One cast at a time.
Sound familiar? It should. It’s the mantra of many who participate in a sport. The golfer approaches the game one stroke at a time. The distance runner races one stride at a time. And so forth.
The same methodological approach applies to fishing.
An experienced angler knows a successful day of catching is comprised of a series of singular events. Yes, there are opportunities to catch multiple fish on one presentation, but most of us mere mortal fishermen are satisfied if a cast produces one fish.
The one-cast-at-a-time thinking is important for anglers who are serious about improving their fortunes on the water. We aren’t going to haul a limit on one toss, so each presentation is an opportunity to learn.
Learning happens almost accidentally in fishing. Average anglers gain knowledge over time, often relying on repetition to drive lessons home.
But expert anglers gain their superior approaches because they’ve figured out they can learn on each and every presentation — whether it succeeds of fails.
One cast at a time is a mindset. The angler who goes fishing with the mindset that his or her day will be a thousand moments will naturally settle into a rhythm that would be impossible in an approach that lumps all that happens into a tangled pile.
One-cast-at-a-time fishing may appear to be easy. But it requires discipline. It means your first cast is made in a fashion that wouldn’t botch up the opportunity for the next cast to be productive. And so on.
In other words, if you drag your crankbait through a brush pile and snag it, you’ve ruined any chance to hook a fish that might have been lurking on the periphery of the cover. The better approach is to observe the cover and decide on where that first cast might land so that it might entice a fish but not spook any fish that might not respond to that first cast.
I love to fish lily-pad fields. During normal summers when Mosquito Creek Reservoir’s water level is up, acres and acres of pads provide shelter for largemouth bass. Many anglers know pads are fish magnets, but most of them strike out in efforts to catch lily-pad bass.
One reason is that they tend to look at the cover as one massive apartment complex where hundreds of bass live, eat, sleep and watch TV. The facts are, however, that fish in pad patches are there to eat, and they set up in areas that maximize their opportunities to find food.
A savvy angler works from outside in, but not across the wide spectrum of the cover. The successful angler will decide the best particular location in the pad acreage, then dissect it one cast at a time until he or she connects with a willing bass.
With that fish caught, the angler then factors in why that fish was where it was, and seeks to duplicate the presentation elsewhere.
This approach works wherever you might be fishing — whether you are lobbing shrimp to speckled trout in the surf, dangling minnows for crappies, pulling crankbaits for river smallmouths or flipping jigs into willow bushes for largemouths.
Make that one cast count as though it’s the last one you will ever make. Be selective, careful and accurate. Then, when that cast is over, make the next cast count as though it’s the last one you will ever make.
Before long, the rhythm will become evident. You’ll be the marathon runner going one stride at a time and hitting the finish line before you know it, but with a boatload of fish to show for your efforts.