Perhaps it’s band-wagoning, but I’m gonna do it anyway; let’s set a New Year’s resolution. Furthermore, since it’s 2020, therefor offering loads of available puns in the vision arena, I’ll make my resolution about clarity and focus. Yep, how trendy of me. Let’s look at what I really mean when I form a resolution about clarity and focus.

Experience is one of those things you need before you have it. In a similar concept, wisdom is the ability to recognize a mistake before you make it. Furthermore, they say hindsight is always 20/20. Why? Because then you have the requisite experience to recognize and avoid poor decisions, thus leading to perfect vision in decision making. Given that success in fishing comes down to a game of good decisions, gaining experience is a direct path to additional success. Don’t know about you, but I desire more success afield.

So for 2020, I’ll really focus on using my experience at the highest level whenever making strategic fishing and hunting decisions. I’ll carefully consider what I know, what I think I know, and especially what I know I don’t know. Rather than rush to if-then logic and snap decisions, I’ll ask myself a few questions before making adjustments or responses to environmental factors or feedback from the fish.

It starts with analyzing past mistakes (at least the common ones or those that are sadly repeated too often), admitting that whatever it is I have been doing has not always worked, and then considering how to fix it. In other words trying to use some wisdom for a change. Here’s an example:

A classic mistake I see anglers make, myself included, all the time is leaving fish too soon. What I mean is locating a school of fish or productive area and then mismanaging it in terms of catching. When I really consider my past experiences in detail, leaving fish, even those that have slowed biting dramatically, very rarely works out unless I have other known productive areas or schools, and even then, it usually doesn’t work out. The vast majority of the time, staying put and working out other ways to get them to bite yields a better result. Why? In my opinion, fish quit biting for a couple of reasons. One, because the “feeding” time window or condition has closed. In this case, moving won’t help because the fish you move to won’t be feeding any better. Secondly, they stop biting what I’m throwing, but they’re still biting in general; they’re tuned in to your lure. In this case, moving could help because you’ll be presenting to new fish, but what If those new fish have moved, or someone is on them? In other words, there are variables and risk in moving when I could have stayed put, changed presentations, and kept catching the fish I had pinned down. Last, they could be pressured enough to stop biting in general. The same risk is still there in moving when perhaps simply stopping fishing for a few minutes and allowing the fish to rest and reset, so to speak, is a great plan.

So, here in 2020 when I’m faced with a slowing bite, I’ll really reconsider every time I want to leave fish to find fish. Why did the bite slow, and what can I do right here to get it going again? I bet I end up learning more ways to trigger bites in the long run and burn less time and boat gas to boot.

Another common mistake I’m guilty of is out-tricking myself. In other words, instead of focusing on fundamental tackle preparation, physical skills, and presentations, we try to come up with a fancy new lure or rig. I know from experience that I fish the best when I really focus on things I know work, yet I, and many other anglers, still gravitate to shiny new tricks. In fairness, new stuff is obviously how we grow as anglers, but when success counts, I’ll avoid the mistake of out tricking myself by taking a step back and focusing on known productive techniques.

Lastly, in an effort to eliminate some variables from my angling in 2020, I’ll use a two-part test system to locate my fish. Given that it has been overwhelmingly proven to me over the last 15 years of being a traveling angler that the vast majority of the time at least some of the fish will bite either a jerkbait or a finesse jig, I’ll use those as statistical standards. Rather than rotating through a wide array of presentations, instead I’ll focus on presenting both the jig and jerkbait very well in all areas I visit. I can do so secure in the knowledge that it is very likely some of the fish will react positively and thus give me the clues I need to fine-tune a pattern and catch them with whatever presentation is the best. The jerkbait may only produce follows, but those follows will help me locate fish and determine their mood and how to catch them with other lures. Similarly, the finesse jig - in my case a 3” Gulp! Minnow on an 1/8-oz. jig - will always get a few bites and can be fished at any depth range, making it a great standard search tool.

So here’s to 2020, the year of clarity and focus oh fishy friends. Happy New Year!