I have been finding myself traveling more and more in order to chase tail (fish tails that is). Many of these areas I fish have equated to great success due to a number of factors. Of the two major factors (Luck and Planning), there is only one within my control. Growing up, I used to fish a lake rain or shine without regard to all of the other factors that can equate to a successful day on the water. While I caught fish, and some good ones at that, I never had consistent success, and rarely had success while fishing new water. Now that I have grown up, I still fish whenever the bug hits. The difference is how I approach these trips. A little bit of planning utilizing some free (or low cost) resources can turn a normal fishing trip into a fishing trip that will stick with you your entire life!
Planning a trip utilizing the USMC 5-Paragraph Order
My time in the Corps taught me a number of different techniques to cope with challenges that may come my way. When it comes to planning SMEAC is the way for me. It is simple and helps me identify all of the different things that I need to consider when planning a trip. SMEAC is the same technique that is used to attack the enemy with shock and awe, so it would reason that it would work just fine on the finned friends.SMEAC is: Situation, Mission, Execution, Admin & Logistics, and Command & Control. Let’s look at this process for a recent trip.
Situation- A weekend where 3 of my fishing buddies got their kitchen pass. The fishing in the salt has been slow, and the bug to chase smallies on a river growing each day. River conditions were not great, but considering wind, temperature, tides, flows, distance, and availability of time and resources to fish together, we had a common location in mind.
Mission - To meet up and catch Smallmouth Bass on a section of river that was new to us.
Execution - Planned meeting time, location, and tackle needed to accomplish the mission. Adherence to these factors is key to success.
Admin & Logistics - This includes listing the items needed, verifying their availability, and packing nothing more, nothing less. Identifying how you are going to get where you need to go, and how you are going to get there (in this case, Alex and Seth carpooled, as well as Tommy and myself).
Command & Control - In a group, this means having a central decision maker. The decision maker identifies the location, collects intel, conducts recon, and managing the flow of information to others.
On our smallie trip, we all had input and decision influence, but there was one person who made the decision. For us, on a new body of water, we all caught nice fish, and worked together to make it happen.
Looking further, to identify the specific mission, the gathering of information was paramount in the success of the trip. In order to protect the location and not hotspot, I will not go into specifics, but give you an idea of what I look at.
- FInd a reliable weather source. I utilize a combination of FishWeather, Intellicast, and while I am on the water, I monitor the weather through my WeatherUnderground app.
- Use online forums. If I can, I review any information posted on a body of water I want to fish. I dont necessarily take the information I read as truthful if I only see one report, but I am focused on pictures or condition reports to help me learn about the spot. If I see multiple reports, I try to make a pattern for success. I look for fishing forums that cover the area I plan on fishing. I feel that if I cant pre-fish, I can take advantage of the trends I see to help guide me to spots (i.e. oyster beds, drop offs, etc...) and determine the baits I want to start with.
- Do location recon. Search the net for launch spots to determine security, fees, effects of tides and weather conditions, etc. Google Earth helps me identify landmarks, and determine those areas I want to travel to. One thing to remember is not to limit yourself to this information. If you find something on the water you didn't see from the imagery, stay flexible. Another tool I use is my Navionics Apps for my iPad and iPhone. This gives me tide information and a map of the underwater layout. For $15, it not only helps me plan trips and identify fishing sports to further recon, but it helps me identify those locations while im on the water.
- Collect human intelligence. Befriend those who you admire. Be honest and truthful in your interactions. Know when someone dosent want you to fish a spot and respect that. If you want to fish such a spot, dont be sneaky, but ask them for information. Who knows, they might pass on intel they receive, or invite you to fish with them.
All of this helps me determine where im going to fish, and greatly enhances my chances for success. Just look at the results of our most recent trip. Without planning, we still may have caught fish, but not of this caliber.
|One of three fish between 17.25" and 19"|
Photo by William Ragulsky
|Alex's smallie just under 20"|
Photo by Tommy Dewitt
|Seth's fish @ 18.25"|
Photo By Tommy Dewitt
|Tommy's VA Citation Smallmouth at 21"|
Photo by Seth Goodrich
Good luck, and we'll see you on the water!