As bass fishing is getting into full swing around the country, there are some practices that can be learned from chasing deer in the fall.
Over the winter, I was at my bass club's banquet and began talking with our tournament director, Ron Taylor, about the last year's deer season. He was curious if I had any luck and was anxious to show me his pictures of the monster that he bagged in Kansas. As we discussed what worked for us and what didn't, our conversation seamlessly turned towards fishing and getting ready for the upcoming season and fishing locations.
The two sports mirror each other at times and there are skills and tactics that can be used in each to be successful.
In both sports, there is a ton of getting ready to be done. First off, once you figure out where you are hunting, there needs to be some reconnaissance. Topographic maps are an excellent starting point for hunting and fishing. These are readily attainable online and help to give an idea for overall terrain and hot spots. But sometimes it all depends on the seasons and the weather.
A cold front can be great for deer, but can shut down or change the bass bite. Studying the weather patterns leading up to and on the days of fishing can be vital. Another area of preparation is equipment. Don't wait on the day of a trip to realize that you've neglected a rod, reel, line or lure.
Growing up in the Laurel Highlands area, my family usually could predict if deer season was going to be good or not based on the amount of acorns in the woods. If you can find the food you can find the deer. Similarly, if you can find the bait then you'll find the fish. However, since the majority of the bait is unable to be seen, it helps to understand the habitats that hold bass and how to match productive baits within the given situation to develop a pattern.
Slow Down and Be Observant
When I was talking to Ron, he said, "If you want my two cents worth on parallels between bass fishing and deer hunting, here's my #1: Slow down and observe. Instead of rushing to the back of a cove and starting to cast, stop: look for baitfish moving, look for boiled water that could be a bass moving, look for structure that can hold fish. Do the rocks go down into the water or stop at the bank? How far out does the fallen log reach? This is one lesson that I need to learn better myself."
One of the hardest things for me to hear as a newcomer to tournament angling was, "You just need time on the water. Nothing can substitute for that."
I wanted so badly to start analyzing structures, make informed decisions and catch fish. But, that statement has held true. Experience is a key component to being successful in the field and on the water. If you are planning to fish tournaments, utilizing practice days is something that can really give you a leg up. Some anglers I know will just ride and scan, while not making a cast. Others I know will see what is working. It's like taking a walk in the woods, or monitoring game cameras over an extended period of time.
Let's face it, game cameras and down scanning imagery have revolutionized both sports. When my dad retired, I bought him a trail camera to monitor the deer population on our property. It was amazing to see how many other species, that we rarely saw, inhabiting the area. Families of bears, raccoons, along with the occasional buck or doe would readily appear on the camera.
To help us put our game plan together for the hunt, we started to move the camera around to different locations in order to get better intelligence as to the patterns of the deer. When fishing, actively using a graph can really help an angler make informed decisions and ultimately, catch more fish.
Hunting deer and catching bass are not that different from one another. Don't be afraid to try a tactic or skill from one sport to another. You may be surprised at how successful it will be.