Luck Or Skill?

If you know John Didge you will also know that he has lots of questions but he also has lots of answers! In this article he asks the question “Is there more luck than skill when it comes to catching fish?”

I was asked a few weeks back about how much luck is there in fishing. Is it all luck, is there any skill and if so how much. These questions inspire debate because if you take a serious look at fishing in general I would say that there is some luck involved but you, on that note, make your own luck. So is that really luck or skill? I looked at it from a few points of reference and decided to break this luck scenario down. In the end we may just find a definitive answer to the question “Is there more luck than skill when it comes to catching fish?”

Winners are Grinners

Winners are Grinners

I would like to put all anglers into categories to help us best explain at what point does luck, if there is such a thing, become skill. It is said that 90% of anglers catch only 10% of the fish and as for the 10% of anglers left well then that means they catch the other 90% of fish caught. I, as others in the industry do subscribe to this theory and believe that it does carry some weight when trying to explain if luck is as bigger part of our sport as most think.

Lets talk categories. My first one is the simple bait fisherman who buys some pilchards, a few hooks and some sinkers and hits the water with no real plan or thought process.I will call him Dumb Luck. Then of course you have the fella that’s prepared to try new things, mixes it up a bit. I will call him Mate. Next is a fisho who may fall into possibly that 10% of anglers. He gets right into it, reads a lot trying to find that small edge that he can gain over his mate, generally always gets fish but finds it hard also. I will call him Troy. Finally there is the Gun. He knows his stuff and can catch fish anywhere and makes the job look easy. Remember all the names and descriptions given because I will get back to them and maybe you will chose the name that best suits you, or a few of the notable differences that will give you the edge you need as an angler to jump into the next level.

I want to talk about another phase of this story that could be misconstrued as luck and for me I believe this plays a major role in the effectiveness of a fisherman, that is confidence. OK don’t laugh because you have no idea of the power of the confidence train of thought, confidence is KEY when it come to catching.  It comes in many forms, some just are so confident that they will catch fish and there are not to many obstacles standing in their way. For others the confidence will be drawn from there favorite spot and for others like me, it comes in the form of my confidence color, that’s right my go to plastic! What’s interesting about confidence is that it is the difference between catching fish and not. For example, in the USA in the big Bass Fishing comps the testament is to confidence as a reason for winning. In my boat as it is for so many of my friends there go to colour serves all but what’s strange is, (this is how we prove the theory), my confidence color and the bloke next to me are often different but we both catch fish.

Jason caught this flathead on a weedless jigman soso and a well placed cast

Jason caught this flathead on a weedless jigman soso and a well placed cast

For many years now with all the talks we do about fishing I speak to anglers about how contrast is more important than colour but most importantly “action” in the world of soft plastic is all. I have this belief that subconsciously in the past if you caught heaps of fish on a particular colour using a specific action or retrieve, we then categorize it all under the guise of a confidence lure and work the lure differently to others because you are, as we say, “in the zone”. I have witnessed this first hand with guys I fish with and when I question them why are you working your favourite lure different to the rest there response is nearly always IM NOT.

Now back to the naming thing or categories. As I go through these categories I will, where possible, try to provide examples so that maybe you can draw some techniques from the example. Lets start with Dumb Luck. This is the bottom level of our sport. Although there is nothing wrong with that for a lot of the Fisho’s I talk with, they describe themselves in this category but would love to be more. So lets answer the question of luck. Well for these guys anyway, if you fall into the Dumb Luck category then well done because you are the guys who piss off Troy and the Gun more than anything else because you are a tin arse. You frustrate Troy and the Gun because when you do catch fish, and its rare, they can’t understand why. You head out to some water maybe because you heard about a fish being caught there or you got one there last year with no real idea of what to do, armed with a pack of not very healthy bait with line that’s old and broken guides on you rod hoping for the best. So I think I can draw the same conclusion as everyone else reading this and that is in you case its all luck and no skill.

Along comes Mate. This is the category most fisherman fall into. For Mate he or she likes to ask around, listen to the local fishing show, read the paper try to get the heads up on where the fish are and what they are biting on but when they get to the water that’s where it ends. At this point its just Dumb Luck but the big difference here is that Mate has gone to the trouble of making sure he has good line, quality bait and keeps his gear up to scratch. Is this you? Don’t be ashamed this is just another rung on the ladder and unlike your friend Dumb Luck, at least you can catch fish.

The author nailed this 81cm flathead with a well placed cast

The author nailed this 81cm flathead with a well placed cast

The Gun. I have only ever met a few Gun anglers in my time. These guys are addicted to fishing and its there life. They are on the water all the time and rarely, if ever, go fishless. In fact they often defy logic by catching loads of fish from under other boats where the angler in the boat goes fishless. For the Gun, not much more can be said.

Now for Troy. I aptly named this category for reasons I will not disclose, but for Troy he generally regards him self as an expert, the real deal in his eyes anyway and a public Figure. By all accounts Troy is very close to being called a Gun angler, spends a bit of time on the water but still has his day where he struggles to find fish or explain why and like little child needs a blanket for security. Troy needs a friend in the boat who is a Gun to give him the edge.

So this is why I broke down the luck thing in fishing because for Troy and the Gun I don’t believe there is much luck. I think is these guys make there own luck by applying skills that are nothing short of amazing. Nothing can compensate  for time on the water. The difference I like to think is that there is still some Dumb Luck for all of us because frankly if you are calling yourself for “no luck, all skill”, then I can think of other name that we should probably call you, but that’s for another mag at another time.

I don’t want to leave this article with out trying to impart a small amount of my experience, this I believe falls into the category of us making out own luck. Only a few weeks back I fished a comp in NSW at Narooma. The guys from Obrien’s Hotel held the event and it was, as always, a massive amount of fun and very well run great comp. Narooma is a difficult place to fish. You really need apply the skills you have learnt over the years on the water.

catching bream on a 4/0 hook is all luck or is it the fish still took the shrimp plastic

catching bream on a 4/0 hook is all luck or is it the fish still took the shrimp plastic

We were faced with a stretch of water that looked like the rest, so how did we approach it? Well we used our experience and the tools available. First approach was to use Google to get the Arial shot then its easier to mark up sand bars and drop offs but I reckon our most powerful tool was our eyes. We observed the water. How was it moving, were there any bait fish and what colour were they, and was there any flow.  Other information can be gained from locals, fishing guides and the town tackle store. We applied all of this new found knowledge along with our experiences and what we found was 2 windows for the fish to bite in over a 7 hour period. We had to make the most of this so were meticulous and methodical. We fished very slowly and did every thing we could to up our chances so for us there was no luck in this situation just good hard work. I hear you ask the question, we came second, that’s right, first loser. We are happy with how well we fished.  I asked the blokes who beat us about there skill set and  I was told “Just a boat full of Dumb Lucks and Mates drifting on a gravel bed. I say well done and congrats. Great blokes to drink with and next year we will do it all again!

John Didge

About John Didge

Owner and C.E.O of The Jigman John has had a passion for Soft plastics for the last 30 years and is widely renowned as one of the best in his field of Soft Plastics. But the passion really kicked in about 20 years back and In 1990 it basically become Johns only form of fishing, dedicating himself totally to fishing Soft plastics and nothing else. His reputation is as a big Flathead specialist travelling the coastline of Southern Australia in search of big Flathead and as Captain of Team Jigman along with Paul Mayer and Adam Van De Lugt The Jigman team is well known and it has sent fear into the minds of the Dusky Chasers (trash Talk). John Didge is also well respected in the fishing Media as host of the Geelong Fishing Show for the last 26 years but also on stage talking about fishing at Fishing expos and angling clubs (He never shuts up about Plastics Fishing). Second in the Media Classic during the 90’s at lake Mulwala, 6 time winner of the Conjola Flathead teams invitational (Dodgy little mates event), winner of the Mallacoota Reel it in Flathead Challenge in November 2013 and following it up next year with winning the Narooma Flathead Challenge in Feb 2014 and taking out Big Fish with an 81.5cm Flathead in Narooma Flathead Challenge in 2015.

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