By Steve Graf
I recently had the opportunity to be the guest speaker for the Hemphill High School Bass Club banquet. It’s always both a blessing and an honor to get to share my fishing knowledge and experiences with up-and-coming anglers. My goal is to always make sure they understand how lucky they are to participate in a sport that can last a lifetime. In most sports like football, baseball, or basketball, an athlete is on a timeline. He has a short time frame to be great and get the most out of his God given athletic ability. But with bass fishing, it’s a sport you may never reach your full potential because it’s a sport that you just keep learning year after year.
But the one thing I really stressed during my message to these young anglers was that there are no shortcuts to being great. It’s no different than being a great shooter in basketball where you must get in the gym and shoot extra. For a baseball player to be a great hitter, he needs to get in the batting cage and take a lot of swings. Bass fishing is no different. To be a great angler, you must spend a lot of time on the water. Nothing makes an angler better than TOW… time on the water.
One skill an angler must have in order to compete at a high level is the ability to cast. Anglers who can cast and put the bait where they need to are the anglers who will be the most successful. So, it’s important to practice your casting, flipping or pitching techniques. Anglers who struggle with casting will not be competitive on the tournament trails. You’ll simply be donating to someone else’s cause.
So many youngsters today want instant gratification in whatever sport they are playing. Bass fishing is a sport that requires time and lots of practice. Patience is another key component to being great. Some anglers learn quickly while others may take a little longer to reach a level where they can compete. The high school and college series fishing circuits have really sped up the learning curve for a lot of young anglers.
The advancement in electronics, especially with forward-facing sonar, has really enabled a lot of anglers to advance and shorten their learning curve. These young anglers today have been raised during the computer age and adapt to today’s fishing sonars very quickly. They’re not intimidated by their electronics like so many of the older generation.
Getting back to the topic of today’s message, there are no shortcuts when it comes to being a great angler. If you want to be one of the best, you must practice techniques, but more importantly, believe in yourself. I asked Kevin Van Dam, the greatest angler of all time, “What’s the number one tool in your tackle box?” His response was not a specific bait or a certain technique, it was one word… confidence. KVD said that it’s the one thing you can’t buy in a tackle store in order to be great. Nothing replaces confidence! Till next time, good luck, good fishing, and please don’t forget your sunscreen.