It’s a simple truth that my lovely school teaching wife has to remind her day-dreaming students of on several occasions throughout the course of a school year – pay attention, please.
Why? Because if her students don't, they might miss a key lesson that will pay big dividends as the school year winds down and exams finish up for the year.
Believe it or not, the same truth applies this summer in fishing endeavors across the country, whether they take place in fresh or saltwater venues as the sun shines and the wind blows lightly with the Beach Boys crooning somewhere in the distance.
For anglers who are carefully paying attention rather than simply flogging the water as mindless fishing drones enjoying a day off, then the chance for on-the-water success rises dramatically.
But don't take my word for it. Instead, take the word of Bill Provine, a longtime fisheries scientist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“A lot of people will spend all of their time on the water in a particular type of habitat doing a certain technique,” Provine once told me.
A good reason that so many of us do that is that there is often a technique, a particular location or good past history that makes us extremely comfortable when out on the water.
Unless the fish refuse to cooperate, that is.
“(If) the fish aren’t there or aren’t responding (to what you’re doing), then you’re wasting your time,” said Provine.
No matter what kind of feel-good memories and experiences we might have.
Provine suggests that the key for anglers at any time of the year is to avoid unproductive time on the water by heeding the aquatic chalk board message that fish are sending out on any given day.
“During any season or time of the year when you determine that something is happening more than once, like catching fish at a certain depth or in a certain habitat, it’s extremely important to concentrate on that particular circumstance,” said Provine.
“If that’s where the fish are, at a certain depth or location, then a lot of times you’re wasting your time by fishing (different types of) places, at least for that period in the day.”
In other words, to borrow from the tournament angler’s vernacular, look for the day’s productive pattern, or sometimes called “the pattern within a pattern.”
“Once you hit on a pattern, then you may take advantage of it,” said Provine. “Look for that same (fish-producing) characteristic in the (water body) along a shoreline, at a similar depth, etc. for as long as that trend holds out.”
How does an angler go about discovering a pattern for largemouth bass, striped bass, panfish, catfish, redfish or whatever piscatorial species he or she is targeting?
“One (way) is not to continue doing something that doesn’t seem to be working,” said Provine.
Besides stopping what is not working, Provine suggests not being afraid to think out of the box and/or try something new and different.
“If you’re fishing in a particular area, try several types of lures, different lure colors and different presentations at various depths," he said.
"If that doesn’t work, then go to another part of the lake until you discover something that works.”
When an angler actually catches a fish, Provine urges them to think critically about why such a hook-up just occurred.
By doing so before going back to work fishing again, such examination can help provide answers that will lead to the next fish, the one after that and so on.
“If something works (once), try to get it to work twice,” said Provine. “If it does, you may have a pattern that will make your time on a lake more efficient.”
Because at the end of a summer day on the water, there's not much that is more fun than catching a good fish.
It’s a feeling only topped by actually doing it again and again.