As an Elite Series pro, Dave Wolak spends countless hours on the water preparing for, or competing in, tournaments. When he's not practicing for an upcoming tournament, Wolak reveals that he's still in "practice mode," since time on the water is a critical factor in his success.
Wolak stresses that when the opportunity presents itself, even if it's for a few hours, it's imperative for bass anglers wanting to elevate their games to have some seat time.
"Time on the water just makes you a better fisherman; there's no way around it," he says. "The more time you're able to spend on the water, the more proficient you become at all the capabilities necessary to improve your game."
Beyond the technical aspect, Wolak points out that experience also gives anglers better insight into what the bass are doing day to day.
"Just trying to piece all of the variables together while fishing is a big piece of the overall puzzle," he explains. "Something as small as knowing how a bug hatch will cause bass to react or that a particular school comes in to feed every morning at 7:30. The only way to know those subtleties is by spending time on the water."
Wolak cautions that in today's age of information, there is no substitute — regardless of how precise the information may be — to spending time fishing.
"In a case where you've gotten information from someone who tells you where and what they're biting on, it still won't give you the complete picture," he says. "What that guy has done might work for them, but it probably won't work for you because you won't have the confidence to rely completely on someone else's performance and information."
He also points out that frequent fishing will increase an angler's awareness of environmental clues that might otherwise be overlooked.
"Time on the water also gets you tuned in to the environment," he says. "Because you've spent the extra time out there, there are going to be subtle clues that you pick up on instinctively."
Not that Wolak is preaching a holistic out-of-doors lifestyle by any means, but he does stress the importance of being "in tune" with Mother Nature.
"Being successful has a lot to do with instincts, and if you're not spending any time on the water, your instincts aren't going to be very good," he says.
This on-the-water experience isn't relegated to a specific body of water. As Wolak explains, the skills learned and refined on one lake translate easily to another.
"What I've found traveling across the country is that a bass is a bass, regardless of where it lives," he says. "You find a lot of commonalities between bodies of water regardless of where you go, but the key is in having the knowledge and ability to recognize them."
That knowledge, Wolak explains, is gained mainly through spending as much time on the water as possible.
"Everything is relative where the bodies of water are concerned, but seasonal patterns and climate changes are the subtleties that can ruin a fishing day," he explains. "By spending more time on the water, you're able to make better decisions day in and day out."