Invitation to a Seminar on Five Fundamentals

Invitation to a Seminar on Five Fundamentals
Pete Krol caught this long, seven pound trout on a soft plastic lure out of the boat on a day when fishing the depths of the swag seemed like the only way to coax a bite from a big trout.

Fishing for speckled trout with artificial lures during the dog days of summer can be fun and exciting. Calm winds and hot water regularly combine to create the perfect conditions for consistent action on topwater lures. Catching fish of any kind on floating plugs is a treat; watching specks rise to the bait and blow up balls of foam in the surf or around deep structures and spoil banks in the bay is a blast.

Much of the time, numerous small trout are encountered by lure chunkers during summer outings. Using lures to cull trophy trout out of the schools of dinks when the heat drives them deep is difficult. Long trout caught in water over 85 usually weigh less than they would in winter or spring. For these reasons, many trophy trout enthusiasts change the focus of their fishing efforts as the bright, searing days of summer blaze on.

I am more committed than most when it comes to maintaining focus on catching "bigger than average" trout throughout the warm period, but I am not as busy running charters as I am during the cooler half of the year. I could be busier, of course, if I chose to use live bait and cater to customers who need and want to fish that way. But I don't make this "compromise", since doing so takes much of the joy out of fishing for me.

Long ago, I recognized the importance of keeping the fun in fishing. The life of a fishing guide is a good one, provided the guide is able to make enough money to make a decent living without burning out and losing the love of fishing. I get to do what I love to do. As long as this statement rings true, I am happy in my chosen life.

What I enjoy most is trying to evolve as an angler, one who chases a specific kind of fish with infectious enthusiasm. I also like it when I'm able to help my customers become a little more skilled at the sport. In other words, I place an emphasis on process over product. I know if I work hard at catching big fish and try to tutor my clients when we're on the water, the product will take care of itself over time.

Furthermore, most clients appreciate my sincere effort to control what I can control, and will ideally leave with ideas which have the potential to transform their fishing lives significantly. These things have lasting value, and form the backbone of my guiding philosophy.

Accordingly, I pursue other fishing-related endeavors during the season that sizzles. I write books, make movies, and run seminars, in the interests of keeping my creative juices flowing and moving money into my bank account. This summer, I will be revising some old products and releasing some new ones. I'll also be running several seminars in which I will attempt to clarify some of the most important angling principles I use on a daily basis.

In these meetings, I will discuss various detailed aspects of what I perceive to be the Five Most Important Fundamentals underlying the process of pursuing speckled trout with artificial lures in general, with an emphasis on how these principles differ slightly when the focus is on catching trophy fish.

The first fundamental is of paramount importance--the selection of a spot or area in which to fish. I'll describe how I educated myself about the specific features of the bays in which I've made a living, documenting the best sources and resources available for use in gathering information about these things. I'll include a discussion of how seasonal and climatic variables affect my choices, and will provide some specific spots and areas which have produced for me in the recent past and also some I frequented years ago, when I fished mostly on the Upper Texas Coast.

All consistently productive anglers accept the hard truth of what I call "Absolute Number 1". Stated simply, it is: you cannot catch a fish that is not there. In other words, in order to catch fish, the effort must be made in a place where plenty of fish are present. Fish location skills are the most important ones which separate top anglers from the rest of the crowd.

Once a spot or area is chosen, a second important fundamental comes into play... choosing the optimal strategy or method for the moment and the proper pace of movement through the area. These decisions should be based on thoughtful consideration and analysis of the relevant variables. I find myself coaching my clients about this aspect of the fishing effort on a regular basis. As I've written and stated many times before, a significant percentage of people fall prey to a tendency to move through an area too fast when wading. Others choose to drift when they should wade. Still others stand still and fish when it makes no sense.

In these meetings, I'll attempt to clarify my beliefs about these things in as much detail as possible. Certainly, there are times and places when faster movement is not only acceptable, it's the best way to best take advantage of the situation. At other times, planting the feet and probing a small area thoroughly is wise and necessary. Mostly, I place my faith in wading, but there are definitely times and places which dictate the need for fishing from the boat.

Whether wading or fishing from the boat, an angler must choose an appropriate lure in order to catch fish. In the Five Fundamentals Seminars, I'll do a detailed analysis of how I choose lures on a daily basis, acknowledging the fact that anglers who are on the water more often (like fishing guides) have a distinct advantage in this process. Often, we choose a lure based on "what they were biting yesterday". In stable weather patterns, this is usually an easy way to get the best lure tied onto the end of the line.

In other situations, when the weather is regularly changing, or when productive patterns are sought out in new places, choosing the right lure for the moment involves the reliance on sound, established truths related to the season, weather patterns, water quality and other factors. Weekend warriors and other anglers who fish less frequently than the pros must learn to rely on these truths when choosing lures, if they hope to avoid the tendency to experiment randomly and run through too many unproductive choices every time out.

Of course, choosing the right lure does not guarantee one will catch fish. The right lure presented in an ineffective manner will not produce many strikes, if any. This fourth fundamental, the choice of a specific style or manner of presentation, is similar to lure choice because it's easier for people who are on the water more frequently. In the seminar, I'll attempt to generate a list of ideas on which anglers can rely when deciding how to present the lures they send out on fish-catching forays.

It never ceases to amaze me how much impact subtle differences in the movement patterns of lures can have on the number of strikes generated. Many times, I and my customers are fishing the same exact plugs, but someone is getting far more strikes than every one else. While the "someone" is often me, this isn't always the case. If another in the group starts getting more strikes than I am, I will always attempt to determine what specific aspect of the presentation seems to be triggering the fish.

Over time, in analyzing these things, I've developed certain beliefs about which presentations work best in specific seasons and weather conditions. Though these truths are not absolutes, they are sound and solid, and should be relied upon in the absence of other information on which to base choices.

While experimenting thoughtfully with presentation styles, an angler needs to maintain an awareness of the fifth fundamental, which I call the "level of commitment" to the spot or area. I am probably asked about this part of my fishing formula more than any other, except, ironically, lure color, on which I place a low level of emphasis. Many people in the fishing community yearn for more knowledge about "when to stay and when to move". "How do you know how long to fish a spot before you give up on it?" they ask.

Attempting to come up with the right answer to this question has caused me to think about the concept more deeply than I would have if I hadn't been asked so often. I have generated a list of real principles on which I make the decision, and will share these in the seminar. Of course, I acknowledge that I sometimes operate from what seems like "instinct" when making this choice, but I also know this is an illusion. The level of commitment I have to a spot or area at a given time comes from learned behavior, is generated from a set of related histories and is affected by what I see around me.

The aim of all this discussion will be to arm the seminar's attendees with useful information on which they can base their fishing decisions, with the goal of wasting less time, money and energy, and of course, catching more and bigger fish! I will still be out on the water many early mornings this summer, trying to beat the heat and catch some fish. The good ol' summertime is indeed fine for someone with a life like mine.

It's also a great time to stay inside in cool spaces to contemplate, analyze and learn new things. I hope to run seminars on the Five Fundamentals in at least two or three cities on Saturdays in August and September. All readers who have an interest in attending one of these meetings can get more information on my website at, by emailing me at [email protected] or, perhaps better yet, by calling me at 361-688-3714.