I have to admit it; I’m a control freak. I want to be in total control at all times and I’ve been known to micro-manage those around me as well. Do you know what? It’s a good thing. How could that attitude possibly be a good thing? Because I’m a fisherman and in fishing and life, being in control is a very good thing.
Now, before you dismiss my viewpoint as that of jerk, let me explain what I mean by control as it relates to a few aspects of fishing and furthermore, how it will help you catch more fish. Let’s start with a couple of obvious ones, like boat control.
Boat control seems basic and just about everyone that captains their vessel thinks they are in control. However, in my experience of fishing with a huge number of anglers ranging from casual weekend fishers in simple tin boats, to sure ‘nuf pro bassers in $80,000 rigs, to kayak anglers and even SUP’ers, the amount of control they have of their vessels varies widely even amongst their peers. What doesn’t generally vary is the fact that those with the best understanding of controlling their vessel catch more fish, with less boating headaches.
Boat control could mean being a very precise troller, able to run perfect trolling passes and turns at the perfect speed, over and over again. It could mean being able to “crab” down a windblown dam face with the electric trolling motor, all the while keeping the boat in perfect range to land each crankbait cast right at the water’s edge. It may mean being able to hold a position in current or a breeze directly over a waypoint or deep fish marked on the sonar unit, snaking through a maze of flooded timber without crashing into trees or even keeping the boat from drifting in on shallow fish.
The tools of boat control are of course the gas and/or electric trolling motors, traditional anchors, drift socks, shallow water hydraulic anchors or even stakes used to pin a kayak or paddleboard in place. Regardless, in all cases it takes experience and practice to determine how wind, current, hull design, and other elements affect the boat and how the requisite tools counteract that. Fishing with someone with total boat control is great fun, while fishing with someone that can’t control their boat is an exercise in frustration and missed opportunities.
Can you accurately control your trailer while backing down a ramp? If not, practice anywhere but at the ramp. Being out of control before even launching the boat is a sure recipe for a crappy outing. Control removes the stress from the whole boat ramp process, not only for you but everyone else as well. Same thing goes for actually driving the boat around docks, ramps, or other boats. Keep in mind that, in steering a boat at very low speeds, the throttle is your best tool; boats don’t steer well at idle. Short blips of throttle will help.
Another area where control is paramount to consistent catching is casting and line control. Ever make a long cast only to have the wind catch your line and blow out a huge rainbow arch of line? Perhaps you cast into the wind only to get a backlash or even cast into the very bushes you’re fishing around? Yea, don’t be that guy, practice casting at home. It will save you money on tangled line and lost lures, not to mention an infinite amount of frustration. Control in the form of casting accuracy - or more specifically lack thereof - is something I’ve witnessed more often than not in clients I’ve guided. Again, practice at home. If you practice on the water, you’re fishing, not practicing.
At a higher level of angling, depth control helps you catch fish. It’s one thing to see a bunch of fish on your sonar unit, it’s another thing to be able to place your lure at or above them. Whether you’re pitching a jig to shallow cover and gaining immediate line control, casting a mid-depth plug, jigging a spoon over deep water, trolling lead core or down riggers, suspending live bait under a slip bobber, or floating trout dough above the bottom, precise depth control separates good days from great days.
For the record, when I mentioned “micro-managing those around me” in my opening statement, I was referencing the casting accuracy, line control and depth control of clients in my boat. In my self-defense, that’s what they’re paying me for and in almost all cases, they question it in the beginning of the trip and thank me for it later.
The last bit of control I’ll mention is your emotions. Herbert Hoover’s famous quote rings true: “Be patient and calm, for no one can catch fish in anger.” Remember all those other control things I detailed above? Well, when done right they all add up to a far more relaxed day on the water and when you’re relaxed you fish better. So, control the controllables and don’t worry about the rest. Pro tournament anglers and other athletes often talk about getting “spun out” or “the wheels coming off”; they’re recognizing that they’re out of control mentally or emotionally and that never leads to performing anything at a high level.
So yea, I’m a control freak - and it’s a tendency I’m happy to have.