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I will not pretend to know a thing about sports psychology.  What I do know is that at the highest levels of competition, whatever the sport, competitors look for any advantage they can gain.  To calm nerves and focus on execution of every sport, one technique athletes employ is to picture, visualize, themselves hitting the baseball, sinking their free-throws, catching that touchdown pass.

Fishing is a sport for everyone.  It can be enjoyed on a variety of levels in a variety of ways.  For some, a relaxing picnic and afternoon on a river bank is the perfect fishing trip.  On the other hand, some of us take our fishing very seriously, and almost every angler I know would like to catch more and bigger fish!  I am fascinated by the psychology of fishing, by the mental processes involved in being successful in finding and catching fish.  I may not know anything about it, but I believe “visualization” can help you catch more and bigger fish.


There is no doubt that confident anglers catch more fish.  The paradox is that catching fish is what gives confidence.  That is the conundrum, how to catch more and bigger fish to gain more confidence so you can catch more and bigger fish?

I have often said that the only thing I know for sure about fishing is that you cannot catch anything sitting at home on the couch.  Other than that, there are no sure things, nothing that is guaranteed 100% of the time.  The best anglers I know are some of the hardest working anglers–they spend every second they can on the water trying to catch fish.

I have not been on a fishing trip in a long, long time when I was not convinced that given enough time I would eventually figure ’em out and catch a bunch of fish.  I have run out of time on a lot of fishing trips, but I am convinced that was the only reason I did not catch anything.  It was just a matter of time.

The best anglers never give up.  They fish as long as possible and they keep trying until they figure out how to catch fish.  Study and learn everything you can about the fish you pursue and the waters you fish, that all will help, but ultimately the best thing you can do is spend as much time on the water as possible.  Yes, much of that time may be frustrating if you are not catching fish, but in the trying, in the failure, you can learn a lot.  Eventually that learning will result in “A Ha” moments when light bulbs go on, things get figured out and applied, and fish are caught.

I can remember struggling to catch bass on Texas-rigged rubber worms when I was a lot younger.  I thought I needed new “worm” rods and the reels that went with them, that specialized gear that I did not have at the time was necessary for success.  But, using what I had on hand, by rigging and fishing rubber worms as I had read in countless magazine articles, I can remember early one summer morning casting a Texas-rigged purple rubber worm near a brushpile on a Nebraska Interstate lake, feeling a “tap” on my line and then watching that line start to move off to the side.  My Gramps Roth always taught me to “Jerk their eye-teeth out”, so I did, and I caught a bass!  It was not a big bass, maybe a 13-15-incher, but I had caught it on a Texas-rigged rubber worm and all kinds of lights and bells went off in my head!  I do not slay fish with rubber worms all the time now, but I know when the situation calls for it, I can rig a rubber worm and I can catch fish on those baits!

rubber worm

Keep trying, keep learning, keep fishing and those special moments will come, fish will be caught, and confidence will be gained.

What’s Down There?

I believe one of the biggest challenges to fishing is trying to find and then catch wild creatures swimming below the surface of the water.  Much of the time, those fish are swimming on the other side of a veil; we cannot see them.  “Visualization” makes better anglers through the ability to imagine and interpret what is below the surface of the water.

I religiously wear polarized sunglasses while on the water.  Those sunglasses cut the glare and aid vision into and below the surface of the water.  Some waters are clear enough that you can learn a lot by looking; depth changes can be seen, habitat can be identified and in some cases fish and other aquatic critters can be observed.  On waters that are less than clear, even seeing just a few inches into the water can give an observant angler clues about what is happening down there.

Of course in the age in which we live, technology can be used to interpret what is below the surface of the water.  In almost every boat-fishing situation any kind of depth-finder is a huge asset.  Electronic sonar units or depth-finders have advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years and the best of those really do show exactly what is below the surface.  Those tools should not be viewed so much as “fish finders”, although they certainly can be used in that way, but more importantly they can be used to see structure and cover and get “snapshots” of how fish behave below the surface of the water.


You do not own a boat?  So what?  Depth-finders are great tools when used through a hole in the ice too, and you can learn a lot about fish and what is below the surface of your favorite waters while ice-fishing.  On open-water tie on a jig or other bait that sinks and put it in the water!  Counting those baits down, counting in your head as the bait sinks to the bottom, will tell you how deep the water is, where depth changes occur, bottom substrate, where there are cover objects and hopefully where there are fish.  Putting a line in the water and fishing does not give you some telepathic connection with the underwater world, but with a little bit of observation and concentration you can learn a lot.  Your fishing line is a connection to the unknown.


Again some “homework” can help you visualize what is below the surface.  I am fascinated by fish and can spend hours watching them in any aquarium.  You can learn a lot about the behavior of different species just by watching them in aquaria.  Or again turn to the internet or other video technology and watch clips of fish underwater.  Walleyes are walleyes wherever they swim and bluegills are bluegills; it does not make any difference if you do not have underwater video of fish in the waters you fish–watch and learn.

Do not know if my ideas on “visualization” will help you catch any fish or not.  I believe they help, if you can visualize what is below the surface and how your baits and lures appear down there you can visualize yourself catching more fish!  I know I can see myself catching some big bass right now-Gotta Go!

About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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