GETTING IT ALL TOGETHER
As a guide of 27 years, I see things that are never changing, and things that change so fast that one can't keep up with it. Yearly, the boats get prettier, and faster. Computers run the motors now, so less time is spent looking after that. High tech is catching up with us all.
Look on the console of any well equipped fishing boat. Sonar, GPS, temp meter, PH meter, etc. Any given boat may have all, or a combination of some of the items mentioned, and each has its specific purpose. Usually, the items that compliment the console are used in conjunction with the other, but mostly each is a single function service to the driver.
Any good fishing machine will have the ever needed sonar unit. Today's depth finders are state of the art machines. Computers, if you will. It may well be the one piece of gear that dictates your success level. Most of them will show the depth all right, but finding fish is quite another story.
Interpretation of what you see is the key. This you must learn by yourself. With a little basic instruction from one who is adept at reading one, you can determine what you see as fish or not.
Do not look for all the answers in the owner/operators manual. The examples they give are classic textbook, and the likelihood of you see that are slim. It boils down to what is normal in the water you fish. It's different everywhere. It requires a learning period for you to become familiar with that machine.
GPS is a right handy gadget to have. It will not put the boat on top of a school of fish, but it does cut out a lot of driving time to find a spot. Armed with the right position numbers, you can put yourself within feet of a place, then go with the sonar to find the right spot. It's a time management thing.
Temp and PH monitors are okay if the kind of fishing you do requires that as a factor. Also, a handy too. More and more boats are being so equipped these days, so it must be a good tool. Black bassers will adhere to that more than the rest of us.
Technology has made it possible for us to have all the tools we need, but the one key factor is still sitting behind the wheel. You. You have to learn each piece of equipment, how it works, and what it does for you in your individual pursuit. The best there is is junk if it doesn't work, or you don't understand it.
Beyond technology, there is also knowing the water you fish. Oh, you have an edge with all your electronics, but only to a point. Knowing the lake, and its fish holding structure are as important as having a rod in the boat to fish with. Take Livingston, for example. It's 90,000 acres of water. Lots of water to look at, for sure, but 90% of the fish will be in 10% of the lake. All the electronics there are will not do that for you.
There's an old saying that 90% of the fish in the lake will be in only 10% of it, and that 10% of the fishermen will catch 90% of the fish. Mostly, that's true. There are exceptions. On occasion everyone will load up, but most of the time, the fishers that know their equipment, know the water and structures, and can use their equipment to place the boat there are the ones who spend a lot of time at the fish cleaning table. That's where you can tell who knows what.
A good consistently productive fisherman has a big circle of knowledge. How big the circle is depends on your level of experience. How long you have fished has very little to do with it. More so how well you have learned. There are twenty-year-olds who are better fishermen than some 60-year-olds, because they sought the knowledge to get there. It's as simple as that.
Now, one can't have too much knowledge about fishing. All there is ain't enough. Fish do not read the same books we do, so what I say, or anyone else says is only as good as the moment it's working. Thirty minutes later, nothing you do will work. It's fishing.
The thing I've found through the years is that the folks who saw up a lot of fish are very acquainted with the lake. Those who have many places to look for fish are the very ones who catch a lot of them. Once you really learn a place, you can return to it from anywhere on the lake. I don't mean to be able to find Walker Lake, but to know how it runs, where to look for the drop-off before it happens, and where in relation to that fish will be.
Take the old 190 roadbed. Did you know that there are six bridges on it? All are potential fish holding areas, but can you find them? Did you know that there is not much remains of the river bridge on the east bank, and about 50 yards of it left on the west bank? See what I mean? You must learn the structure, no matter how much electronic gear you have.
Look at the Hot Spot map. All the areas of possibly productive white bass fishing are dotted with red. There are quite a few so marked areas. All of them have at one time paid off well enough to bear a look each time out. If you can find them, and you know your equipment well, you should find fish at one of them, or more of them. Getting there is half the battle.
Some guides are good sources of information. Going out with one is a real quick way to get a leg up on where and how. Learning spots is a natural by-product of the trip. Most guides will tell you basically what to look for, and how to do it, but the majority will not tell you exactly where. Some guides can't or just won't explain what is going on, and why.
There are no deep dark secrets or tricks to the trade. Only constant exposure makes them more reliable as far as catching goes. They are only people, just like you. We just fish more, and fish smarter. We've learned that the electronic gear on the console are just tools to get us there, and how to use it to our advantage. I do think that is what makes a guide a guide. There sure aren't any schools for it.
If you have trouble reading your sonar, and can't interpret the signals, then I think you should enlist help from a guide, or someone you know who is good with one. Same for finding places that work. It may come down to spending some money, but if you have your own boat, you're doing that already anyway.
You can't beat being shown how. It's the quickest way I know of. I get a lot of calls from people who just don't know the lake, but otherwise are on the right track. Usually, a half day will get them steered in the right direction, and teach enough to expand from there. Bear in mind that I do not mean all guides. Some will just be out for the money, and safeguard what they know.
There is no shame in not knowing, only in not wanting to learn. On any given day, if you do not learn something, you wasted that day. I learn something every time out. I've only scratched the surface. Do whatever it takes to learn how to do what we all spend big bucks trying to do. Take it one step at a time, get it all together and make it work, then, we'll all be having fun ON THE LAKE.
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