Walk into a tackle store and it might appear at first glance that bass fishing is all about choosing the right lure.
After all, there are thousands of lures on the shelf of many varying styles, colors and uses on the water.
But while having the right lure — and being able to put it into the right spot at the right time — certainly matters on any given day, sometimes the gray matter upstairs in an angler’s head matters just as much, if not more.
Waco, Texas angling veteran Alton Jones, the 2008 Bassmasters Classic champ and a Major League Fishing competitor, agrees.
“The physical and technical aspects of it (bass fishing) have to be there also — you can’t just think your way into a bunch of fish,” said Jones.
“I think the mental aspect allows you to complete the physical part,” he added. “It’s important to be a good caster, but I can’t go brain dead and let it happen on its own.
“I have to consciously think about it on every cast, throwing at a specific target so my spinnerbait goes past the log and comes by at the right speed, the right position, the right depth, etc.”
If not, Jones might miss an important fish.
One that could make the difference in doing well in a tournament, claiming a big check and even winning another prestigious title.
But what does that mean for us non-pros, ordinary weekend anglers hoping to catch more and bigger bass or perhaps to win a simple club tournament?
For starters, it means trying to come up with a good game plan based on seasonal patterns and the lake being fished.
Then, it means working hard to put that plan into motion and also believing in what you’re doing.
And that typically means going with your angling strengths not your fishing weaknesses.
“My dad and Denny (Brauer), they would tell me that you’ll never win a tournament at something that you’re not good at,” said Dion Hibdon, winner of the 1997 Bassmasters Classic title on Lake Logan Martin and the 2000 FLW Championship title on the Red River.
Hibdon knows what he is talking about.
“I’ve won two world championships and they were both won by doing something that I think I’m as good at as anyone in the world,” he said.
“At the Bassmasters Classic and the FLW Championship, I was throwing a jig in a situation that I think I’m as good at as anyone slinging a lure in the lake.”
Which leads Hibdon to dispense this advice for the weekend warrior.
“Go do what you’re good at,” said Hibdon. “That away you’re thinking right, you’re thinking good and you’re thinking that you’re doing the right thing. (When) you’re confident with that, that will make you fish better.”
Legendary Weatherford, Texas B.A.S.S. pro and Major League Fishing co-founder Gary Klein agrees with that idea although he does add one nuance.
“I try to fish (to) my strengths, to put myself into areas that allow my strengths to come into play,” said Klein. “But most important, I fish for fish that I understand.”
Doing so can help a weekend angler stay focused on the water.
That’s especially important on the inevitable tough days when strikes are few and far between.
“That’s when it’s hard to keep the focus,” said Jones. “Since you’ll have fewer bites on a tough day, you have to capitalize when the strike comes.
“And not being focused keeps an angler from making the proper presentation to get that strike, too.”
The bottom line in all of the above talk is simply this: successful bass fishing might start with having the right lure tied on at the end of your line.
But the fish catching process certainly doesn’t end there.
Just ask some of the best anglers in the history of the sport, pros that have spent a lifetime fine tuning their physical skills as well as their mental abilities.
A combination that can pay off in huge angling dividends out on the water, a place where sometimes it really is mind over fish.
Lynn Burkhead is Senior Writer for the Outdoor Channel, World Fishing Network and Sportsman Channel and lives in Denison, Texas