by Chris Martin
"TIS THE SEASON TO BE CONFIDENT"
by Capt. Chris Martin
This day presented itself to me with one of the more common complications known to the fishing guide profession. Today's party would be comprised of a mixture of skill sets and experience levels, ranging from the seasoned veteran saltwater enthusiast, the freshwater aficionado yet to test his abilities in the salt, to the beginner who had yet to try fishing of any sort at all.
Due to recent wind changes, colder weather, and the often unanticipated rain showers, this morning's dawn patrol would place us on the outside mouth of one of the larger saltwater back lakes, just adjacent to the deep gut that empties the lake into the deeper waters of the larger bay system. As we anchored upon our target area, I quickly rigged the two saltwater novices with the same type of lure that has produced for me during the more recent colder days - roach chartreuse TTK with 1/8-oz jig heads. I offered the experienced salt the option of me rigging him in the same manner, but he had previously decided that he would begin the day using a bait that he commonly tended to have more confidence in.
As we exited over the side of the boat and into the chilling morning water, the old-salt proceeded on his own in the direction that I recommended to him. I advised the two saltwater newcomers that they may wish to spend the first portion of this initial wade session in very close proximity to me, so as to allow me to offer them immediate instruction or technical assistance, if needed. The beginner party member maintained close quarters all day long, keeping a close vigil on my every action and continuing his education with questions. However, the previous freshwater fisherman chose to explore on his own just shortly after witnessing me land and release three trout to 23-inches after only minutes into our first wade.
Throughout the course of the day, I made note of the fact that the experienced saltwater member of the party had caught and released just about as many fish as he had strung on his stringer, but I had not noticed the freshwater member landing any fish whatsoever. Instead, I had witnessed many instances of him tying on different types of lures, and several times following only a few brief presentations of each of the various baits. Well, as the morning had long ago ended, and as the afternoon sky began to gray, the beginner and I retreated to begin the slow shuttle operation of retrieving the other two waders, as it was time for the daily tally and some memorable photos from the bow of the Extreme.
The old-salt scored positively with nine trout (six in excess of 20-inches), two nice slot-redfish, and one saddle blanket-sized flounder, and all were taken on the original style of lure that he had begun his day with. Upon us reaching the freshwater angler, he quite hurriedly voiced disgust in himself as he presented to the rest of the party his stringer containing but one lone17-inch trout, a feeling of disgust that was further heightened as he glanced to take note that the beginner, who had utilized the day's initial lure selection, had acquired a beautiful bounty of seven keeper trout and a 25-inch redfish.
What is the morale of this story? It is of utmost importance that you maintain self-confidence at all times. It is a requirement, as you will probably catch fish as long as you sustain the thought and belief that you can, and will, catch fish.
Confidence is a powerful human tool. It can mold you in many ways, but the lack of it can mold you and your fishing performance even further. I have witnessed clients and friends, wading just off to one side of me, who do not attempt to recreate or imitate my presentation process as I continue to land fish on a regular basis. All too often I have commonly found these to be the anglers who tend to carry a more than well-rounded tackle box at their side, and who irrefutably change their lure and modify their bait presentation or retrieve every few casts due to their lack of certainty or their level of anxiety.
Although a gain in confidence may be achieved in a variety of manners, I recommend the SWAT (Stop - Watch - Ask - Try) method to many of my parties. Stop - if you find that nothing you do seems to work, simply halt your wade and stop whatever it is you're doing. Watch - learn to observe what the guide or the more successful fishermen are doing, and how they are doing it. Ask - learn to take advantage of the guide's, or others', vast fishing experience by asking questions until you fully understand. Try - apply what you've just learned through your observations and your associated line of questioning. More times than not, if you had known in the morning all of that which you learned via your SWAT practices throughout the day, you will probably realize that the bait selection that you started with is what you should have been using all along, and that you were probably already rigged properly to begin with.
There's a reason why you feel comfortable and focused while throwing ol' reliable. It happens to be your lure of choice that has reliably produced for you over the years. You have confidence in it.