Fish How You Feel, and Feel How You Fish

    Fishing often follows a simple equation, where a good attitude combined with good equipment ultimately leads to more success.


    By Dennis Foster | Focused Outdoor Promotions

    The title of this article might be a cute little play on words, but when it comes to fishing they hold a lot of meaning for me. Not that anyone would ever confuse me with the touchy-feely type, but fishing is where exceptions can be made with two distinctly different aspects of the word “feel.” The most obvious is one’s sense of touch, and the other refers to more of an emotional state.

    Mind Over Matter
    When it comes to fishing, people often overlook how much their attitude comes into play. If you have a bad attitude due to extenuating circumstances or are just one of those generally grumpy people, you can reasonably expect results about equally as miserable as your outlook. On the other hand, going into a day on the water feeling good and eagerly anticipating what joys the day will bring will often yield better results.
    Ever notice how you can take people who fish maybe once a year out for a day and they more often than not kick your butt in the number and size of fish caught? I would surmise this is firmly rooted in the fact that these sporadic outings are incredibly precious to them, and their mindset is to make the absolute best of the day no matter the conditions.
    Also, think of the times when women who don’t even like fishing begrudgingly accompany their mates on the water. It can be downright tough for them to get any serious reading done as the fish continually harass their line.
    If you’ve spent enough time in a boat, you know what I’m talking about — a relaxed attitude just seems to work. However, if you carry a bad mindset throughout the day, failure is imminent.
    Have a good chub bite going only to wake up on tournament day and discover your formerly frisky baits doing a motionless backstroke? Trolling motor batteries dead? Leave the crawlers in the cab of your truck where they transformed to a liquefied, vomit-inducing goo?
    Feel free to insert a half-dozen of your own anecdotes, if you wish, but the point I’m driving at here is I have seen guys laugh these catastrophic events off, adapt as needed and still rock the fish. It doesn’t matter their style of fishing, but the commonality they share is a good, can-do attitude, no matter the circumstance.
    Go into it with the “what the hell can go wrong next” attitude, though, and I can guarantee that you will have several options to choose from during the day, and none of them are good. If it sounds as though I am doing a little introspective psychoanalysis here, you would be right. After all, it’s easy to diagnose, a little tougher to cure.

    Fish Whisperers
    Some guys are just flat out “fishy,” and you can just sense this intangible trait while in their presence. I believe fish can actually feel it, too, and do indeed fear these fish whisperers.
    The late and legendary Bob Probst is one angler who immediately comes to mind. If you gave this man any semblance of a craft that would float and a hook or two, I can assure you he’d catch fish.
    It seems as though every area or lake has at least one of these guys. They may not have the latest and greatest of everything, nor do they run all over the continent chasing tournaments, the most publicized bite or trophy fish. These guys are always sniffing out a local bite and can seemingly pull fish from thin air — big fish, too — on a consistent basis.
    Perhaps they are a bit crusty or not stylish enough for the flashy crowd, but so be it. These are the guys I want to hang around, pick up what I can and walk away a little wiser. If there is a common denominator with these anglers, it would seem to be a quiet sense of determined confidence.

    Toys and Tools
    For those of us who are not natural fish whisperers, we can up our game with better toys. The array of modern technology and advancements now available help bring a little dab of parity to the playing field.
    Boats are the most obvious factor, as today we have big, reliable multi-species fishing rigs up to 22 feet in length that can be pushed to beyond 60 mph. This platform affords anglers the option of comfortably running to numerous spots that can sometimes be 50 miles or more away on expansive bodies of water such as the reservoirs of the Missouri River.
    Is a high-end boat topped off with a hot-rod motor really necessary? Absolutely not. Does it help? Most definitely. My personal choice is Lund’s broad-shouldered beast, the 219 Lund Pro V. For my needs, the big-water capabilities married to a very fishing friendly platform darn sure make each and every day on water more enjoyable, no matter what Mother Nature tosses our way.
    If you have yet to experience what one of these modern rigs is capable of, you owe it to yourself to do a little research and take a test ride with a pro or hire a guide who runs a rig that you are interested in. The experience will give you some valuable insight for when you pick out your next ride, and you’ll also learn a few things and have a great time in the process.
    Modern electronics definitely aid us by presenting a good visual of the overall picture, which is something many of us fail to grasp unless we’re one of the aforementioned fishy types. Thanks to modern technology, we can now discern in detail everything that is below and to the sides of us with the electronic units that major manufacturers are continually refining.
    Great options are available from Lowrance, Humminbird and Garmin. My personal choice is Raymarine. For those who would rather focus on fishing rather than fiddling with units, the Axiom models get my nod. The lightning fast 3D RealVision offered is truly something to behold, as you get a real-time, real-world perspective and can view or replay everything from any angle.

    Feel How You Fish
    Enough of the brain games. Let’s delve into some real feelings. After all, everything we do is to elicit the rush of adrenaline that rises within us when something tugs on the line.
    If you are not using a premium rod from the handful of companies with the tooling and craftsmanship to produce superior quality, you certainly should be. It never ceases to amaze me when people pull up to the ramp with boats and pick-ups well in excess of $50,000 apiece with nary a rod in the boat that would fetch $50.
    Rods are an extension of our arms and fingers that keep us in touch with what is going on down below. Great rods will telegraph everything you need to be aware of, and I have been a big believer in St. Croix for years. More recently, they have started producing species- and technique-specific models to take the guesswork out of purchasing higher end rods.
    Tactics quite often come down to a matter of personal preference and confidence in presentations. Sure, there are hot bites and techniques that seem to dominate for a time, but they are often quickly moved to the back burner as some new trend continually takes front stage. My take on the situation is if there is a certain presentation you’ve had success with in the past, stick with it unless the situation absolutely demands you change tactics. It’s a fine line, because I’m also a proponent of learning on the fly and trying new techniques.
    A case in point would be a scenario where active fish are spread out along a couple of miles of shoreline. You may very well see a boat or two fully committed to pitching jigs or tossing cranks shallow. You will no doubt see a few anglers using traditional live-bait techniques, like precisely trolling spinning rigs such as the Slow Death Plus series I helped develop for JB Lures. Weaving in and out along the shoreline, you will see guys pulling crankbaits of every size and variety, and some might even be employing big-water-style spinners along the lines of JB Lures Super Slow Death Plus rigs with Ventilator blades. The point is all of these tactics catch fish, so pick one and stick with it.
    I personally like to send boards shallow with spinners dressed with plastics for durability, and I also like to use smaller, high-action lures such as Reef Runner’s 100 Series Mini-Rips, 200 Rip Shads, Salmo Hornets and Flicker Shads. Baits I use for fishing mid-depths on flatlines might include Deep Little Rippers, Bomber 24As and the like. Outside boards can be dedicated to larger deep-diving lures like the time-tested big Reef Runners to entice mature female walleyes that are lounging suspended just off the break.
    Do what you do best, but please do not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone to give new equipment and techniques an honest assessment. If you do, you will provide yourself with plenty of viable options to choose from every time you hit the water.
    Moral of the story is most anything presented correctly will work — if you have the confidence to think it will. Remember, if you feel good about your game plan and believe you are going to catch fish, you most likely will.

    About the Author: Dennis Foster is an avid outdoor communicator, guide and tournament fisherman. He welcomes input and can be reached at or