nose down diverWhat makes a top-flight bass catcher? In my eyes, it’s just getting fish. That’s how you will be judged. Therefore, anything that will help is something you need to develop.

Of course, there are probably thousands of tips that you might absorb, but over the last 12 months, I’ve settled on three that would elevate just about any bass fisherman:

1. Never waste a cast. We waste casts all the time. Sometimes it’s the first one in the morning when our line is left dry and susceptible to backlash, or our drag is not set for the first bite of the day. Either way we risk the chance of catching our first fish of the day.

But we also waste casts at other times. The most common occurrence is after a lull in the action: A string of 20, 30 or 50 casts without a bite and we lose our mental sharpness. That is, until the 51st draws a strike, catching us off-guard with our hands out of place or our footwork out of balance. Oh, we wake up quick enough for cast #52, but the damage has already been done.

2. Check your knot after every fish or hang-up.

When fishing is pretty good, or the opposite when it’s kind of slow, most bass anglers just don’t check their line and knot. But a long time ago, as much as it aggravated me to wait a few seconds for him to get back on the trolling motor, Gary Klein would stop and retie after every fish, or any other potential line hazard.

That’s because every snag, or cable, or post, or rubble pile has the capability of scratching or nicking your line–including fluorocarbon. And that nick can reduce line strength from 10 to 75 percent in moments. While the damage may not be enough to keep from landing the next 2 1/2-pounder, for the next 5-pounder (or way bigger) that grabs and runs is going to break you off.

3. Set the hook and fight the fish on a tight line.

Nobody lands every fish they hook. But nobody lands any fish they don’t hook. Fishing is about physics and that means making your tools work for you. Most line is elastic so make sure you are tight, in direct line to the fish. Mike Folkestad has been a leader in the reel-set movement, pointing the rod tip at the fish and reeling to stoppage tension before setting…and then continuing to reel.

You don’t have to rock the boat with the set, but keeping the pressure on will ensure the point gets past the barb. Keeping the rod bent then applies the force necessary to keep the hook point planted–even when the fish clears the water and loses traction.

Any other method you might try defies the laws of nature.