A habit is defined as, “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”
We’ve all heard or been told at one time or another “it’s how we’ve always done it!” or the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I’ll be the first to admit that I wish, when my passion for the outdoors began to flourish and I became hungry for knowledge, that I had someone to show me the way they had always done it; what had always worked well for them. I didn’t. As I reflect back, I feel an appreciation that I cut my teeth without sage advice, crazy as that may sound!
You see, the one drawback I’ve observed with receiving age-old advice is the tendency for those words to create a comfort zone, and comfort zones can be too... comfortable.
My first experience came at a young age, when I began fishing. From the outset I would read, tirelessly, and ask those I felt were more experienced than me “what works?” At that young age, inquiring predominantly about largemouth bass, the consistent feedback was a jitterbug and a broke back Rapala will always catch largemouth bass! Perfect! Out I went, cast after cast with occasional success, which was enough to get me excited, but barely sufficient to be satisfying. It was at this point I had a moment of clarity, “how did these experienced anglers come to have such confidence in these presentations?” LIGHTBULB! They tried it. They just tried something other than a worm and a brass hook. It was then I decided, we can always do better!
Since that day, I’m probably one of the most frustrating people to fish with because I will try anything! Even when the fishing is going seemingly well, I will try to do better! Heck! I even go as far as keeping broken lure parts to create my own lures! I find myself constantly trying to find out why something works when it works, and how can I build on this!
Admittedly, there are times when I ask myself, “what are you doing? Can’t you just be conventional?” Then, moments like a visit to a family member’s cottage solidify my conviction. While visiting this cottage one fall, we hadn’t been there long when I snuck away with my tackle bag and rod to see what was lurking out front of the dock! I had been out there for an hour, with no action, when their neighbor appears on his dock and hollered, “In my five years here, I’ve never seen a fish caught in this river.” I laughed, nodded back, and thanked him! Then silently, to myself replied “don’t go too far, sir....” another hour passed and my ninth lure change, the neighbor on his 3rd beer, still watching from the gazebo on his dock. I opened my tackle bag, and said “ok Ryan, let’s get weird.” I opened my box of tandem spinnerbaits, I pulled out a ½ oz. chartreuse and white bait, with 2 willow leaf blades, and asked myself, “what could make this better?” I decided to add a 6” yellow mister twister in the hook because, why not? It was at this moment a friend of the family we were staying with appeared on the dock, and while swirling his glass of wine, chuckled and said “what do you think is going to bite that hideous creation?” I smiled and replied “let’s find out!” I opened the bail, flung the lure out, and when it hit the water I just let it fall, I count to 3 and began my retrieve. The “hideous creation” gets halfway back to me, and suddenly a tap, I let it go dead, then give a quick turn of the reel and BAM! The line cuts through the water to the left, I raise the rod, and fight back! My wine swirling accomplice steps forward with a “no way....” I kneel down and reach into the water pulling out a 2.5 lb. largemouth, and I stand up, I give a whistle to the neighbor, and show him the luck of this dock has changed! He gives me a smile and a wave of approval replying “nice fish, man!” Once again, I remind myself, we can always do better!
That’s the moral of my tale today, I will never claim to be smarter or better than any other angler or hunter. The beauty of our craft is that we will, in fact, never graduate. We must constantly remind ourselves that just because something has always worked, there could be something that works better! After all, if Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, they likely would have replied with “faster horses!!!” There was nothing wrong with horses, but Mr. Ford believed there must be something that works better, and I think we can all agree we’re glad he tried!!
So I encourage you when you're in the woods, on a field edge, or dropping lines, if the results aren’t what you want, break the habit! Put your predecessor’s favorite lure back, and try something else! Who knows, you might just get introduced to a better way!
Now, get out there!!