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Fishing Out of Your Comfort Zone

by: James Bess
Recently, I revisited the memory of my very first fishing trip with my parents as the fourth of July holiday marked the first trip I had ever taken or at least could remember some thirty-one years ago. My mother had told me that I had been fishing when I was only two in the Overton Arm of Lake Mead fishing for Blue Gills and Crappie. She must be right, since she was there and maintains better recall than I do in those early formative years. Yet, the one trip I remember was when I was seven scurrying down a trail near the lake to get to a point where my father was already fishing. With my rod in hand, donning a night crawler and roughly four feet of slack line from the rod tip. Even as I sit typing this paragraph the memory comes back so vivid it like I am back in time doing it again. See, I was convinced that to keep my worm alive he needed to remain cool, so I was dragging him along the surface of the water making my way to the point to go fishing with my Father. In an instance I recall turning my head to see an image darting, then crashing the night crawler. All I could do was hold on for dear life as the fish crashed back and forth, in then out of the water along the steep rocky crag. The gypsum rock cove had slabs of rock that looked like cut marble falling off into ten feet of water. Fighting the fish for what seemed an eternity giving more drag than cranking, the fish tore away from the shoreline it then got off my hook. There I was just standing, looking at the water as though some predator had taken the mighty green fish from my hand. For three additional trips I remember the following two things, the first, asking my dad to teach me how to use a level wind reel because I remembered turning the crank on my Zebco reel and it never took back line. The second was trying to replicate the very same situation by dragging the worm along the surface up and down the bank line until I had worn ruts into the soft gypsum rock. Perhaps that is why many of us as anglers get caught up in doing the same old tactics and methods of fishing over and over again.
Imagine, at seven I was already establishing patterns and developing a comfort zone in a particular method and technique. This has always been the underlying problem most anglers maintain while making their way up the ladder of success when it comes to fishing. To many anglers, find themselves staying with what is comfortable for them to fish. That s not a bad thing until a method or technique becomes stale or completely unsuccessful.

To memory, my son-in-law Kirk is perhaps my best example just after he married my daughter. During the summer months I broke him in on bass fishing with the reliable Berkeley Power Worm in the ever-popular color of purple. Texas Rigged or Split shot he had become quite consistent with both methods. When November arrived we were still fishing about four or five times a week. For me I had already broke into my fall and winter pattern options. Custom tied Brown with Copper Mylar 3/8-ounce Jig and Pork combination with matching 1-ounce Spinnerbaits in the same color. Quickly, I got on a hot streak but my son-in-law kept saying nope I am staying with my confidence bait. His confidence bait was getting him skunked just about every day we went out. Nevertheless, he would occasionally try a jig, but it would not last for long. Even as I was pulling in solid fish he still stayed with his worm.
Realizing that his unwillingness to changeover was directly controlled by the readiness to change back to a lure technique that simply was not working. To eliminate this particular situation I laid down some ground rules. First, I needed to redirect his attention taking him to a rock jetty and searching for crawfish in the rocks. He knew previously that I had several times went out to perform this task prior to getting jigs made in colors that replicated the actual forage in lakes we were fishing. In November, I waited for a cloudy and rainy day to go out foraging for crawfish. The areas we would pick to locate our crawfish would be very different as Kirk chose to work the shallow rocks and for me I donned a snorkel and mask and worked water fifteen to twenty-foot deep. For the effort we both as a team came up with an assortment of different colored crawfish. Kirk while foraging the shallower rocks came up with two very definite colored patterned crawfish. The first was a variety of crawfish that had very little claws and were primarily pumpkin seed colored with their shells shimmering between green and red. Commonly, known as Christmas tree pattern color used by many lure manufacturers in the west. The second colored crawdad he located while working and turning darker colored rocks in the bay was a crawdad that was typical as most you would see in a variety of areas with the exception that upon first observation it looked completely black. Later when we took several of the crawdads home and placed in a prepared freshwater tank we noticed a very interesting point. This crawdad that appeared black when dowsed with brighter light the shell gave off a purple to greenish shimmer (perhaps June bug?). The crawdads I found remained the colors I had found the previous year when we replicated in Brown Round Rubber with Copper Mylar, Brown Rubber with a Dark Red Mylar. It did not take much time to figure out it was time to visit one of my lure sponsors and good friend get some newly developed jigs.
Several days later I took him with me to see my good friend, William (Billy) Jones, a gentleman that tied custom jigs for me in colors, I personally found colors for Colorado River Chain of Lakes I was fishing. As we looked over numbers of round and flat colored rubber we quickly picked the colors that would best represent the crawdads we had video taped just after returning home several days before. Over a period of five days the crawdads began altering the color we had originally found them in making the videotape was essential. On to Mylar selection, which did not take very long as Billy kept a wide variety of Mylar in many different colors and styles. Once the colors had been determined Billy recommended something a little different this year. In the past I had all my jigs tied with round rubber, which had been very productive for me. This year he recommended that we mix both flat and round rubber in the jigs. He had been testing this technique and was very excited about the action he was getting in his pool. With nothing to loose we agreed on quantities and made our way home.
Suddenly, the King of Berkeley Power Worms was making a conscious change before my eyes. Talking about areas that we could immediately start fishing the new jigs once there were finished. Pointing out different types of pork trailers and fall rates of such trailers. Asking questions about pork or rubber trailers which is best in certain water temperature zones and depths of water. Jig, jig and more jig talk would accompany our fishing trips over the next few days while waiting for the new jigs to be completed. With all the excitement I realized it was time to seal the deal . Since my jigs were covered within my sponsorship and Kirk s were not and offered to pay for his under certain conditions. If we went fishing only jigs and jig trailers would accompany our trips exclusively. He quickly and aggressively agreed and continued on with his questions of whether to trim, or not to trim the skirt.

Two days later I had determined that we would go fish some water that we could get to quickly and was very near to the area that we had previously located the crawfish. Additional limitations called the Rule of Two s were set on the trip, two rods only, two colored jigs and two colored trailers. Kirks excitement based on my experience would have been concentrating more on colors and trailers than touch, feel and line watching. He was dieing to get out and try jig fishing with his newfound enthusiasm so he would have agreed to anything. Finally, the trip would be from the bank and stay as such until he became accustomed to fishing the jig from a solid and stable station.
While Fishing Out of Your Comfort Zone you find your mind racing about many different factors and situations. Arriving to the location we immediately started fishing a steep wall of broken rock and boulders. The water was crashing against the rocky shoreline making line-watching imperative. Starting about thirty feet apart I could still see quite clearly and could not help yelling to him are you going to let that fish swim to me before you set the hook? Looking up he then saw that his line was skimming across the surface and set the hook. That smile, whether he had been ten or twenty years old it was worth it or least till the fish shook off at the bank. That deflated look was worth it too!

Nevertheless, my young companion soon realized that it was going to be necessary to watch the line and pay close attention to where and when that little piece of line jumped. Personally, the bite was awesome as the fish were quite aggressive that day. A typical late fall storm was brewing and the weather was turning fairly abrasive. As the rain started to fall, it was like being stoned by some mid-evil crowd with chards of glass as we stood patiently watching our lines. The payoff was worth enduring the wind, rain and cold as we both reeled in fish about every ten or twenty feet as we made our way down the shoreline. Kirk had now pulled in five or six fish not counting the quite large fish he lost at the bank earlier. Surely, the newly found jig would soon replace the confidence bait he gripped so tightly just a week before he found religion.
Every fall he still brings up that trip much like mine that I mentioned in the beginning of this article. Comfort is what one makes it whether it be fishing, eating or living out our daily tribulations. Perhaps, we find ourselves practicing our lives in that comfort zone because it is simply easier than challenging ourselves daily with little result. Kirk learned that you sometimes have to think outside the box, or perhaps color outside the lines to make yourself a better angler. For me, I realized that continued learning, teaching and sharing was my way to stay tittering in and out of my own comfort zones. Before moving to the Great State of Texas. Soft Plastic Jerk baits were a lure that never ever made it s way out of my tackle box. Now, whether its June, November or even January it is always tied on and used, and is in most cases productive. Even I practiced the Rule of Two s only two rods, two colored soft plastic jerk baits, and two different manufacturers using two different retrieves. Again, as I sit typing, I am already thinking of what will be my next experiment? Swimming Bitsy Bug Jigs or Ripping Sassy Shad type lures through the grass. If life and work were as easy to change, things would be much easier and COMFORTABLE?

Added: Thu Apr 10 2008
Last Modified: Fri May 15 2009

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