The Top 12 Traits of a Successful Angler

By Larry Murphy


  • Make Every Cast Count – every fishing day begins with a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm, but that feeling wanes as the day goes by and the bite is tough. A successful fishermen has the ability to stay focused. Each cast throughout the day should have the same energy and enthusiasm as the first cast of the day. Never give up and stay focused. Just casting and reeling is NOT fishing!
  • Use Quality Gear – successful fishermen buy quality fishing gear and maintain that gear to keep it in top working order. This includes buying good quality rods and reels that can handle the type and expected size of the days catch. It also includes good quality line, hooks, split rings, and leaders. Quality gear is often times the difference between putting fish in the boat and stories about the one that got away.
  • Stick With Confidence Lures – I’ve seen many fishermen drag along dozens, if not hundreds, of lures to the lake. I’m sure that each of these lures can catch fish, but most fishermen tend to throw a small set of baits most of the time. These favorite baits, or confidence lures, work the best because of the confidence that the fisherman has in them, not because of the color or design. Successful fishermen have a short list of lures that they use, and master the use of these lures to produce quality fish on a consistent basis. Also, when the bite is tough these lures become “go to” baits to put fish in the boat.
  • Find a Pattern, Run the Pattern – on any given body of water fish can be found everywhere, but only certain types of cover or structure hold the most active fish. Successful fishermen formulate a pattern, then the determine the pattern within the pattern, then they key in on these places exclusively. Many would call this “run and gun” fishing, but it’s actually a way of skipping unproductive water and keying in on those places that will produce more fish.
  • Observe Other Fishermen – successful fishermen pay close attention to other boats in their vicinity, especially when those other boats are running a pattern that’s different. They might see something that will urge them make a small change in presentation or pattern that might help them succeed. Learning from the success and failure of other anglers in your area is a key part in refining your own fishing pattern.
  • Match the Hatch – this is a fly fishing term, but it actually applies to all types of game fishing. A successful fisherman knows the forage in their area and fishes lures that match both the size and color of those bait fish.
  • Fish for a Reaction Bite – on days when fishing is tough or when fish are in a neutral mood, a successful fisherman will fish faster to look for a reaction bite. Many times fish can be un-catchable with normal speed retrieves, but some of these fish can be coaxed into biting with fast moving or erratic lures. Also, fishing faster allows a fisherman to cover more water and consequently present the lure to more and more fish.
  • Boat Control – accurate boat positioning, especially on windy days, is critical for the successful fisherman. Too far out and your lure may be missing the fish. Too close and the boat may spook the fish. Keeping your boat in just the right spot requires practice and attention detail, and is a key trait of the successful fisherman.
  • Lure Presentation – many times it requires multiple casts, from multiple angles, to entice a fish into biting. Sometimes the lure must be presented with the wind while other times the lure must be presented across the wind. A successful fisherman makes multiple casts, at different angles, to likely looking places to increase their success.
  • Keep a Fishing Journal – most successful fisherman I know keep a journal of their days on the water. They track several things including the days weather, wind conditions, water temperature and clarity, lures used, areas covered, and fish seen of caught. This can be invaluable information and can help the successful fisherman key in on seasonal patterns or recall forgotten techniques and “hot spots”.
  • Celebrate Success and Analyze Failure – even the best fisherman have bad days, and they make mistakes that don’t put fish in the boat. A successful fisherman takes time to learn from their mistakes, and works hard not to repeat them. Also, a successful fisherman appreciates a good day on the water and works to repeat that “good luck” on subsequent trips.
  • Put in the Time – when it comes to increasing your fishing expertise, there is no substitute for time spent on the water. Trial and error, experimenting with new lures and techniques, not to mention learning the area all come from time spent on the water. A successful fisherman puts in the time and continues to learn and improve while on the water.

    Larry Murphy is the owner of Murphy Outdoors



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