Taking Notes Isn’t Just For School


Learning to take notes was a hassle, lets face it.  Who enjoys taking notes?  I hated writing anything down but over the last few years it became a necessity and technology makes it so easy to do so.  Whether you’re a “techie” or prefer the pencil and paper method, voice memos, or using the old fashioned “back of your hand” approach, notes will help you become a better angler.

Keep one thing in mind; what you are about to see can be taken as far as you want.  It will benefit the recreational angler on through the weekend tournament guys and you can bet the pro’s all have some sort of a method to their madness and rely heavily on some sort of data.

What Are You Talking About?

When I think of bass fishing, I see two different skill sets.  The first being the physical skill of being able to physically cast and retrieve a bait of some sort.  There is skill involved in making accurate casts and pinpointing where you want that bait to end up.  There are also differences in the retrieve.  For example, a Carolina Rig is fished differently than a Dropshot or a buzzbait.  Those all belong in the physical skill set.  On the tour, it is probably safe to assume that those guys are pretty equal in terms of their physical skill levels.  They all know their way around a baitcaster.

The second skill set is finding the fish.  I’m not just talking about knowing what their electronics are capable of, either.  I’m talking about developing that sense of where the fish will be on any given lake, on any given day, on any given hour.  There are so many different variables to consider and to compute that it can be mind boggling to the recreational angler who is just getting started in the sport.  This is where the professionals have a defined advantage over the rest of the anglers out there. They know their strengths, they can input all the different variables and the results are computed to put the odds in their favor of not only catching fish, but catching big fish.

How Can I Improve My ‘Fish Finding’ Skills?

If you’re looking to catch more fish and trying to fully understand just what is going on under the water’s surface, we have to approach this in a somewhat scientific way.  We have to collect data and then analyze it as the first step to making sense of what’s going on.  Have you ever heard anyone talking about a “seasonal pattern” or just a “pattern” in general?  On a very broad view, bass spawn in the spring, they slowly make their way deep in the summer, and then eventually work their way to the backs of creeks and streams in the fall, and then in the winter time, they go wherever they’re most comfortable whether it’s deep or shallow. Either way, they migrate and you have to find them. I won’t get into the specifics of why this happens (we’ll save that for a different article) but where the fish will be on a week-to-week basis or even a day-to-day basis will depend on certain conditions.

In order begin finding a pattern, I will take a very broad view of what I’m doing.  If I’m fishing channels off of Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron for bass, I’ll categorize that as a large, natural body of water.  Then, I’ll break it down into a specific location.  In this case, it’ll be channels.  You may keep a separate notebook of different types of bodies of water.  For instance, maybe one for tidal waters, one for rivers, one for man-made reservoirs, one for natural bodies of water.  This is where you can go absolutely crazy with specifics or you can be as general as you like.  Your ultimate outcome determines the level of detail you’ll want to include.

Differences in Data Collected

Professional Angler: Analyze the date and time of their catch, location, sub-location, water depth, water clarity, weather, bait used, thermicline depth, water temp, etc.

Recreational Angler: Time of year, type of fish caught, bait used, and water depth

I Have Notes…Now What?

As with any data, the more you have, the better off you’ll be.  The major question is how do we determine a pattern from the data?  By careful analysis and comparisons.  On a basic level, if you’re a recreational angler and you have notes of the example provided above, you may find fish at a certain time of the year are caught at a similar water depth.  That would be one trend.

If you’re a professional angler, you may find that if you’re fishing a natural body of water, when the thermicline is at 20 feet, water temperature is at 90 degrees, and you’re located off of a channel swing, the fish may favor a suspending bait.  That’s pretty specific.

The main thing is not to be discouraged with the results.  The more time and effort you put into collecting data, the better the results will be.  You may start seeing a trend in a couple months however, for seasonal patterns on your home lake, it may take a year or more to really get good, solid results.  The name of the game is experience and persistence.  The KVD’s and Mike Iaconelli’s weren’t born overnight.  They’ve been at this sport for years. In fact, Kevin VanDam admits that while catching fish is fun, what he truly enjoys is figuring out where the fish are.


There have been a lot of improvements in the sport within the last few years. Terminal tackle, baits, boats, electronics, optics, etc. have all played a huge part in finding and catching fish.  If you want to maximize your time catching fish and minimize the time it takes looking for fish, go old school.  Take some notes, spend some time analyzing them in the off season or during some “off time” and your numbers will improve.  In the upcoming weeks I will show you my method of finding patterns on any given lake and perhaps that’ll inspire you to do the same.  Until then, thanks for having look!

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