smartest and best angler on the planet. All you need to do is throw something out, set the hook and watch her tailwalk all the way back to the boat. Other days it seems like you don’t know anything. If you do mange to hook one, it’ll shake loose sure as the devil. It’s like you need to go to the local grocery store to even see a fish.

What I’ve just talked about are the extremes, though. A more common situation is when we catch one or two an hour. We don’t locate big schools of big bass, and we don’t catch a dozen or more in a row. It’s a hunt-and-peck scenario all day. 

The point I’m trying to make is that fishing is unique. In many other competitive sports or activities we’re in control, at least somewhat. Fishing is different. Control is a word that doesn’t apply. We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature, and we’re after something that we don’t fully understand. That can be a tough combination.

So, throw out the word normal when you’re talking about catch rates. Don’t think of any day in that light. Enjoy the times when they jump in the boat, meet the challenge of the sport when they don’t and fish along so-so the rest of the time. And never compare yourself to anyone else, or what they’ve caught unless you’re a pro and need to catch them to support your family.