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Things that Truly Matter with Big Fish


What does it take to catch a big fish in today’s world?

Ask most anglers at a fishing expo or visit an online site, and you’re likely to get all kinds of advice. Unfortunately, a lot of this so-called “advice” is tied to selling products. While that’s all well and good under the right context, rarely do more products result in more fish. Instead, it fills your tackle box and empties your wallet.

My counsel—for what it’s worth—comes down to nothing more than practicing a handful of common sense along with keeping it all relatively simple. Focus on a few things instead of a bunch, and make a solid effort, and generally the bi-product is a photo with a lunker. Tag along with me as I break down the simple steps to big-fish success. As you will see, they have nothing to do with a trip to the tackle shop.Bucher-The Things That MatterFeature

This starts with making sure you have all your tackle in tip-top shape, as well as a good game plan for any outing. It also means being prepared for a strike at any moment, no matter the situation. A big fish is just as likely to strike early in the morning when you’re fresh from a good night’s sleep and a big breakfast, as it is at the very end of the day when you’re tired and hungry. The fish of a lifetime could show up on the very first spot at the very beginning of your trip. Or, it could just as easily show up on the absolute last cast you make at the end of a grueling week of intense casting. In the same breath, it might also pounce on your bait moments after the reel is engaged, just as many big fish might smash your lure right at boatside. You have to be ready at all times.

Never overlook the simplest fundamentals; nothing else is nearly as important. For example, failing to tie a good knot to your lure is one of the most common of all mistakes. Early in the first year of my guiding career, one of the biggest muskies a client ever hooked with me was lost to knot failure. The pig-tailed curl at the line end was a dead giveaway.

Needless to say, I made it a point to check all my client’s knots after that first-year incident. By the way, the guy who lost that big fish claimed to have been fishing for muskies for over 40 years. He had a box of lures and the best rods that money could buy, but he couldn’t even tie a good basic knot and it cost him the fish of a lifetime. That’s the epitome of how important the simple basics are in this sport. Nothing else matters if you don’t pay attention to the basics.

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The word meticulous comes to mind quite often when I really get into discussions with any group about fishing. “Meticulous” maintenance of all your gear on a regular basis is essential to success with big gamefish. The more meticulous you become, the more successful you will be. Big, trophy-class fish test your gear and your skills to the max on any encounter. Rarely does a big one simply “fall into your lap.” Taking every possible precaution to keep you prepared from the beginning of the day until the end of the trip is sure to result in more fish. Meticulous maintenance of all your gear—lines, leaders, knots, sharp hooks, landing nets, trolling motors, sonar units, outboard motors, battery charging and trailer hauling—is important and requires the same mentality.

Developing a solid routine often helps to stay organized and ready for any opportunity. What you’re trying to accomplish here is to develop a pattern with everything you do so many factors stay in your favor. Going through simple steps at the beginning and end of each day of fishing is one such example. Nothing kills a great day of fishing like being low on gas or battery power. Less obvious are possible problems with sonars and trolling motors on trips, but they do occur, and if you are not prepared, it can really put a damper on your mojo. I keep a spare sonar, transducer, trolling motor prop, outboard prop and outboard oil in boat storage just in case. I even carry an extra trolling motor in my truck storage. I’d suggest you do the same; not having these items on past trips when I needed them has taught me to plan for the worst.

Routines of all sorts are necessary, including checking every part of your rod and reel, line and lure before making the first cast of the day or on another other spot you stop at. This includes something as simple as testing hook sharpness. I am constantly resharpening my hooks—it’s a routine.

The greatest teacher in fishing, as well as life, is experience. One has to learn from each and every experience, good or bad, in order to grow. As an angler, time on the water, combined with knowledge and hard work, are the three things that eventually lead to success. One should always try to glean as much knowledge as possible from each fishing outing as he or she possibly can. These are the experiences that can make you a better angler and help you catch more and bigger fish. Any time on the water can be considered positive, no matter what the scorecard says; it’s all about learning something.

Only a few big-fish opportunities are bound to come your way on any given trip. The bigger the fish, the less overall chances you’re likely to get. Even the biggest names in fishing today will be the first to tell you that trophy-class fish are never a regularity. Take advantage of those rare opportunities by being prepared as you can be. At the end of the day, these are five areas that are likely to make the biggest difference in any fishing outing.



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Joe Bucher

Joe Bucher is a Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame Legendary Angler, book author, lure designer and host of Fishing with Joe Bucher TV series.

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