One of the quickest ways to find yourself stagnating in your development in any skill is to continue to only do what you’re already good at, instead of challenging yourself to try new techniques and new activities. In terms of fishing, I feel that fishing tournaments is one of the best ways to challenge yourself to get outside of your comfort zone and fish in ways that you might not otherwise - for species you might not always target, and/or in weather you might normally choose to fish in. Unfortunately for me, this year just hasn’t lined up very well with my work and personal schedule, and I’ve ended up missing a majority of the local tournaments. With the idea of gathering some new skills and knowledge despite missing the tournaments, I thought I would work on challenging myself on my own this summer, rather than falling back on sight fishing redfish every trip, which is my personal happy place. Part of that challenge has been targeting different species while traveling with family (disastrous results surf fishing and freshwater trout fishing, pretty good results with largemouth and smallmouth bass), part of that challenge has been fishing in areas that are new to me, and part of that challenge has been fishing with as many different folks as possible. Of course, this has led to a couple of total shutout trips, but has also let me add several species to my catch list, plenty of new knowledge, and some great trips with different folks. Here’s a few highlights of my summer of learning:
Fellow Jackson team member Chuck Bahan and I fished hard in a big money redfish tournament, had some good laughs when a redfish went through Chuck’s legs and overboard, only to get hooked in the butt on my lure. Made a rookie mistake and tightened my drag all the way down on a big fish, and bam, twisted a hook - lesson learned.
Jeff Oliver and I ran all over Lake Borgne looking for Jack Crevalle and the mythical tarpon, caught tons of catfish on topwater (new for me), accidentally threw a cast net on a school of black drum, ran into an enormous school of ladyfish, watched a 6-8’ shark eat a catfish off my line, ran crab trap after crab trap looking for tripletail, and eventually managed to find a nice school of speckled trout and put together a good bag of fish. Jeff schooled me on a suspending lure for quite a while until I got more comfortable with it and started catching fish, and bam, another good nugget of knowledge.
Fished with my best friend from high school on a private lake in the Adirondacks, caught some great bass on topwater and got to catch up on years of not having time to just talk. Fished solo on a misty, private lake in a beautiful solo canoe, and got skunked on trout in the most beautiful conditions possible, with the eerie call of loons rising through the mist.
Fished solo in my favorite spot, and got absolutely shut out by terrible water conditions and what seemed like endless schools of mullet, but was privy to some awesome thunderclouds in the distance.
Fished for Jack Crevalle with Jeff again, and ended up having to cut a gigantic treble hook out of his hand, but learned that it is absolutely a great idea to carry your mini-bolt cutters with your kit, even if you’re going on someone else’s boat.
Fished for redfish with Chad Battles in his tower boat, and got a chance to check out his techniques and got some good casting lessons as well as sight fishing practice. We had some great conversation on a wide range of topics, one of the most important being the absolute truth that fishing brings people of different backgrounds and philosophies together and allows them to have conversations face to face out on the water, rather than bashing each other on the internet. Great time out there with him.
Fished a new spot in the marsh, got rained on and run off the water, had to adjust tactics vastly, and grind for an entire day but came back satisfied with a good bag of fish for a totally empty fridge, and had a good size sheephead come home with me, an unusual thing for me on artificial lures. It had been a long while since I had been in the kayak, and it was good to just paddle around and enjoy being out there without stressing too hard about the fish. It was also real cool to see some bits and pieces of old-school Louisiana life in a small fishing village.
Fished with fellow Bayou Coast officers in yet another new spot, and had another great day, this time working hard on NOT sight fishing redfish, but paying attention to moving water and using the appropriate lures…
To make a long story short, it has been a great summer of trying out new approaches, fishing with different folks in different spots and just generally challenging myself. The most fun day of fishing recently had to have been the solo lure challenge I gave myself, trying to catch redfish on as many lures as possible in a single day. I unfortunately forgot my topwater box, but still managed to snag a redfish on 7 different lures, ending up with 10-12 fish total. Yes, I could have probably ended up with quite a few more by sticking with just what I was most comfortable with, but it was great feedback and knowledge to watch how they reacted to different lures, and see which lures did the best. I’ll leave off with one last photo of some of the cast of characters from that trip: