On Being the Best Angler You Can Be

On Being the Best Angler You Can Be
David Koch prepares to release a nice red fish during our first frontal passage this fall.
I have been seeing quite a few ducks the past two weeks and we have received some much needed rain along with some serious high tides sure signs that fall is upon us. Preparations are definitely in order, like checking the old waders for leaks before that first cold wade.

My preparations include taking my boat to Chris's Marine for a complete checkup before cold weather hits. Fishing is too good this time of year to be out of commission for repairs that could have been prevented with routine maintenance. My fourth Mercury Pro XS has continued the "zero-downtime Mercury record" so I am totally sold on the fact that a Merc should be your next outboard.
I know some probably grow tired of me singing the praises of Simms Fishing Products but the truth is, their products are excellent and the warranty is matched by none. I still have my original wading jacket thatafter nine years of salt, rain, mud, Jay Ray and Ryancontinues to keep me dry and warm. Look me up at the dock this fall and I'll show it to you.

I have a pet peeve. What bothers the heck out of me after all my years as a fishing guide is that so few understand the dedication and hard work required to be good at the things we attempt in life. I was pretty much average my whole life and finally it made me sick. On his deathbed my dad told me, "Jay, if you are going to be a fishing guide, be the best guide on the water."

Dad was a high school coach and huge fan of Vince Lombardi. Lombardi said, "If you're OK with losing, you can never win." Another quote from the legendary Green Bay coach, "Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser."

So in my career, I have grown from being mediocre to a guide that wanted to be the best, to a guide that wants YOU to be the best.

Time and time again I fish with anglers that can recite all the best quotes that professional fishermen are known to spout but refuse to follow. McBride does a great imitation of me as a banty rooster kicking up sand as I preach to my guys. It makes me laugh every time.

Truth is I have to kick a little sand once in a while in order to teach effectively. Understand, I wade and chunk right along with you, always have and always will. If you want a guide that simply watches and tells you how good you are, (when you're really not), well I'm not your guide.

I fish alongside my clients because it gets me in touch with the conditions and mood of the fish. Yes, fish are moody, and it takes time each day to find the rhythm. Have you ever seen a bird dog worth anything that just laid in the truck box or hunted lazily in a straight line? The truly good ones are chewing the latch off the box to go to work, always quartering back and forth, searching for birds. I'm a latch chewer. When I lose my desire to be in the water first and get the first point well just go ahead and shoot me because I'm done.

I want my clients to be coachable. Thick skin can be needed when I feel epic moments are being blown. When opportunities are missed I ask clients how much they have practiced since our last fishing trip. I want you to practice because without it you won't get any better. I want you to develop good techniques and we do this by having a coach continually critiquing our actions. I'll praise you when you do well and bust your you-know-what when you don't.

I bet I told the guy yesterday ten times to stop reeling the fish so close to the rod tip. I did this because I wanted him to do it right when the right fish was on the line.

And for God's sake stop looking at the tip of the rod to see if the fish is still on the line. This drives me crazy. It's all about feel and inadvertently you will stop reeling as soon as the rod tip straightens. When the fish hauls butt straight at you and the pressure on the blank is released, you'll stop reeling and look at me like "What happened? I thought I had that one."

Here's another Your buddy has a big fish on and you're just standing there watching it swim by. You flash the thumbs-up and then a dumb grin as the fish wraps your leg. When it breaks off he'll show you a finger but it won't be his thumb. For Heaven's sake get the heck out of the way so he can land the fish.

While he is fighting it you can slip around and catch the one he left in the pothole. This is also a good way to discretely move your buddy off the sweet spot. We call this move the Ol' Bob Hallin. Well, Glenn Hornsby calls it that, but it's a long story.

One more thing; If the rod builder wanted you to grip the rod in the middle when landing a fish he would have put a piece of cork there! And last: If you're going to use a net, use one big enough to get a slot redfish or trophy trout in it.

To be the best you can be you need to first learn and practice the basics. Casting is basic, and essential, even though some may think otherwise. Long and accurate casts are needed along the middle and lower Texas coast due to the water being shallow and clear much of the time. Never cast without first aiming. You should be constantly picking targets, which comes in handy when a sight-cast opportunity presents itself. I cast to anything, even bubbles on the water when nothing else is there.

Learning the proper knots is critical. I use the MirrOlure Loop Knot for all my Bass Assassins as I like the jighead to swing freely side-to-side during my presentation. I use mono leader material way more than fluorocarbon, due to the stiffness of the latter. I am a braided line guy, although a late convert. I prefer 20lb mono leader attached to 8x30 braid, via the Uni-Uni joining knot. Learn to tie fail-safe knots for every application. After all, your line is only as strong as the weakest spot usually a knot. Practice your knots while watching Monday night football.

We need to work slowly when wade-fishing areas of particular interest. I will line my guys up and walk them on a slow-steady pace until a bite is received. At this point I want everybody to stop including the guy down on the end; who hasn't practiced and cannot cast ten yards, yet expects a limit by 9:00 AM.

I'll bark when the line is pushed forward too quickly. I have guys I fish regularly that I cannot control, so I typically put them on a separate line they can sprint without screwing up the rest of the group.

Today for instance, my guys were new to wading, and after explaining the reason behind the slow pace, they got it. During a five hour wade we caught and released thirty reds and a trout over 29 inches. I simply asked them if they were fishing with bait and caught a fish on the first cast, would they pull the anchor and drift forward or would they quickly bait up and send a stinky hunk of whatever right back into the same area?

For the recordI don't care whether you fish with lures, croaker, cut skipjack or hunks of blue crab. Just do it right and keep only the fish you need.

Let's move on to our fall patterns. It should be better than we expected with the rains we have received the past thirty days. Bottom grass is holding very well right now along both San Jose and Matagorda Islands. This bottom structure will continue to hold some of the best trout as long as it lasts. Don't be afraid to fish windward shorelines during periods of NE wind. Northeast wind pushes water along San Jose and Matagorda and seagrass produces a very clean strip of water along the first and second guts of the island shores. Good stuff can happen under these conditions.

Thanks for reading and allowing me to vent a little. I meant this as a bit of a spoof and I hope I made you laugh a little but, I want you to become a good angler the best you can be. Get some practice and come see me when you want to increase your fishing knowledge.

May your fishing always be catching. -Guide Jay Watkins