Year In Review: 10 Lessons From 2022
Updated: Oct 29
2022 was a great year for fishing. From big spring pike, to monster summer smallies in tournaments, and the occasional pickerel (walleye) or muskie in between it was one for the books. Not the mention boating a massive 45.25" pike and 3 others over 42.5 all in a 4 week span. Numerous PB's were achieved by those that came in the boat with us and the best part is most of the adventures were caught on film to be enjoyed for years to come. While enjoying the success of the season should be done it is also important to reflect on some of the lessons we learned while it is still fresh in our minds so we don't repeat the same mistakes next season. That is, if we want 2023 to be even better than 2022! So, keep reading and find out some of the most important lessons we learned this year.
1. Slow Down - Use spotlock more (especially when muskie fishing)
One of the benefits of recording our days on the water is the ability to pick up on things we wouldn't normally notice. Reviewing our footage I noticed just how much I was moving the boat with the trolling motor; often moving through an area before even getting my full retrieve in. This may be a learned behaviour from fishing for smallmouth so long where you just need to get a bait within 10 feet of them to get a bite but for pike and muskie fishing it reduces how well we worked the areas considerably. It also made it very difficult to perform a proper figure 8 which was often done more lazily than I had thought (caught on tape). Fishing fast should deal with how your bait moves not how you move. Just because you through 100 spots in a day doesn't mean you fished them well. Utilizing spotlock, setting up in a good location, working it thoroughly & quickly, before moving to another spot and repeating is a better approach and will allow better balance for the figure 8 as one foot isn't on the trolling motor pedal pushing the boat in different directions.
2. There are lots of big fish out there. Don't try to force it to work in one area
For the first time ever the New Wave Fishing Academy members competed in multiple tournaments throughout the year. If there was any one lesson from tournament fishing is that there are plenty of big fish out there that can be caught on any given day. If 10 different boats out of the same launch can come back with over 20 lbs of smallmouth each then there's enough fish out there for you to do it too or at the very least catch one big fish on every outing. If you're in an area that is not producing, move! There are too many fish out there waiting to be caught to be satisfied with small fish or worse yet no fish.
3. Trust Your Electronics
Where are the fish, are they around? Is there bait? Electronics will tell you this if you know how to read them. If you aren't seeing anything be sure to check your sensitivity isn't way low and after that get out of there. Electronics will also tell you what depth the fish & bait are sitting at. This will help with deciding on your techniques, bait selection, and areas that may be productive.
4. Plan your day around optimal times
At some point throughout the day the fish are going to bite. Sometimes you can plan for this, sometimes you just have to be on the water when it happens. The ultimate goal is to make sure you're where the fish are when they do. This was made clear a few times this season. In the spring we fished all morning and a single bay for close to 45 minutes with little to no action. Over the next 45 minutes we caught 3 pike 36-38", 2 breakoffs from bigger fish, and a handful of pike 30-36". Just as soon as it started the bite was off. Had we decided to leave and spend time travelling just before this bite window we could have missed it all.
Another time in a tournament with fog, rain, and overcast conditions we decided to start our day on a big main lake point with sharp drop to deep water and a huge shallow gravel flat. After fishing the morning without any big bites we moved on to our secondary areas. As the afternoon came around the sun finally came out but we were in new areas scrambling to increase our weight. When we arrived at weigh in another boat we saw in the morning informed us we beat them to their first spot, and they hit it up on the way back (in the afternoon) where they caught their biggest fish of the day. It's all about timing.
It's not always easy to determine these moments when fish activity will change but there are a few keys that we like to look for or incorporate into our planning; especially after the incidents above. The most obvious are big weather changes, if the day is rainy and the sun is going to come out fish activity will change. The same thing is true if the opposite occurs. The other is wind direction. If the wind direction changes the area you are fishing may become more or less productive. The final factor is major and minor bite windows. These are based on the moon and available on a number of different apps or just by searching online.
In general, smallmouth activity increases when the sun comes out. For Muskie / Pike a big activity increase is generally found around major & minor bite windows but also when it becomes more overcast.
5. Trolling has its time and place, Need it to be successful
Unfortunately, we can't always cast. It could be the wind being too high, the fish being suspended offshore, or fish just being on the move not staying in an area long enough to see your bait. When these conditions happen trolling can be the ticket to get your bite in front of fish or in front of fish willing to bite. Being able to adapt to the conditions at hand, use trolling to break down water, and switch between the two techniques is a must if you want to be successful day in and day out.
6. Putting in time is not enough, Needs to be time in high percentage areas
Not all of the lessons we learned this season are from being on the water. We believe in learning from everyone and every opportunity so we often read about others experiences and try to make sense of the reasoning behind the outcomes. From reading "Time On The Water" by Bill Gardner it was obvious that just fishing is not enough if you want to be successful; especially for muskie. In this book Bill spends a whole season in Minnesota fishing for muskie putting in over 200 days on the water and came up with a mere 12 muskies. Keep in mind this was in 1980 when electronics, maps, and equipment is not what it is today. Looking at the maps of the lakes he targeted now it is not surprising he struggled as a number of the lakes have much more offshore structure or breaks to deeper water where the shoreline fishing just wouldn't work as well year round. Without detailed maps and electronics it would be extremely difficult to figure out these areas or find offshore weedbeds that the fish relate to. Despite all this it is very clear you can't just go fishing. Without a plan, one based on good information, that puts you in the right areas you can't be successful. On the same waters in the same season a young Joe Bucher managed 78 muskie with similar amount of time on the water. Right there highlights the difference between time on the water & time in productive water.
7. Stick To Game Plan But Stay Flexible
From lesson 6 we know that having a game plan is important. Putting in the work before hitting the water absolutely makes you more successful once you get there; but only if you stick to the plan. If you abandon the plan once you hit the water all the prep is for nothing. While you shouldn't follow the plan to the letter as you can't prepare for every situation you shouldn't abandon hitting main lake areas to go back into coves "just to see" when you had good reason for planning on the main lake areas. What you should try though is going shallow on the same structure, or going deep, maybe away from the structure over deeper water but generally in the same types of water. One example we had of this in 2022 was in the Huron Bass Tour Classic on day 2 when water temps were mid 50's. Fishing a known deep fall flat on a complex point system we caught a number of fish in 20 ft all morning. As the hot afternoon sun came out we tried to make a straight drive back to our hotspot for one last pass when we decided to take some casts shallow on top of the point (<5 ft) as we came over it. First cast with a swimbait we three follow and 3 casts later we had 3 smallmouth with a giant following. With limited time left and some ground to make up we ran this pattern in a 4 more spots and saw smallmouth (bigger ones & loners) moving into the shallowest part of the area. In 30 minutes we put 3, 4lb+, bass in the boat all of which were upgrades.
A prime example of sticking to the plan but adjusting for the conditions to find the spot on the spot and the bait they wanted to eat!
8. Wind Is Inevitable, Learn Your Limits, Learn To Manage
When fishing big water wind is an inevitable force we have to deal with as anglers. Any other element (rain, snow, heat, cold) are all manageable but wind has the most impact on us. Wind not only makes fishing & boat control difficult but can also make it dangerous if the winds are too high. As an angler you need to know what your limits are and what your gear can handle to avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations. If you do find yourself in these situations how can you stay safe? It's not just about considering the winds right now but on big waters consistent winds will create larger waves and there will be residual waves for a long time after a heavy wind period. Know what is too much and make smart decisions.
Managing the wind is difficult. If you can the best way to salvage a day is to pick an area that is protected from the wind (if the wind is south to north, pick a bay running east to west for example). This allows the most flexibility in terms of casting, trolling, and boat control.Other options for managing the wind include trolling, anchoring, or using drift socks although each has its benefits & drawbacks.
9. Be Picky About Temperature
The systems that we use and teach in our Zero To Hero Masterclass rely heavily on understanding fish preferred temperature to determine their locations. While this gives some room for flexibility this season we found some very serious specifics in fish relating to temperatures. While slightly cooler water was available we did not see muskie until we were in 67 F water. In areas that we saw muskie which cooled off below 67 F they left. Smallmouth we caught a few in 63 F water but switching areas to 68 F had dozens of them. Pike in the spring relating to the coves in bay system that were mid 50s while the rest were cooler held all the fish. The main lesson here is that a few degrees makes a big difference and if you aren't paying attention / using this to your advantage you're missing out on fish. Things change if there isn't water of the preferred temperature available or the same temperature exists in multiple types of areas but this is a whole other discussion.
10. Don't Stop Trying To Improve
Despite how much we have learned or how much success we have had there will always be bigger fish to catch, bigger goals to set, and ways to improve. Thinking that you have already hit the peak or becoming satisfied with what you can do will limit you. Until this year I would have thought catching a 25 lb bag of smallmouth to be exceptional for Georgian Bay. While we had multiple tournaments near this value if we become satisfied we will never be able to compete with some of the other bags we saw come out this year in other tournaments. In August a 27.53 lb bag of smallmouth was caught anchored by 6.47 lb giant, and in October a 26.65 lb bag was caught with others in tournament weighing a 7.15 lb smallmouth, 6.27, & 6.11. All in the same day. If others are able to do it why can't we? Or You? Seeing the number of big fish over 6 lb coming out this year and our struggle to hit this mark we will obviously need to try some new areas or strategies next season.
2022 was a great season with a lot of big fish hitting the boat. Learning the lessons about and incorporating these into our game plan should make 2023 even better. To check out our adventures from this season use the link below:
If you or someone you know is looking to get into fishing or you just want to become a more successful angler be sure to check out our "Zero To Hero Fishing Masterclass" for courses on everything fishing! The masterclass is built to help you learn how to find and catch fish like the pro's by providing all the information you need and a clear development path! Don't miss out check it out now at www.newwavefishingacademy.com/zero-to-hero
Have you ever wondered why lures don't come with instructions and wanted to know how to fish them? Look no further than our "How To Fish" series where you will learn what each bait is, how to use it, when and where it excels over other baits, our preferred setup to use it on, and the common mistakes anglers make when using it. www.newwavefishingacademy.com/how-to-fish