Beautiful minds is what make top anglers excel

One of the things I enjoy most about my work is the opportunity it gives me to travel across North America—and sometimes to points beyond—meeting, interviewing, and fishing with some of the best anglers in the world.
The last couple of months have been particularly rewarding. Over that time, I’ve been preparing several national magazine features and filming In-Fisherman television segments.
It has given me the chance to meet and interview folks like Alton Jones from Waco, Tex. The 39-year old bass pro currently is at the top of his game, having qualified for the Bassmaster Classic every year since 1996.
In 2000, Jones won the Bassmaster Top 100 Championship on Lake Neely Henry in Alabama, then went on to capture Megabucks on Lake Murray in South Carolina.
His tournament winnings that year alone topped one-third of a million dollars.
Preparing for the same feature, I also had the chance to interview Alan McGuckin, who had a major hand in the development of the Terminator line of titanium spinnerbaits.
As well, I met Frank Scalish, who was rookie-of-the-year on the Bassmaster tournament trail.
Then just last week, I watched Doug Stange, editor-in-chief of In-Fisherman Communications, slide in rapid succession an 18- and a 22-pound northern pike out of a hole in the ice.
And I was able to renew acquaintances with old friend and fishing companion, Ted Takasaki, the president of the Lindy Little Joe who recently set an all-time one-day record for a five-walleye limit.
His PWT tournament winning walleye weighed a staggering 53.2 pounds—that’s better than a 10.5-pound average.
So, what impressed me the most about these anglers? What stood out head and shoulders above everything else? The first thing was how quiet, polite, intelligent, and articulate each guy is. They’re gentlemen of the first order.
They’re also so darned cerebral, it is no wonder they’re so successful.
The second thing, though, is their incredible attention to detail. It is astonishing really—almost beyond belief.
Most weekend fishermen look at elite anglers like these and believe their success lies in secret lures and hush-hush fishing strategies. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
The difference I’ve been able to observe is that the “creams of the crop” have computer-like minds that never stop whirling. Never stop analyzing. Never stop processing information.
When you spend a day or two with them in a boat or out on the ice, watching what they do and listening to what they say is more impressive than the fish they catch.
Jones, for example, told me about a major tournament he fished on Richland Chambers Reservoir in Texas. After much experimenting, he discovered the bass were swimming in flooded trees in 30 feet of water. Only they were suspended in the shallowest upper five feet.
According to Alton, you just had to look at the trees and forget it was 30 feet deep.
What really keyed him up, though, was the time he threw his spinnerbait over a limb. As his bait approached the tree, it came up toward the top of the water. That’s when he watched a four-pound largemouth open its mouth and engulf his lure.
So he started mimicking the action every time he made a cast, whether or not there was a limb in sight.
“It was the answer,” he chuckled. “If your spinnerbait was just running smoothly, or falling, they wouldn’t touch it. They wanted the bait raising. So I started lifting my rod tip until I could see my bait coming up higher in the water.
“I got to where I could call my shots.”
Jones was fishing in what is called a “draw for partner” event (each day you’re paired with a fellow competitor) so he didn’t clue in the other angler.
Jones won the tournament—and tens of thousands of dollars. The guy beside him, throwing the identical lure to the same locations, didn’t catch a single fish.
This is attention to detail.
Frank Scalish is beyond belief when it comes to the finer points. He admits he will tell anyone what specific lure he is using at a tournament because the information is next to meaningless. It is all in the detail.
“I could tell a crowd of anglers that I am catching ’em on a white Booyah spinnerbait,” Scalish told me, “and I have given them absolutely no information at all. That just cracks me up.
“I mean, I might be plucking the skirt strands out so I’ve got 10 bands of rubber remaining. Or I might be cutting the wire arms, adding trailers, altering blade shapes, changing blade sizes, and mixing skirt colours like crazy.”
Ted Takasaki, though, just may be the most meticulous angler I’ve ever met. That is probably a throw back to his previous life as a corporate executive at Hewlett Packard.
Ted’s vocabulary is peppered with words like repeatability and replication.
“Repeatability is absolutely the key when it comes to trolling for walleye,” he told me, explaining why he uses baitcasting reels with line counters attached.
“If you don’t know how far back your lure is, you don’t know how deep it is running. And once you catch a fish, you won’t be able to put your lure back where it was.
“If I am targeting a Reef Runner and I want it to run 17 feet down over 30 feet of water, I know I have to put out 60 feet of line and then attach it to my planer board.
“The distance between the bait and the board is crucial,” he stressed.
As for the rest of the notes I took while interviewing Ted, I am going to consult my dictionary and thesaurus. Talk about a beautiful mind.

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