THE LAST 20%

Captain Anthony Pino
THE LAST 20% 4

The popular stereotype about fishing and people who fish is that it is a relatively passive hobby. The typical picture is of an old man in the middle of a lake in a rowboat, holding a rod upside down with a bobber, waiting for the fish to bite. Catching a fish either happens or doesn’t—it’s up to luck. The enjoyment lies in being out on the water in nature. While I do agree that much of the enjoyment derived from fishing comes from being in nature, whether with friends or in solitude, it’s a beautiful thing that should not be taken for granted. For the truly passionate, fishing is much more than a passive activity; it is a fully immersive and all-consuming passion that, even in the most boring times, requires a lot of focus to be successful.

As a young fisherman, I noticed that certain captains and crews seemed to be on the fish more often than others. There was a mystery about these people who consistently caught more. People would gather on the dock and discuss how certain captains and boats always caught more fish. These discussions would go on for hours, covering a myriad of reasons why a particular boat was more successful. Listening to older people talk about it with such confusion and mystery, it seemed like the captains who caught more had a superpower that everyone wanted but couldn’t obtain. My perspective comes from the offshore billfish tournament world, but I’ve been around enough different types of fishing and fishermen to know that these mysteriously successful captains or guides exist in all fisheries.

In fishing, there are a few things I’ve noticed across all different types of fishing. First, if there is a secret technique or style of fishing that works well, it doesn’t stay secret for long. Second, the techniques that work are generally well-known throughout a fishery, so 95 percent of people targeting a respective fish or fishery fish in a very similar way. So how or why do the same people always seem to catch more and place in tournaments more often?

When I was asked to write this, the request was to share some tips, tricks, and stories on how to possibly catch more fish. In the future, I certainly will. I think it’s super important to try to understand why the top 10% of fishermen catch 90% of the fish, especially when most are using a very similar technique. A fellow captain of a similar age once said to me, “A new fisherman will learn 80% of what they know in the first 2 or 3 years of being a fisherman.” I thought about that for a long time and found it really profound and true after taking a step back. I found that statement accurate because just about everything that a fisherman learns in the first 2-3 years is taught to them by another person. Knot tying, lure and bait rigging, setting up rods, and how to set a trolling spread for marlin or tuna, for example—these lessons come fast, and people with the curiosity and drive to learn will learn quickly. I found most people are willing to teach and share knowledge.

I personally thought I had it all figured out when I felt like I had learned the first 80%. I knew what knots to tie, what lures or baits to fish when targeting a certain species, even where to find them utilizing sea surface imaging technology. I had put in the work and learned from some of the best and became friends with some of the best in the industry. So why, as a young captain, wasn’t I catching like the people I had learned from? I beat my head against a wall for 6 or 7 years as a young captain, fishing right next to those guys who were catching more using the same techniques and sometimes not catching half of what they caught. One day it dawned on me that the first 80% was just preparing me for the second 20%, a 20% that will never be fully completed and understood. The last 20% I learned is not taught by a more experienced peer; it is learned through observation and trial and error. It’s hard, really hard. All the top people who are those mysterious individuals that always catch are working on that last 20%. The last 20% is full of lessons that can’t be taught; they can only be learned through experience. The last 20% is the details—understanding water and how it moves, when to be at a certain spot at a certain tide, how two currents converge to create the perfect color change and fish-aggregating situation. The last 20% is where the students become artists and understand how to read the ocean and situations over the course of a fishing day, noticing the unnoticeable to unlock the key to a successful fishing day.

fishing success 2

This sort of approach is light-years away from a man in a boat with a bobber waiting for a fish to bite. This is creating a bite from the understanding of the environment around you and moving in harmony with nature to create a moment of presence and excitement that only fishing can create. I have loved most of my journey as a professional fisherman. The first 80% was a joy—learning fast and excelling as a young fisherman. The last 20% has been a pain in my ass; many days ended in frustration with more questions than answers. But it has been rewarding. There is no other feeling like pulling up to a spot, looking over the area, and saying to yourself and others on the boat with you, “Yep, they should be here,” and then the fish are actually there, right where all the hard lessons I learned said they would be. It’s a beautiful feeling. This is where I feel the top captains or guides in their respective fisheries are in their mindset—the hunt for the conditions and situations that create quality opportunities for their clients and guests. Not all of these people are full-time professionals like me, but their approach, focus, and attention to the small details over the course of a fishing day or season is as professional as it gets. They are the truly passionate in the sport, those mysterious individuals who are always catching. It’s not a mystery; it’s the last 20%. The last 20% is the most difficult, and the pursuit of the last 20% is the real reward.

At HOOK OPTICS, we are in the business of helping you pursue the last 20%—to help you notice the unnoticeable details that take fishing and being on the water from a passive hobby to a full-fledged, healthy addiction. In the future, we will be publishing tips and tricks that can help people move through the first 80% of fishing, but that last 20% is up to you to go out and experience and enjoy the purest understanding of fishing, the fish, and the nature they live in.

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