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Mistakes happen in fishing, learn to limit them

Unless your weekend plans include a trip to enjoy fantastic Lake Erie walleye action, most Northeast Ohio anglers face a few more of the tough-fishing dog days of August.

The dog days are a time for extra sharp focus by anglers who do chose to hit the water even though the fishing is tough at Mosquito, Berlin, West Branch and Milton.

Mistakes can be magnified when bites are few and far between, so smart decisions and flawless execution are all the more essential if an angler is to find success during the late summer doldrums.

Flawless execution, huh? If only it were that easy. I have made more than my fair share of bonehead mistakes and ill-advised decisions over the years.

There was the day during a bass tournament a few years ago when I caught a fish that was bigger than the smallest one in the limit swimming in my livewell. I retrieved the small keeper and balance beamed it against the new bass, confirming the cull.

I tossed the smaller bass back in the lake and then, in a moment of complete brain fade, I released the bigger bass as well. In a matter of seconds, I went from improving the weight of my limit of bass to falling one bass short of the limit.

Fortunately, I caught my limit bass again a few minutes later and went on to win the tournament, but I will never forget that dumb mistake.

It wasn’t my first stupid maneuver out on the water. As a matter of fact, I probably could fill a book with the stories of silly mistakes.

Many of them involve the failure of hooks and lines at crucial moments. I recall the time when I’d had a pretty good day of bass fishing. I had already boated a dozen or more nice largemouths when I jerked my hook into what turned out to be the biggest fish of the day.

The bass surged, then leaped in a head-shaking show of aerobatics. It fell back into the lake, but not with my hook still attached. I sadly reeled in the slack line to discover the point of the hook bent in a tiny J shape, evidence that I should have checked the point after the previous fish and replaced the damaged hook.

Broken lines also are often the result of angler failure. I am fortunate to have lost relatively few fish over the years to line breakage, but when it does happen it’s usually because I waited too long to retie after hours of casting or catching.

Bass fishing often is done in heavy cover and tight quarters where the bass have a decided advantage. Anglers can up their odds of getting the fish out of the cover by selecting openings that not only enable good presentations, but also a high likelihood of successful extraction. Nevertheless, we sometimes succumb to the temptation to squeeze the lure into impossible locations and then fall victim to Murphy’s Law–if something can go wrong, it will.

And then, of course, we have the cases where the “short cut” across the cove turns out to be a very bad decision. Getting the boat stuck on a sandbar is never fun. It is avoidable, of course, but then so are most of the myriad of mistakes that can ruin a good day of fishing. We learn early in life to “stop, look and listen” before proceeding through an intersection. That same advice is valuable to anglers as we move through important decisions during our days on the water. If we pay attention to the details, we can keep Murphy from laughing at our mistakes.

Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing, was released in May. He enjoys emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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