How To Be A Better Angler


Fishing, at any level is about so many things. Simply spending time outdoors with friends, the opportunity to provide a great meal at the end of the day and being challenged with the game of figuring out the fish every day are many reasons why we hit the water. At the end of the day, it’s usually great to just get out there and enjoy the peace and quiet of the water, but a fishing trip is always better if we catch as many fish as possible. Living in my part of the world, Northwest Ontario’s Sunset Country Region, I am lucky that I have the opportunity to catch many species of fish over the course of the year. No place on the planet offers as many great freshwater fishing options as this area does. I love to catch anything that bites, but it’s my passion for competitive bass tournaments that really drives me to become a better angler.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a weekend angler, a tournament angler or if you only get that “one week” during the summer to get away to go fishing, preparation is always very important to a successful outing.

For me, it starts with my boat, but I also make sure my fishing equipment is in good shape, I have the tackle that I need to catch the fish I’m chasing and that I do a little bit of research on the water that I’m planning to fish.

Being self-employed in the fishing business, I am able to justify putting in the time to rig my boat myself. Each winter I’m able to get my boat in my garage and I rig everything, of course with the help of some of my friends who are a little bit more mechanical than I am. I like doing it myself because I have a better idea of how to fix potential problems. I know where all the fuses and connections are, I can reinforce certain parts so that they’ll stand up to the beating I’m liable to give them and I can put everything exactly where I want it. We all need a reliable boat and motor when we go fishing so making sure everything is ready to go at the start of the season is important. If you need work done on your rig, either take the time to do it yourself or get it in to a shop to have everything tuned up properly.

It goes without saying that you should check the guides on your fishing rods to be sure there are no nicks in the ceramic, that your line is fresh and that your reels are all operating smoothly. Beyond those basic things, do you have the correct reels on your fishing rods designed for specific techniques? I like to use high speed 7.0:1 retrieve reels for techniques like flipping or casting a spinnerbait for bass, where the ability to pick up line quickly is important. On the other hand, my crankbait rods have slower retrieve reels on them, which allow you naturally slow down your retrieve. Shimano makes baitcasting reels to meet any price range and many of these different models come in multiple retrieve ratios.

Gussy and Mike 7.19lb Large

Are you spools filled with line? Over many years of guiding I can’t tell you how many times people drop their rods in my boat and their spools are not full of line. Both spinning reels and baitcasting reels should be filled so that you are almost completely loading the spool, without going over the rim of the spool. This is a major peeve of mine, not filling the spool, because when it’s full you can cast much farther with less effort and your retrieve rate is quicker. The secret is to get some old line to use as backing, then tying on about 100 yards of fresh line. I absolutely never completely remove all of the line from a spool with I put on new line, I just peel off a couple of casts worth and join the old line with the new line. If you aren’t sure how to tie the lines together, you can use a simple blood knot—there are plenty of places online to teach you how to tie it. I promise it’s simple! There is some practice in judging how much line to remove when you re-spool, but after a few times trying to get it right, you’ll figure it out.

Going into my second year fishing the Walmart FLW Tour I feel like I’m going to have an easier time preparing to fish some of these bodies of water that I have never seen before. Being prepared when I show up for the short, three day practice period that we get is important for finding fish as quickly as possible. Hopefully the whole routine will be easier for me this year.

I purchase maps in advance that I can study so I have an idea of the layout of the water, as well its good to have a map with names of specific areas that you can match up when you hear them mentioned on past TV shows on these waters or in articles that I can find online about past events. The internet has a vast library of information on almost any body of water with relevance to any species you want to target and this content can be used to give you a rough idea of what the best seasonal patterns are, hot baits and colours, as well as the size of fish in the system.

Utilize technology
Across the fishing industry, advancements in technology continue to give us new and better products that make finding and catching fish easier every year. I’m a big fan of new products and mention them quite often in my writing.

Over the last few seasons, Side-Imaging technology has played a big role in my fishing success both around home fishing for bass and walleye, as well as fishing the southern bass tournaments. It is so valuable for finding isolated fishing spots underwater, like small rock piles, changes in bottom composition (transitions) and brush piles. It has truly revolutionized my ability to find very high percentage fishing spots for all species of fish. What amazes me even more is that so many anglers have this technology and don’t use it’s full potential. The key to getting the most out of your electronics is to use them on the water. Play with different settings on your sonar, GPS and Side-Imaging and learn to interpret what they are telling you. The reality is that most of us never read the instructional manuals that come with these units, myself included, so playing with them on the water is the only way to learn how to use them.

I’m very excited to play with the new Humminbird 360-Imaging. I have one of the new 360 bow units on my new boat and can’t wait to put it to use. It is similar to Side-Imaging technology but can give anglers a look at the bottom composition all around the boat. I understand that fish and schools of bait can be noticed easily with this technology as well. Look for a report on my 360-Imaging findings later in the year.

Tackle, Tackle, Tackle
It’s easy to spend a small fortune on good, quality fishing tackle so it’s important to take care of it. For the past few years I have been using the Plano waterproof Guide Series tackle trays and they have saved me a lot of money. These are heavy plastic boxes that resist cracking and they come with a rubber seal between the box and the lid. I now use these boxes for all of my jigs, terminal tackle and hard baits. They cost a little bit more money, but they are worth it in the long run.

Tackle companies are starting to manufacture jigs and hard baits with better hooks these days, which increase the cost of the final product but if you are serious about the time you get to spend on the water, the choice to purchase better equipment is easy. Northland Fishing Tackle is now making a jig for both live bait and tipping with soft plastic called the Gami UV Jig, which comes in some top-notch colour options. Jackall Lures are high-end, Japanese made hard baits that come equipped with very high quality treble hooks in sizes that perfectly match the bait, so there is no need to switch them out. All of the jigs that I buy come with premium Owner or Gamakatsu hooks and on the hard baits that I use, I change the hooks to the best that I can find if they are equipped with mediocre hooks

Finally, match the hooks you use to the technique you are employing and the size of the fish that you are targeting. When we are fishing with braided line, like Power Pro, you want to use stronger hooks. Gamakatsu makes a Super Line hook made for fishing with braid. The size of your hook is also important because you want to use as big of hook as possible that still fits your live bait or soft plastic in a realistic manner. Finally bigger fish need, larger, stronger hooks, but again, keeping your presentation realistic is important, so the general rule is to use the biggest hook you can get away with that doesn’t impede the action of the lure. I’m a big believer that preparation is a key to success, so when the open water season starts this year, make sure that you have everything in your control, under control and I guarantee that you will catch more fish.


About Author

Jeff Gustafson, known in the fishing World as Gussy, grew up on the shores of Lake of the Woods in Kenora, Ontario. He took out his first guide trip at age 14 on Lake of the Woods and has made his living in the fishing/outdoor industry ever since. A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Gussy has always been self-employed as a fishing guide, outdoor writer and photographer as well as fishing promoter. Today his fishes the Walmart FLW Tour pro bass circuit and as many local bass tournaments as he can find the time to enter and he is the host of his own TV program called Fishing with Gussy, which airs across Canada. You can find him online through his website at

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