By Dave Anderson
So what does it take to catch bigger fish with some level of consistency? A word that jumps right out at me is ‘dedication’. But I feel like dedication carries too much of a positive connotation. When you’re dedicated, people look at you give that little fist-pump look that tells you that they respect your devotion to the cause. And people admire you for putting your heart and soul into it. Dedicating oneself to catching a big fish really doesn’t earn that same level of admiration. You’re more likely to get that look of not-totally-sincere sympathy, more like they feel bad for your parents or your wife. I picture mothers whispering to their sons through cupped hands while staring at you with big, worried eyes—the implication being that they are telling them, “don’t end up like him!” I get it. I’ve always said that if I had gotten obsessed with the stock market instead of fishing, I’d be growing a nest egg past $10 million by now. But I chose this instead.
So maybe a better word would be obsession. The basic definition of obsession is having thoughts that continually preoccupy, or intrude upon, a person’s mind. Yes! This sounds about right. If my life can be used as a model, then obsessive is a perfect adjective. My days are filled with vacant stares that foretell constant in-head conversation. I’m always thinking about some plug design or a needlefish modification or how I can better position myself in that rip or where the body of fish I’ve been chasing might show up next. These constant mental contortions—I truly believe—keep me deeper in the game than the average guy. I always have a toe in the water and keeping my mind churning over these things that mean NOTHING to almost anyone else keeps my finger on that pulse all the time. Even when I go through slumps or periods when I can’t fish for some reason, my mind never seems to deviate from these thoughts.
Then there is that dirty word that no one likes to hear in the same sentence as obsessive… compulsive. If you’re compulsive, you have urges. Urges that you can’t help, feelings that spurn you on and—almost—force you to do something. I believe that when the surfcaster is at his best, he is both obsessive and compulsive. I believe these urges are a result of sharper instincts; they are brought on by things that we can’t always put our finger on. Things like the wind, temperature changes, a smell in the air… suddenly there is this burning fire that compromises all other thoughts. And our minds set themselves to figuring out how to get out of the house—as fast as humanly possible. I have learned through experience that these compulsions are almost always valid and you should listen to them whenever they grace your mind with their presence.
The last word is another that you might not want to hear in a sentence with obsessive and compulsive and that word is committed. Obviously, I don’t mean being committed to an institution for your obsessive/compulsive nature. But if you really want to up your big fish game, you have to be committed to actually doing that. Like I said in my last blog post, you can’t do both, you can’t fish for bites and target giants at the same time, they’re two very different choices. So if you really think that you’re cut out for hunting big fish, then you have to ask yourself if you can commit to catching far fewer fish in a season in exchange for a higher CHANCE of catching a big fish, because it’s certainly not guaranteed. As I have progressed through my life as a surfcaster I have found that ‘just catching fish’ does less and less for me, it’s still fun, but it’s just not the same as having to think, and ruminate and TRY. I get the most satisfaction out of targeting big fish—that’s just who I am.
If you think you have it in you, I applaud you. If you don’t, I totally understand. They don’t call it a grind for nothing. The fact is you probably already know the basics of targeting big fish, but 95% of anglers just can’t commit at the required level to implement what they’ve learned. It’s one of those things that you’ll instinctually know it when you’re truly in—if you’re enduring a tough season but still sticking it out for that big fish reward, regardless of whether it comes or not, you’re well on you way. Fishing for big fish is like taking on a second, full-time, job. Are you willing to take that on?
If you are, I’m excited for you and I may owe your spouse an apology.
Tell her I said, “sorry”.