Lakecaster Online

By John Plumb

Is it luck or skill?

Much debated in the world of fishing is, "Is it luck or skill? Some say it's scientific knowledge that gives an edge to success. Some attribute luck as the factor in catching fish or not. I've known a number of guide types that had big egos, and remarked that, and I quote, "Luck ain't got nuthin to do with it. Period." After being a guide for 27 years, I've come to the conclusion that having a successful fishing trip takes a lot of both.

If a person is to be consistently reliable at finding fish, there is a level of skill required. Knowing the fish's habits, where they are working, what they are doing, when to expect action, getting the boat there and set up to fish, then coping with weather, water, and other distractions like jet skis, joy riders and the like. Understanding the electronics on the boat, I mean really being able to read the sonar takes more skill than most folks realize.

Having really good equipment certainly helps. I don't know if it gives an edge, but it does make for trouble free trips. If your electronics are marginal, expect marginal performance. If your motor is a rag, well, you know that that means trouble waiting for the worst possible moment to happen. It hasn't got much to do with successful fishing, except to get you there and back. It's hard to fish while you are being towed in.

If I were asked, I would say having an intimate knowledge of the place you're fishing on is the number one thing that would make your day. Livingston is so full of ridges, humps, lumps, dumps, creeks and channels, I doubt if anyone really knows all of it. I've been all over the lake proper, and in my time I learned several areas real well, and the rest is just better than general.

Another really good thing to have is a GPS unit on the boat, and a good compass. GPS is so accurate, once you have taken the boat to the exact spot and saved it in memory, that thing will take you back within about 20-30 feet. That is pretty cool. I tell you, if you use your boat fairly regular, the cost of the unit will pay out in gas savings, not to mention the time you'll save. Many of my fish spots are just numbers because there just isn't anything to line up with.

And then there's the luck part. Finding the fish at home. There you are. The time you visit a spot that usually works may not be the time the fish show up. Critters of all kinds have a biological clock, and they dance to their own tune. No doubt, there are places in mid-lake where the whites visit daily. Timing will vary with moon phase, weather, boat traffic, and water condition.

When I leave the dock, I pretty much know where I'm going to fish. I build a route in my head. If it isn't working by the third or fourth stop, I scramble the route and tend more toward random looking. Man, sometimes the fish forget where they're supposed to be, and they go roaming. The more successful fishers will be the ones who can be diverse, and abandon routine for the unusual. White bass may school over 50 feet of water, or right on the bulkhead, or anywhere in between.

Some of the best trips on Livingson have been just dumb luck. I mean you gotta' figure, The lake is 90,000 or so acres. Sometimes after trying a few spots that turn up dry, I just fire up and go to the south end. I remember numerous times of running up on multiple schools of big schooling whites during the run. Once we encountered nine schools on the way. Now, what part of luck or skill put me in that part of the lake at that one particular time? It was great. I had a party out and man did I look good. Right. A dummy in a rowboat with a cane pole could have done it. Just luck.

You can't plan your trips by the weatherman. Yep, you might get wet, but at least you went. Wet doesn't bother the fish much. If you wait on ideal weather to go, sell the boat. There are other things to do besides fish if the weather sours. There's grilling, napping, eating, drinking, swimming, hunting arrowheads, on and on. I used to live in the city. Even temporary retreat is necessary. The worst day I ever had fishing was better than my best day working.

If you are fishing Livingston, and you're having trouble catching fish for one reason or anther, hire yourself a guide. Make sure the guide understands up-front it's an instructional trip. Explain what you want. I've done it dozens of times, and most guides will probably accommodate you. It's pretty common to have a past customer on one of your holes. No reason to get hacked. It goes with the territory. What you're there for is to learn. Catching fish is unimportant compared to knowledge gained.

The reason I say let the guide know it's an instructional deal is because it should be handled different from a regular fishing trip. What I do is try and show as many areas, and how to approach and fish them as time permits, with some fishing too. Usually I would take them to about six places.

After that it gets a little overwhelming trying to digest so much. If you pick the right guide, it'll be worth the money.

White bass fishing is just beginning to peak. Now is the time to go practice what you know, and learn something new. I learn something new each trip out. That keeps it interesting OUT ON THE LAKE.

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