Introducing the Inshore Angler's Personal Trainer Plan

Introducing the Inshore Angler's Personal Trainer Plan
Weston Pavlicek and this solid trout provided quite photogenic subjects for the captain to use on a cold day in February.

All angling endeavors involve two basic skill sets, one related to the location of fish, the other incorporating the physical techniques used to catch fish. Proficiency in these interrelated sets enhances consistency, particularly when anglers deploy artificial lures exclusively. Maintaining a log with accurate and ample data increases the likelihood of improvement in both areas over time. In this way, fishing mirrors all other sports; the proper analysis of information aids in the quest to enhance achievement.

Simply gathering data over time will not guarantee improved performance, though. In order to improve, anglers, like all other sporting people, must learn to build on strengths and eliminate or reduce the effects of weaknesses. Generally, building on strengths proves easier than erasing frailties. For one thing, most people prefer to work on things for which they already show proficiency. Conversely, many people show a genuine disdain for working on things for which they show less ability.

Compounding the problem, many anglers find it difficult or even impossible to clearly identify their weaknesses. In some sports, the task of exposing shortcomings is much easier. Take golf, for instance. If a player keeps records and sees he's three-putted five greens per round the last ten times out, he knows he needs to work on putting. If he sees he's driven into the right rough 80% of the time, he can likely go the driving range with or without the aid of a tutor, identify the root causes of the poor shots and make changes to eliminate those elements from his swing.

Of course, these aspects of the game of golf fall into the category of physical techniques; they involve the act of striking the ball. In this way, they mirror the physical techniques anglers use in attempt to elicit strikes from fish. As in golf, anglers' weaknesses in this area prove somewhat easy to identify and improve, when compared to those lurking in the other arena. In both sports, tweaking physical aspects often takes little time and effort when compared with attempting to make improvements to mental approaches and strategies.

A golfer's mental approach generally reveals itself only cryptically through statistical analysis. Aspects of the game like pre-shot thought processes, club selection, tendency to gamble or play safe, ability to maintain focus on the moment and demonstrate grace under pressure can be quite difficult to analyze effectively. Consequently, identifying weaknesses in mental approach isn't easy. A professional would likely need to observe someone playing a round in order to have the best chance of determining weaknesses in this arena. Conversation with the player during the round would further increase the odds of figuring out weak areas, though doing so would also alter the context used as a basis for analysis.

Anglers face a similar dilemma. Identifying weaknesses in the domain of fish location skills proves far more challenging than in the physical application skills arena. Furthermore, an expert hoping to help a beginner or novice angler identify and eliminate a weakness in fish location skill needs to either observe them during the process of making decisions related to locating fish, or at least to evaluate their decisions using detailed and accurate data recorded in a log of events.

Without help from an external source, even those willing and able to make the effort to record and analyze data to try and identify specific weak aspects of their fish location methods will likely find the process annoyingly troublesome. Certainly, failing to identify a weakness increases the likelihood of repeating it. Many anglers reside in precisely the world I describe, one in which they repeat mistakes because they cannot identify them and/or refuse to work to eliminate them.

In such a world, such anglers typically rely on a short list of spots, returning to the same few places repeatedly, with little or no regard for whether the conditions of the moment lend credence to the idea of fishing those places or not. Likewise, they also tend to do the same things over and over again when attempting to catch the fish, either becoming excessively committed to one type of lure, or showing little or no commitment to any type, preferring instead to "throw everything in the box at 'em" every time out. Completing a short "milk run" and employing techniques without thorough consideration of current conditions generally produces meager results.

I understand these concepts and can elaborate them fully because I've lived them in the past. I'd assert all expert anglers could recount moments in their careers in which they reached important conclusions about flawed processes and aspects of their methods so they could work to eliminate them. In order to do so, many used either competitive angling or a relationship with another expert or experts to get the jobs done. All of us need to compare our efforts and outcomes with those of other competent individuals in order to most clearly analyze the value of our results, to better illuminate what we do well and what we need to improve upon.

Though I've understood these concepts and have lived by their creed for years, I just recently experienced an epiphany related to a service-oriented product specifically designed to help anglers dramatically accelerate their learning curves, by identifying and eliminating weaknesses and building on strengths. This product shows strong structural similarities to those provided by personal fitness trainers.

A fitness trainer develops a plan for the trainee to follow, then meets with them and demonstrates how things should be done, offering advice and encouragement as needed while monitoring the trainee's efforts. The trainer also gives the trainee some work to do on their own. The trainee keeps a record of what they've done and shows the record to the instructor, who then analyzes the data and makes alterations to the fitness plan as necessary. In these ways, a personal fitness trainer plays three roles: model, mentor and cheerleader. Ideally, the trainee eventually becomes capable of maintaining and executing a sound fitness plan without the aid of the trainer.

I believe the plan I've generated can similarly allow me to help anglers develop their skill sets faster and more efficiently, to a point where they will become independent of reliance on my tutelage. The plan involves several parts, all designed to evolve over time, all focused on the critical needs–identifying key weaknesses and strengths. I call this product the Inshore Angler's Personal Trainer and now offer it to all serious fisherpeople with a sincere desire to improve their proficiency and self-sufficiency through high-intensity one-on-one angling instruction.

The IAPT plan involves three main components: 1) charters run by me, on my home waters 2) charters run by the trainee, on their home waters, on which I accompany them, and 3) the joint analysis of data recorded regularly by the trainee when they fish on their own. For this third component, I've created a template for use in the recording of the data, one which will provide enough information on which to base important conclusions.

The charters taken on my home waters will focus primarily on the trainee's physical application skills, at least in the beginning. In other words, we'll work mostly on learning to improve proficiency at catching fish in a variety of ways.

When I accompany trainees on charters taken on the their home waters, we'll focus more on refining the efficient use of boating equipment, navigation skills, knowledge of their home waters, and assess and address potential tackle needs. Further, we'll discuss and analyze decision-making processes, including how they go about selecting areas and spots to target, how long they spend in each place, what strategies they deploy in those places, and how they adjust to variables which crop up during the day. All these statements reside under an evolutionary umbrella, and we'll adjust priorities as necessary after an initial evaluation of the trainee's strengths, weaknesses and needs and also in response to the growth of the trainee over time.

In addition to the charters taken on Baffin and the ULM, the student's home-water charters with me aboard and the dialogue between me and the student about the trips they make alone, the IAPT plan provides a GPS data card, one which includes the waypoints and tracks I use regularly. It also includes some waypoints provided by me for their use and exploration on their home waters. I'll provide advice about places I've fished and/or am aware of as potentially productive, to help increase their catalog of spots and knowledge of the body of water they call home.

I'm offering this Inshore Angler's Personal Trainer product both as a year-long and quarterly plan. A year's commitment will entitle the pupil to fish four times with me in my home waters, and I'll travel to fish with them in their home waters an additional three times. They will be allowed and encouraged to fish as much on their own as they can, wherever they want, and to record and submit data to me after they complete each outing. I'll peruse and analyze that data as promptly, thoroughly and thoughtfully as I can each time, and will respond with my observations and recommendations, ideally leading to a meaningful dialogue about relevant issues of substance.

These various types of interaction between me and the trainee all carry the same purposeful intention–to aid the angler in identifying and eliminating weaknesses, identifying and building on strengths, diversifying and implementing more successful strategies and methods and increasing their knowledge of the bay system they call home. In the end, the process should accelerate their learning curve, increase their enjoyment of the sport and make them more competent, eventually independent of the need for help.

I've designed specific pricing plans for the IAPT product, dependent on quarterly or yearly commitment. In order to learn more about the details of the plans, pricing and everything else related to this new way of doing things, contact me by phone or email at the numbers and addresses provided at the end of this article or check out the related entry on the blogs page on my