Making New Year’s bass resolutions

Amidst your self-focused resolutions, consider adding a dose of courtesy and respect for fellow anglers.
Amidst your self-focused resolutions, consider adding a dose of courtesy and respect for fellow anglers.

Because vowing to catch more fish in 2019 is a lot more fun than attempting the latest 30-day mail order diet plan.

Sure, losing weight and vowing to workout more are admirable goals to shoot for in 2019.

But suffice it to say that most bass anglers’ New Year’s resolutions will include something about catching more fish, being more productive on the water or somehow upping their game.

And just like shedding a few pounds and committing to hit the gym, it’s nice to talk the talk this month — but how do you actually make it happen all year long?

Well, you’ll find Bigfoot standing in his own footprints sooner than you’ll find a list of bass-fishing resolutions everyone can agree on; but we’ve rounded up some insightful points that’ll help anyone looking to put a few more in the boat.

Keep an open mind

Greg Hackney resolves never to rule out anything — not even dropshotting by a cypress tree.
Greg Hackney resolves never to rule out anything — not even dropshotting by a cypress tree.

Major League Fishing pro Greg Hackney has seen most of the nation’s top fisheries, so it’s pretty hard to surprise him. Nevertheless, one of his key notions for the 2019 season will be to treat each fishing day like a new experience. He advises anglers of all levels to do likewise.

“Never rule out anything,” he said. “Fish like you’ve never been there.”

Complementing the theoretical approach with prudent practices turns idea into action. Specifically, Hackney suggests employing baits and techniques in scenarios where you don’t normally use them.

When he wants to shake things up, Greg Hackney will fish Strike King’s RageTail Menace on a dropshot rather than just a jig trailer.
When he wants to shake things up, Greg Hackney will fish Strike King’s RageTail Menace on a dropshot rather than just a jig trailer.

For example: Drop-shotting by cypress trees. That’s probably not the first bait you’d think of there, nor is it the most common scenario for the classic finesse rig.

The point is that stepping outside your comfort zone can yield great results.

“It amazes me how I’ll go to a lake that’s supposed to be highly pressured and I’ll catch fish like they’ve never been fished before,” Hackney said of his open-minded strategies.

Expansion, quality & appreciation

Heading into his rookie season on the FLW Tour, Bossier City pro Nick Lebrun shared a few thoughts on his focal points for 2019:

“My New year’s resolutions are: 1. Cover more water during practice,” Lebrun said. “In the past I’ve always just picked an area of the lake and stuck with it and I have found success with that; but now I’ll be fishing more unfamiliar lakes, so I’ll need to branch out and explore more.

“Number 2. I need to fish for the right five bites. It seems that in my most successful events, I’m only getting a handful of bites a day but they are the right ones; whereas, the tournaments where I’m catching 20 fish a day always seem to be marginal for me. Finally, number 3: Have fun and don’t get distracted. I’m going to take time to realize the blessings of fishing for a living while having my loving family traveling with me.”

Go for it

You don’t make it as a professional angler as long as Shaw Grigsby has by being timid. However, the MLF pro believes he can step on the gas even more often in 2019.

“You have to fish fearlessly; don’t be afraid to change what you’re doing,” Grigsby said. “There’s a lot to be said for sticking with something long enough to make it work, but sometimes, you have to be able to drop what you’re doing and go do something totally different. You might strike out, but sometimes, you’re going to hit a home run.

“I think in the past, I’ve been afraid to change. I’ve had about 11 second places and that could have something to do with it.”

Addressing vulnerabilities

Toledo Bend guide Darold Gleason resolves to do a better job of fishing for shallow, isolated fish.
Toledo Bend guide Darold Gleason resolves to do a better job of fishing for shallow, isolated fish.

Toledo Bend guide Darold Gleason also competes on the Costa FLW Series, the Texas Team Trail and other local events. He’s resolving to have a more successful 2019 by taking an honest look at his game and tightening the loose laces.

“I need to improve my biggest weaknesses and No. 1 is fishing shallow for more isolated fish,” Gleason said. “Where I live and guide, it seems like fish are grouped up most of the year. As I travel around for tournaments it seems like there are a bunch of situations where I’m not covering enough water and targets, looking for the individual fish here and there. I fish deep so much now guiding I feel that I’ve neglected my shallow game. Time to get it back right.

“Also, I need to get back to being more consistent and getting a daily limit regardless of the conditions. Finally, I’d like to continue trusting my gut/instincts. I want to go with what feels right and live with the results.”

A few more…

Everyone has their own priorities and perspectives, but here are a few resolution ideas that most anglers can embrace.

  • Think outside the box: Tried-and-true baits that never let us down are a double-edged sword in that their often moderate level performance may subtly rob us of the potential for discovering options with even greater impact. Some say a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, but you’ll never know how big those two bush birds are unless you let go of the sure thing long enough to make a run at something different.

Example: Hackney often uses the Strike King RageTail Menace for a jig trailer and a Texas-rig; but when he wants to shake things up, he’ll fish it on a dropshot. Elsewhere, Bassmaster Elite Pro Chris Groh targets winter fish by rumbling a big spinnerbait along the bottom of creek channel turns similar to a jig presentation.

  • Expand your skills: This one has broad potential, but we’ll focus on one important suggestion from Gleason. Learn to pitch with both hands so you never miss a bite when passing the reel from one hand to the next. Not only does it eliminate the need to buy left-handed reels, it also enables you to hit targets regardless of boat positioning.
  • Make your own opportunities: Planting brush along a bridge causeway or some other heavily trafficked area can be your ace in the hole when the main deal takes a pounding.

The key point to remember is that resolutions only matter when you apply them. In other words, take every chance to hit the water and improve your bass game.

Practice appreciation, courtesy and safety

Watching a big fish thrashing boatside is a goal we all share for the new year.
Watching a big fish thrashing boatside is a goal we all share for the new year.

So, we make resolutions and the majority of times, the focus or objective involves some personal benefit, improvement or self-serving goal. Two things: 1) I’m guilty, I do this. You probably do as well. 2) It’s okay — resolutions and their intentions are the right and privilege of their maker.

That being said, how ‘bout we all agree to season the gumbo of our goals with a little selfless consideration. Need some ideas? Funny you should ask; I just happen to have a few. (And if I step on any toes, remember — I’m also stomping on mine.)

  • Boat ramp sensibility: How many shouting matches/MMA auditions have we seen on a busy morning? Notwithstanding the wisdom of personal restraint and reasonable patience on the part of those waiting in line, the unwritten rule we all should follow says this: Load your gear before backing down. Once you line up that trailer, it should be an in-and-out deal. Making everyone sit there and watch you unload rods, tackle bags and coolers is really testing the crowd’s tolerance.

On the flip side, the next time the boater ahead of you is having trouble backing down or trailering, rather than honking or shouting impatient, rude or otherwise non-family-friendly thoughts, try offering some simple direction — like “turn the wheel the other way.”

Resolutions only work if you stick with them, so stay disciplined and catch more fish.
Resolutions only work if you stick with them, so stay disciplined and catch more fish.

Fact: Performance anxiety plus harassment rarely equals a positive outcome, whereas a calm word of encouraging assistance can save everyone a lot of grief. And if a man’s wife or child is helping with the launch — c’mon, be respectful. (Picture your loved one behind that steering wheel or holding that bow line.)

  • Find your own fish: Do we need to explain this one? Okay, here it is: Idling up to another boat and clearly dropping a waypoint defines “uncool.” And if you hire a guide and then show up on his best spots, ditto. These head-shakers may sound obvious to those bound by integrity, but it seems that common sense and common decency have both become painfully less common.
  • Safety: We all want to maximize that daylight bite and on derby day, it’s first-come-first-served on the juice. But cutting across points, ignoring hazard signs and overlooking those white poles can spell disaster. On a good day, that might just be an expensive repair, but don’t tempt fate and risk the horror of someone’s family getting “the call.”

To that latter point, wear your PFD. Think of any excuse; go ahead, we’ll wait. The bottom line remains the same: Wear it.

  • Fish care: The vast majority of tournament anglers I’ve encountered put forth exemplary efforts in caring for their catch. Summer events will test your live wells, so check on ‘em frequently and add ice as needed to keep the water cool. Dumping bagged ice is fine, but savvy pros use frozen water bottles, as this method does not risk any chemical intrusion.

Okay, soap box sermon’s over. Happy New Year, everyone.

David A. Brown
About David A. Brown 323 Articles
A full-time freelance writer specializing in sport fishing, David A. Brown splits his time between journalism and marketing communications www.tightwords.com).