There are certain to be a few fishing failures, flops, and fiascos you wish you could forget. You say you want to minimize the mistakes you make and become a better angler? No problem, we’ve got you covered — banish these 10 things from your fishing repertoire, and you’ll soon be making the grade.

  1. Stop throwing plugs with trebles, and change all those lures to swingin’ singles. Yes, you’ll miss more strikes. But we’re still saying you’ll be a better angler, because making the effort to harm fewer of the fish you release earns you serious cred — and some things are simply more important than racking up numbers. Check out Dos and Dont's of Catch and Release Fishing, to brush up on other things you can do to better help the fish swim free safely.
  2. Reel Mistake – Stop spooling your reels at home. Instead, find a tackle store that has a hydraulic line tensioner and have all of your reels spooled up there. They’ll fit more line on the reel, and pack it tight at the optimal pressure which means that you’ll be able to cast farther and stop worrying about line cutting into the spool. Yes, we know it costs a bit more. Stop complaining, you skinflint.
  3. Quit Slacking – What’s the number-one mistake you see the average angler make? Allowing slack to get in their line (at any time, for any reason). Always keep it taunt and you’ll feel more fish and get fewer tangles.
  4. Park the Arc – When you’re casting into breaking fish with birds over them, quit overhead casting and putting a big arc in the line. That’s the very best way to snag a gull, which usually happens during the cast (when they fly into the line) as opposed to the retrieve. Keep your casts low and side-armed, and you’ll soon be catching fish instead of feathers. See Keepers in Chaos: How to Catch Big Fish Under Working Birds for more tips on fruitful fishing near those flocks.
    angler caught a seagull
    Careful with that cast there, bub!
  5. SHHH! – This one’s a toughie, but train yourself to stop hooting and hollering when you miss a bite. Sound carries through water, and that includes the sound of a human’s voice. Every time you yell, you’re probably spooking half the fish within casting distance as a result of your rowdiness.
  6. Five Gallons of Foolish – Stop using the same five-gallon bucket to hold baits or baitfish, and for the wash-down at the end of the day. Haven’t you noticed that most boat soaps are perfumed? And if you can smell it, what makes you think the fish won’t? Yes, yes, we know you rinse the bucket out after use, but stick your noggin in there and inhale, and you may well discover a bit of that scent gets left behind in the plastic. Get a second bucket, and never take the chance of making an olfactory offense again.
  7. Not So Pretty Pictures – Turn the fish icons on your fishfinder off, and never let them tarnish that LCD screen again. Those icons are huge compared to the arches and dots the raw data provides, and can actually obscure and/or merge some returns. Meanwhile, they provide no real additional insight into what lies beneath your boat.
  8. Clunk for a Skunk – Quit shifting your boat in and out of gear to maneuver over a school of fish. You know that big “clunk” you hear when the driveshaft engages? Well the fish do, too. This is easily proven; just creep your boat up to some visible nearby fish, shift into reverse, and watch their reaction. Savvy anglers will plan ahead so they can drift into position without shifting, or use a trolling motor once they’re in the fishing zone.
  9. Life’s a Drag – Quit setting your drags by hand. Don’t deny it — we know you yank on the line, call the tension “about right,” and start casting. The thing is, when Bubba strikes you need to know that drag is set exactly where it should be, not “about” where it should be. This is especially important when you’re going after big fish with light gear and an ounce of pressure can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Use a scale to set your drags (one third of the line’s breaking strength is usually considered best) and you might be surprised at just how different that drag feels. You might also be surprised at how much more often you manage to get Bubba up to the boat.
  10. Buggy Behavior – We hate mosquitoes and we know you do, too, but get that bug repellant off the boat and never use it while fishing again. DEET, the active ingredient in most bug repellents, is also a scientifically-proven fish repellent. If any gets on your hands and makes it from there onto a lure or bait, not only will the mosquitoes stay away, but the fish will too.
happy fisherwoman reels up a fish
Let's make it an awesome fishing season, this year!

BONUS BANISHMENT: The moment you step aboard your boat, pull your cell phone out of your pocket and put it into a stowage compartment (preferably one that’s sound-proof). How many times in the past year did you miss a bite, because you were chatting it up or scrolling down the screen? Yeah, we thought so.