Is Fishing Luck or Skill? How to Improve Both

July 31, 2020

Is Fishing Luck or Skill? How to Improve Both

The debate on whether catching fish is based more on luck or skill has been going on for centuries. Some fishermen think the difference between a good day on the water and getting skunked is completely out of their control. Others believe success is a product of careful preparation and years of experience. So which is right?

Is fishing luck or skill? 

Fish is a combination of both luck and skill. You can definitely improve your chances of catching fish by learning what lures they like and when they feed. But the fish also have to decide that they’ll bite your lure, which is completely up to them. At the end of the day, you should maximize your chances of catching fish be picking up the proper skills.

But you’ll also need some luck too.

How Do You Get Good Luck for Fishing?

So how do you get good luck for fishing? There are many superstitions and beliefs that fishermen follow to increase their good luck. We’ll dive into some of the most common beliefs below.

Stop paying attention to your line. 

In our experience (and many others) the number one way to get a bite is to stop paying attention to your setup. We can’t count the number of times as soon as we look away or get distracted, a fish bites our lure. There’s something about not paying attention that gets fish to bite. It also is a good idea to get your mind off of it so time will go by faster.

Wrap a dollar bill under your line. 

Another common way to increase your luck when trolling for large fish is to place a dollar bill under your line and reel in a few turns. This makes it so if a fish takes out any line you’ll lose your dollar. There’s something about the idea of your losing money that convinces fish to bite…

Let the amateur go first. 

Beginners luck seems to be especially effective when fishing. We can’t count the number of times the least experienced person in the boat catches the biggest fish and has the most luck. Let them hold the rod first and battle the first fish you hook.

Don’t get ahead of yourself.

Have everything in place for when you hook a fish, but don’t jinx it. No wearing the fighting belt until someone has actually caught a fish. Don’t start looking up recipes on how to cook what you want to catch until you catch it. Be prepared, but don’t count your eggs before they hatch.

Pay respect to the fish gods.

Many guides believe you should pay your respects to the fish gods by literally throwing money into the water each time you go out. While we like the idea of respecting mother nature and the fish gods, we do not condone throwing money into the water. This is littering and is not a good move (and illegal in the United States).

Let the first fish you catch go.

Some fishermen swear by letting the first fish they catch of season go, no matter how big it is or what it is. This increases their good favor with the fish and allows them to catch more as the season progresses.

Bring a pineapple on board. 

Bringing a pineapple onboard is a common way to increase your fishing luck that many islanders believe to work. Pineapples are believed to have the opposite effect as bananas, which will describe below.


Why Don’t You Bring a Banana Fishing?

You’ve probably heard of this one. The most commonly believed the cause of bad luck when fishing is if you bring a banana on board the boat. This superstition dates back to the 1700s when it first became known as a harbinger of bad luck.

There are many theories as to why fishermen think bananas bring bad luck. Here are the most logical reasons why.

  • Bananas brought unwanted stow-aways. Large clusters of bananas are home to large spiders and other venomous creatures. Back in the day, fishermen would get bitten or hurt from these creatures and blamed the bananas.
  • Banana peels are dangerous. Banana peels are notorious for causing you to slip if you step on them. Slipping on a boat can prove to be very dangerous, if not deadly in extreme situations. 
  • Bananas cause other fruits to spoil. Bananas emit ethylene gas which causes fruit to ripen faster than if exposed to normal conditions. Fishermen may have noticed that when bananas were around their food stores spoiled faster than usual.

Why is Renaming a Boat Bad Luck?

Renaming a boat is considered bad luck among most fishermen. Once a boat has been named it will always be known as that name.

Renaming a boat is also considered bad luck because it could be used to hide any defects associated with the old boat name. When fishermen went to sell a boat, if it had been damaged they might change the name so others wouldn’t know it was the same boat. They could then sell it for more.

Are Green Boats Unlucky?

Many fishermen consider painting a boat green to be bad luck. Green is the color associated with land, which made many fishermen think that a green boat would eventually run aground or sink. Not good if you’re on board!

Is It Unlucky to Whistle on a Ship?

Some fishermen also believe that whistling while on a boat is unlucky and should be avoided at all costs. This is because whistling is a sign of disrespect to the wind. Wind used to be the sailor’s biggest friend or worst enemy. You did not want to make the wind angry!

Is There Skill Required in Fishing?

Yes, skill is definitely required in fishing. Knowing when the fish like to bite, where they feed, and what types of lures they like the most will all improve your chances of catching them. So will learning how to imitate their natural bait. The most obvious example of this is fly fishing (like for steelhead, Louisiana redfish, or tarpon). 

Fly fishing is very technical and can take many years of practice to learn the proper technique. Even if you were the luckiest person in the world, if you don’t know how to cast your fly appropriately or what type of fly to use, you’re never gonna catch a fish. 

This isn’t just true for fly fishing, however, there are many other fishing techniques that require lots of skill and preparation to pull off. Some other examples are kayak fishing for redfish, snook fishing at night, and much more.


How to Improve Your Fishing Skill

Since the other half of the equation of whether you catch fish is your skill, we wanted to go over some ways to improve your skill for fishing. If you follow this advice before your next fishing trip, you’ll improve your chances of catching fish – hands down.

Practice your technique ahead of time.

You can never practice your fishing technique too much. With some kinds of fishing, you’ll only have a single shot to get it right. This is especially true with bonefish, tarpon fishing, and many other species you sight fish for.

You can spend hours trying to find a single fish, and once you find it you only have a few tries to get your lure in front of it before it’s spooked. We wish we could forget the number of times when we messed up a cast or presented our lure the wrong way.

When the time comes, you’ll need to perform under pressure.

Stay in good fishing shape.

Another cause of poor fishing technique is fatigue. Spending several hours casting or jigging your lure can be exhausting, and if you haven’t conditioned properly for the experience then it will be hard for you to perform. Fishing can be intense exercise, so you should prepare by staying healthy and exercising ahead of time.

Consider getting a guide.

One of our favorite recommendations on how to improve your fishing skill is to get a guide the first time you go fishing somewhere. Not only will you most likely catch fish on that trip, but you can also learn from them exactly what technique to use in the area.

We like taking judicious mental notes (or on our phones) every time we go fishing with guides to improve our own fishing game. They’re experts on the type of fishing you’re doing and will almost always show you a trick or two you hadn’t considered. They’ll also know the best time of day to fish for the fish you want to catch and make sure you aren’t going when the fish are resting.

Keep your equipment in good shape. 

Another common way to improve your fishing skill is to make sure all your equipment works well and isn’t broken. If you fish with a faulty reel that needs to be fixed or a rusty lure, you’re limiting the capability of your equipment. This hinders your skill and will hurt how many fish you catch long term.

Get a file to sharpen your hooks, make sure your line doesn’t have any scratches or rough spots that might snap, and keep your reels greased. If your equipment is in tip-top shape, you’ll have the highest chance of catching fish.

Conclusion

Having a successful fishing trip is almost always a combination of having good fishing luck and lots of preparation. We recommend you focus on improving your fishing technique first, then try some of the other luck improving practices we listed.

What is our favorite way to improve our luck while fishing? We have a specific fishing shirt that we wear to pay our respects to the fish. Works like a charm.

Happy Hunting!

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