People ask me how I remember the details of a trip 10 years ago. The answer is a fishing log. The following explains how I keep up with every fish I catch in my fishing log. It will be in two parts, this week and next. The article first appeared in Georgia Sportsman Magazine.
Keep A Fishing Log
Can a briefcase help you catch a bass? Depends on what's in the briefcase! If it's full of a secret lure, it might help. It can be even more helpful if it is full of the right kind of information in a fishing log.
I won a January Flint River Bass Club tournament at Jackson Lake because of a briefcase. It was not a secret lure thatI carried around in its own case. A log of past fishing trips won that tournament for me. It is a good example of many other fishing trips that have been more successful because of my fishing logs.
We put in at Kersey's that cold January morning. The waterwas 41 degrees - not enough degrees to really get excited about catching a bass. The night before, I had read my fishing logs from past January Jackson trips. Most bass caught under similar conditions in the past were taken on small crankbaits crawled on a clay or rock bottom. Several keepers had been taken on a point across from the boat ramp, so that is where I started.
When the point did not produce, I got ready to head down the lake. I remembered a note from a couple of years back to try the bridge pilings so I eased over to them. A four pound bass hit a white spinnerbait fluttered down the first piling. It turned outto be the only strike I had all day. It also turned out to be the biggest of the two bass brought to the scales in the tournament. Would I have fished that piling without my fishing log? Maybe. But I might have headed off to a point at the dam that I wanted to fish and thought would hold bass that day. I never had a strike on that point that day. I'm glad I read the log!
Old Fishing Logs
I started fishing so young that some of my earliest memories are of following my grandmother to local ponds, carrying a short cane pole and a can of worms. I had an Uncle who lived in Virginia and his annual summer trips were looked forward to with great excitement because they meant many fishing trips.
Uncle Mayhu always had "modern" tackle - a rod and reel - and used artificial baits. There was nothing like fishing a Hula Popper early in the morning and then making a choice of what worm color to use - either black or red since those were the only two colors made in the mid 50's! Uncle Mayhu also told me I should keep up with the bass I caught and use that information the next time I went fishing.
I still have the old snuff can note pad with notes like "June5, 1958 - Harrison's pond - four bass by stumps on red Creme worm - biggest bass by stump with bush on top." I kept up with my fishing trips for several years until my teenage hormones in the mid 60's made me pay more attention to other things.
After college and marriage, fishing again became very important. I joined a bass club in 1974 and bought my first bass boat that year. In 1976 I started keeping up with my fishing trips and have logged in every bass I have caught since then. It is fun as well as helpful.
How To Keep A Fishing Log
There are many ways to keep up with your fishing. You can buy log books with fill-in- the-blank type questions ready made on each page. You can buy computer programs that let you type in information and sort it. I use a cheap, simple method that works for me. Any way you want to keep a log is best - if it works for you and you will do it!
In 1976, I used a Coca-Cola calendar for planning my schedule while teaching school. It was natural to start making notes on it on the days I went fishing. The very first note I made was on January 24, 1976 and read "Sinclair - two on chrome Hellbenders on dam riprap." That is very similar to the old logs from my youth!
This process has evolved over the years to include more detailand information. You might want to use my methods and add your own if you decide to keep a log. If you start one, it is easy to get used to keeping it and making it a habit of writing down theinformation.
Each year, I try to find a calendar with large squares for each day with no writing in them. For the past three years I have used a calendar sent out by the NRA. I also like one with the moon phases on it. I have tried fishing calendars in the past, those that show the best days to go fishing, but the ones I tried did not have enough room for my information. Anyway, I think the best day to go fishing is any day you can!
How I Keep A Log
At the top of the square for the day I go, I name the lake. Beside that, I note the number of bass, breaking it down in keepers and throwbacks. At West Point and Oconee, I have three numbers, keepers on that lake, bass between 12 inches and 14 or 16 inches, and under 12 inch throwbacks.
Water temperature and weather conditions are usually noted next. I find is important to know what the water temperature was if you hope to repeat a catch. It is amazing how much the temperature changes from year to year. The water temperature has a strong influence on the fish and can determine how you should fish. The weather patterns also give you an idea of what to try. Wind, sun or clouds, unusually warm, cold, or normal for the time of year, all are important to note
Water condition is always listed. I use clear, stained, heavy stain or muddy. They all mean something to me. You can use your own definitions for many conditions. After all, this is information for you. To me, stained means seeing a crankbait down about a foot, heavy stain is seeing it down a few inches and muddy means it disappears as soon as it goes under. Lake level can also be helpful to know. There is no need to run miles to fish a rockpile that held fish last year but is out of the water this year!
Keep Up With Your Lures
Lure selection is important. I try to list not only what worked but what did not work. I want to know what lure was used, its color and size, how it was fished, and line test and type. I always write down information if I fished one way most of the day and then switched and caught fish. Type of structure where fish were caught is critical to keep. It helps to know details like depth, bottom composition, area structure and any unusual features. Structure that did not hold fish should also be noted for future reference. Specific information on fish caught, such as time of day, is written down.
I always debate how much information to log in from other fishermen. Included is information I know first hand. What my partner did and what I saw others doing is more important that what is told around the scales at weigh-in! I note comments but am careful to separate hearsay from fact. This information often is put in the margins with other detailed notes, tied to the correctdate with a number. Information from a weekend trip sometimes runs over into the next week, onto days when I do not go fishing.
Put Information In A Computer Program
Some day, I plan to put all my information on computer. You can purchase a program for that purpose or, if you use databases, you can make your own. I now keep all my calendars in a briefcase, in chronological order, and go through them before each trip. It would be much easier to punch a key on a computer and just look at information about Hartwell in April rather than going through all calendars for the month of April and looking for Hartwell trips.
It's real important to write so you can read your notes! I fish for bass more than anything else so most of my notes are about bass, but I keep up with other types of fish also. I even note how to line up trees that hold crappie so I can get on them each January! When and where the bream bed on a specific lake, the best areas for catfish, the best bait for hybrids at a specific time,all are examples of information that could help you in the future.
Other than helping catch fish, I like the memories my notes bring back. I will always know the details of my biggest bass ever, a 9 pound, 7 ounce hog that hit a chartreuse Boss Hog on February 10, 1991 at Jackson. I also know how many days I fish each month and year and how many bass I catch from year to year. At the bottom of each month's page, I keep days fished and number caught that month and a running total for year to date numbers. Those facts are good to have for your own interest.
Keep a fishing log. It can provide information that will help you catch fish. It can also bring back good memories that will never fade! Start today!