Top 5 things I focus on when the fishing is tough.

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Fishing isn’t always easy and tough days happen to the best of us!

The five things listed here will help you salvage those tough days and help to ensure they are less likely to occur in the future!

1. Have fun!  When the fishing is tough, it’s even more important to have fun.

For many this is hard to pull off.  Individuals that are very accomplished at their chosen profession or hobby also tend to be very driven, and goal oriented. “Success is everything!”, is their motto!
Most really good anglers are no exception to this rule.  When the fishing is great and everything is going according to plan it’s easy for the crew (crew = other anglers in the boat) to deal with this intensity but when the fishing is tough, this intensity often just adds to the frustration of the day.
Remember the measure of a successful day on the water isn’t just about fish in the box.  Having fun is a large part of the success and often times tough fishing means a conscientious effort needs to be made to ensure the trip contiues to be fun.
Anglers that are worth their salt and spend an insane amount of time on the water know this, and on tough days it’s easy to separate the young dogs from the old ones just by their attitude.

Sometimes you have to work to keep it fun and lighthearted, but it’s effort well spent! Remember to keep it fun!

2. Just because other people aren’t catching fish doesn’t mean you won’t.

In many parts of the country especially in saltwater and estuary fishing, we fish on schools of fish that are “running”, salmon or Striped Bass runs for example, anglers tend to congregate  in the same traditional fishing areas and the visibility and success of the group as a whole is easy to see.  When you’re in a crowd of fishermen and nobody is catching anything it’s easy to fall into the trap of not fishing hard, or not paying attention to the little things that create success.
While the crowd may not be catching anything, remember that most of them don’t have the focus and the drive that you have, their attention to detail isn’t there, and most of them wouldn’t know which details to focus on even if they wanted to.
Do not let the crowd’s ineffectiveness lure you into believing you’re not going to have a great day.  Work your system, watch for patterns, keep the bait fresh and the hooks sharp and it will happen for you!

3. You can’t control the fish being there or being on the bite, but you can control how fresh the bait is and how hard you work it.

This one goes hand in hand with number two above.  We all want to be successful but remember it’s fishing, it’s not bowling or baseball.  There is an element of luck and many things affect your day that you have absolutely no control over.
The fish might not be there and/or they might not be biting, and try as you might you just can’t change that.  The only thing that can change the absence of fish or the fish’s willingness to bite is time and location.  Give a specific location enough time and the fish will show up or go on the bite. If you don’t have time to wait for this change to happen, then you better change your location, looking for an area that is “different”  than where you were.  If you go to a new location that has the same structure, tide timing, depth, water clarity etc as the previous unsuccessful location then you’re probably going to end up with the same results!  Change it up!
If the fish are truly absent or “off the bite” then you need to change the way you’re approaching the day.  When you get into a different depth, structure, tide, etc you’re essentially going to a whole new river, because now  the whole game has changed, and this means that the fish have changed too!

4. Focus on fundamental patterns and locations, when in doubt go to the last place you caught one or the last place you saw one caught.

When the going gets tough everybody seems to want to experiment with new locations and new lures.  This is the worst time to be changing it up.  New locations don’t necessarily hold fish, and who knows if a fish even wants to bite that new lure or bait?  Experimentation is best for when the fishing is good, that way you at least know there are fish around and are catchable.
Essentially I’m saying … grind it out.
I’m not saying don’t switch lures or switch locations, but please don’t start grasping at straws hoping to pull it off.  When you start experimenting, inevitably you’re going to be in the wrong location or with the wrong setup when the fish do start biting. Work your patterns, be in the location where you know fish congregate, use your go-to techniques,  and it will happen for you.
Tough fishing days are rarely made into great fishing days; the best you can hope for is to salvage the day and make it a “good” one.

5. Fish longer.

Lot’s of folks want to give up on a tough day, I don’t mean a tough day in the middle of a tough season; I’m referring to a tough day of fishing in what has typically been a good fishery or good season.  Tough seasons are due to lack of fish or bad conditions and fishing longer isn’t going to change these.
In all my years of fishing I have actually been able to measure the success rate that comes from fishing longer, i.e. one to three extra hours.  The results are in and it’s 50%!
50% of the time when you fish a couple extra hours, you’re going to turn a low success day into a good one!  A one in two shot!  These kind of odds are worth it to me!
Sticking it out for this change to happen also helps you put together a couple pieces of the fishing puzzle. The biggest thing that happens when the fish do go on the bite is that you learned what pattern changed in order to make them bite! You can now apply this new found knowledge to future trips and your percentage of tough days is going to go down over time.  More time on the water = more success and more knowledge! Knowledge = future success!
Here’s hoping none of you have any tough days in your future, but if they do happen, remember these simple rules and your bound to come out ahead at the end of the day!

Copyright 2013 Total Fisherman™

The author, Kevin Newell, and his wife Lacey DeWeert are professional fishing guides in Oregon and Washington!

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