Trophy trout sometime take a very special effort on the part of a persistent angler
Whether young or old, freshwater or saltwater, if you’re a fisherman, chances are you remember Mike Iaconelli’s 2003 Bassmaster Classic victory.
Screaming “Never give up!” at the top of his lungs, little did Iaconelli know those words would not only permeate the marsh around Venice, La., but would ripple their way into present day.
I bring this up to introduce this month’s topic: common traits among big trout anglers. Michael Salinas, a big-trout specialist from Corpus Christi, Texas, beautifully described the process of targeting trophy fish as “ugly” in a Speckled Truth podcast. Going even further, notable big-trout legends like Jay Watkins, Mike McBride and Doc Bob Weiss unanimously agree that the three qualities a big-trout angler should have are persistence, patience and a heavy dose of mental toughness. In other words, it’s not easy, and the pursuit for a giant will test the nerves of any angler — sometimes even for a lifetime.
Persistence is a noun that means a firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. A friend who was once asked about one of her most-valued qualities, without hesitation, responded, “A person who keeps showing up.” For fisherman, that equates to, “There is no substitute for time on the water.”
On that same podcast recording with Salinas, I had every intent of fishing the next day despite a hard northwest wind accompanying a mid-winter front. Cold, misty, windy conditions greeted my 4 a.m. wake-up time, and the palm trees outside his apartment complex tried to talk me into going back to bed. Fortunately, I don’t understand their language, and with Salinas’ help, I got my gear in the truck and off I went, even if that meant “just showing up.”
If you Googled “Top 10 Traits of highly successful people,” patience is perpetually atop most lists. I would argue that as anglers, it’s probably one of our most-undervalued qualities, but most important. More often than not, patience in letting a bite develop or changing techniques to target certain parts of the water column, has directly led to success. On this particular day it was the latter.
After getting set up, I realized that wind and water conditions refined my lure selection to slow-rising jerkbaits. With capping waves the norm, I knew a free-floating Fat Boy or Slow Sink would not reach my targeted depth. Also, a jighead and soft-plastic would be a little heavy and not afford the castability I was looking to achieve, so I stayed patient with a jerkbait.
Starting with a Rapala Shadow Rap Shad, I worked hard to no avail. Wanting to change ascent profile and speed, I switched to a Megabass Vision 110 to get a little deeper, and not long after that, I caught my first fish. The bite was picking up, but unfortunately, it was short-lived. To try to keep the bite alive, I switched to an IMA Flit 100, a Jackal Rerange 110, then ultimately a Rapala Shadow Rap.
After three cold hours, I only had four fish for my efforts, but I decided to press on and be patient, fishing the lower half of the water column. So, I stuck with a Rapala Shadow Rap.
Time after time, we hear elite-level athletes talk about their level of performance in times of adversity. Paraphrasing slightly, you will often hear, “We had to put mistakes behind us, be mentally tough and execute better.” Mental toughness is about blocking out adversity and zoning in on the task.
With rain pelting the hood on my jacket, thoughts of calling it a day started to evolve, especially with the air temperature hovering around 50. Knowing that I’m on the front side of a mid-day major, a day before the full moon, if a giant were to eat, it would be the time. Encouraged by that thought, I blocked out the environmental noise and my own inner voice and instead focused on my cadence and my movement. Being as precise as I could, despite shivering, I made a long cast like so many other failed attempts that day, except this one didn’t come back empty.
Instead, with savage simplicity, my bait rushed to the roof of a willing predator. Anchored by the two remaining trebles on the back of the bait, an enormous trout emerged from the water with polarizing headshakes. Discontent with her decision, she decided to continue her violent, on-the-water display. Unsuccessful in her previous attempts, she decided that making long runs would present a suitable alternative.
On the other end of the line, I hung on for dear life. Whispered offerings to the Man Upstairs turned to audible coaching of the situation at hand. Understanding that I was alone, I decided to work the fish to shallower water to help with the landing process. After a 10-minute fight, my second double-digit trout lay comfortably in the net, and I gawked at her.
Realizing I did not have my seamstress tape, I took some spare line from my pocket and measured her length and girth. After a few quick pictures and the Boga grip bouncing on 10 pounds, I figured it would be a good time to watch her swim away. After a tense drive home with a wondering mind, I measured the leader lines and she taped out at 311/2 inches long, with close to a 16¾-girth — a true Texas giant.
Never give up
For years, I’ve compared the similarities of trout fishing to the lives we live. Whether that’s being persistent in a job, patient in a relationship or mentally tough through financial struggles, the parallel between man and fish extend way beyond the banks.
As I stood there on a cold, windy flat after watching her swim away, I couldn’t help but be inspired — not only by her existence, but inspired by her willingness to validate my persistence, patience and mental toughness.
So I encourage you, regardless if its your life or angling journey, to never give up. Never, ever give up. Thanks Ike … we owe you one.