"Do the little things right and the big things will fall in place," an old coach of mine used to say. Those words stuck with me over the years and have informed our approach to preparedness on Brier Patch. Success-ful crews keep themselves in the game during the day when the bite is on, because they work hard to have all the little elements ready for a day’s fishing far in advance of the fishing day. This also gives them confidence that they will be ready for any opportunity that may present itself.
Fishing with people in different areas for species other than those you would normally fish for is a great way to learn new techniques and refine your tackle. Learning a few of these crews’ methods, and adding them to your usual repertoire, can dramatically improve your results. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to fish with many top captains and crews whose finely tuned practices consistently produce fish.
The common thread that I’ve found among all of the best crews is their preparation and attention to detail. All of the top skippers will tell you that there is no one thing that gives them an edge; it’s all the little things done correctly that puts them at the front of the pack.
Keep It Clean
You can tell a lot about how an operation works by how well the crew maintains the boat and equipment. Keeping the exterior of the boat clean is the first thing to learn in Crew 101, and chances are that if the boat looks grimy, the rest of the operation is in a similar, if not a greater, state of disarray. Today’s crews have access to many great tools that can help keep their ship organized and inventoried with little fuss.
Keeping the entire boat clean is the first step to good organization. Even the places typically overlooked for routine cleaning and maintenance, like the bilges, lazarette and engine room, I consider to be important. All areas on board need to be clean and organized. Paying attention to these areas helps to minimize problems and makes it easier to see and fix a potential problem before it is too late and you miss fishing days.
Proper labeling and organization keeps your gear ready for action. You can’t keep up with a hot bite if you have to make a new rig every time you catch a fish.
Tackle needs to be maintained, prepared, organized properly and stored neatly. A neatly organized and substantial inventory of required tackle makes it all the easier when the bite fires off. Line, leader, swivels, proper crimps, a crimping tool, and a variety of lures and the supplies to rig them are all key elements to a successful day’s fishing. Getting the tools to keep them right and ready is as easy as taking a stroll through your local tackle shop or browsing its catalog.
With today’s vast array of organizers and storage systems specifically made for tackle, there is no excuse for a mixed-up jumble of rusty and unorganized tools, hooks, crimps, swivels and the like. We use a host of the clear plastic Offshore Angler and Plano StowAway 3700 and 3600 boxes, which help to keep moisture at bay and can be set up with dividers for the particular item you are storing, keeping similar items in varying sizes separated and readily available. Plano also manufactures the same size boxes in its Waterproof Stowaway series, with large clips on three sides and a gasket for complete waterproof storage in the cockpit. You can easily label them for quick identification, and they hold plenty of spares for when the bite turns on.
When you run out of a common item — like the perfect size hook — while you are on the water, it can shut down your catching and make a potentially great day merely a fair one. Maintaining a good inventory of commonly used and necessary items is key not only to a successful fishing day, but it also keeps you from dragging along a lot of stuff that you rarely use. Inventory management is much easier when using these waterproof storage bins, and the money spent on tackle doesn’t turn to rust while lying in a cockpit drawer exposed to salt air and moisture.
Rigs, Lures and Leaders
Helping the crew stay ready to fish pays in the end. Bringing plenty of pre-made rigs reduces the amount of time that your baits are out of the water. There are several methods that professional crews use to keep their wire or mono leaders neatly organized for quick access when it comes time to replace a broken or chafed rig. We typically store our pre-cut measured mono leaders (and especially wire rigs with hooks) in groups of 10 in Boone Bait Just Rigs Kingfish rig bags, labeled with the size and length of the leader and size of the hook. This system helps us stay mindful of our inventory so that we don’t get caught short, and it provides a simple storage solution.
When it comes to lures, there are fantastic storage systems available. Boone Bait makes great breathable cases for individual lures that help keep your skirts, hook-sets and leaders from tangling. Compartmentalized storage boxes by Plano, Flambeau and others also keep plugs and jigs neat, clean and organized. Having various sizes and different colors always ready to go maximizes fishing time and helps keep you in the game.
Pre-cut leader material stored neatly, ready to be crimped when needed, helps you get that hot lure back in the water. Needless to say, when you have your accessories ready to go, you can get your lines back in quickly, thereby increasing your actual fishing time. When the bite really goes off, a well-supplied crew can stay in the game longer, because it does not have to stop and rig up. It also helps to carry a variety of conventional and spinning tackle in various line classes for when an unexpected opportunity may present itself.
All of this preparation work is done well in advance of the fishing situation. Take the time to pre-make all of your leaders, sharpen all of your hooks, organize your terminal gear in compartmentalized boxes and carry several different sizes so that they can be scaled to the rigs that you are using. Label the boxes so you can read them quickly and grab the right box you need in a hurry. Keep things simple and handy and inform your crew of where things are and how you have them organized.
Having the little steps completed ahead of time makes you much more efficient. By carrying enough pre-assembled rigs, you know how many days you have before you need to dedicate time to make more. And if the elements are prepared and ready to be assembled, you can stay ahead of the curve and keep catching. Break it all down to the little things, and your fishing success will improve. Investing the time before you leave the dock to get organized and stow gear so that it’s ready in an instant pays off in maximized fishing time and catches.