Thursday, December 20, 2012

What Makes a Good Fishing Buddy? Part I

Some of us prefer to fish alone, but many others prefer to fish with a fishing buddy for many reasons.  It could be for companionship and sharing of the experience, or to combine fishing experience to maximize fishing success, for reasons of safety, or perhaps some other reason.  Whatever the reason to fish with someone else, there are qualities that anglers look for in a fishing buddy.

The next five posts will explore many traits that anglers look for in a fishing buddy.  This post, part I, will discuss what boating anglers look for in the perfect fishing buddy.  Part II will expand the discussion from the perspective of musky anglers.  Part III will turn the tables, and explore this topic from the perspective of the non-boater, what they look for in a good fishing buddy that controls the boat.  Part IV will talk about what it takes to be a good shore fishing partner.  And the last Part V will be a timely topic, what it takes to be a good ice fishing buddy.

What makes a good Fishing Buddy?  
Part I, from the perspective of a boat owner.

As a boater, here are traits that I look for in a good fishing buddy.  If you do all of these, chances are you'll get invited back on my boat.  After I display my list, I'll throw a few more based on comments from fellow anglers and fishing guides.  If you don't get invited back to fish on someone's boat again, you might want to see if any of these things apply to your behavior while fishing out of someones boat, and adapt accordingly.  These are not in order of importance, because to me, they're all important.
I've fished with Howard for many years now, too many to count.  We think alike in our approach to fishing, often putting our heads together to develop a fishing pattern.  He's been a guest on my boat many times, and I've been a guest on his too.   Not only is he a close friend, he's a good fishing partner.  Are you a good fishing partner?
Be on time.  In fact, it doesn't hurt to be early.  Sometimes you can help get the boat ready.  There is nothing more annoying than having your boat ready to go and your fishing buddy is nowhere to be seen.  If you are running late, text or contact your friend, apologize, and let him know your anticipated arrival time and why you're running late.  Many of us have limited fishing time and must fish when we can, so don't waste that time.  Wasting fishing time means fewer fish caught.  If time is money, then fishing time is gold.

Offer to pay gas money and expenses.  I may or may not take the money, and to me, the offer is much more valuable to me than the cash.  That said, in this economy, every little bit helps.

Offer to help with getting the boat ready to launch, launching the boat, taking out the boat, and getting the boat ready to trailer it home.  Again, I may or may not use your help, but the offer is much appreciated.  Even a simple reminder before launching the boat into the water questioning if the drain plug is in, or if the trailer lights are disconnected, really helps.  If you are an experienced boater, I probably will use your help.  If not, more than likely as my guest I'll handle everything.  Still, I appreciate the offer.

Don't leave me hanging.  When planning a trip, I often make tentative plans with full intention of going through with them, but working out the final trip details as the trip nears.  When it’s time to finalize plans, don’t leave me hanging by not answering the phone, emails or texts. Call and firm up plans, and don’t leave me talking to an answering machine all night. If you can’t go, let me know as soon as possible so I can plan to go myself or give someone else a chance to go. I have plenty of fishing buddies that appreciate the opportunity to fish with me out of my boat.  I understand that things happen, but give me the chance to plan accordingly if you can't make it.

Be willing to break off a snag on a cheap lure at a good spot.  If you snag a plastic worm and it's a hot spot, break it off rather than spooking the fish in a hot hole.  Plastic worms are cheap and easy to come by, big fish are not.

Don’t leave your trash in my boat.  Either keep it clean while on the water, clean up your mess after pulling the boat out at the ramp, or clean up after arriving "home" from your trip.

Watch your back cast. I don’t like lures stuck in the back of my head or neck.  I recently fished with Bob Franko of Blackjack Guide Service and his only rule when fishing out of his boat was to not hook him.  Hook the fish, not your buddy.  Nobody likes to deal with that kind of pain on a fishing trip.

Protect my fishing spots.  If I take you to a hot fishing spot, please don't run out and share it with everyone you know or post it on the internet.  If the spot is a publicly well known spot, it's no big deal.  But if I found a good spot that is relatively unknown, I'd rather you not share it with anyone but me.  If you'd like to take someone else, ask me first how I feel about it.  I may or may not approve.  Do I own the water?  Absolutely not.  But I do own my boat and the back seat is loaned to who I choose.  If it's you, it would be wise to honor my wishes.

Share a fishing spot.  If someone takes you on their boat and shows you a new hot fishing hole. Return the favor some day and show them a hot fishing spot.  Sharing spots and information is what fishing buddies do.  It's what friends do.  Trading trips is also another form of this.  Sometimes it's nice to be able to fish and not worry about boat control.
My good friend Steve Kelley with a nice fat Maryland striper was kind enough to invite me fishing out of his new boat this year.  As a fishing partner, I do what the Captain asks me to do.  In return, I receive future invitations.
Listening to Captain Kelley paid off in a future invitation, resulting in one of the biggest largemouth bass of the year!  You can bet Captain Steve will find room on my boat to fish with me some day.  Trading trips is a good way to keep fishing buddies.
Don’t fall asleep on the way home.  This is especially true on a long ride home.  If you feel that you must sleep, ask me first if I’m OK to drive.  I may be tired too and need help to stay awake.  Offering to drive is also a nice thing to do.  The vast majority of the time I'm OK to drive, so more than likely I'd be fine with you taking a cat nap.

Be appreciative and don't take your trip for granted.  Say thank you.  Kind gestures, like offering to pay for dinner, to offer some lunch or food while on board, to offer free tackle, often are well received.  I may or may not accept the offer, but you can bet anything like that makes me feel appreciated.
Bob Barber with his number one fishing buddy, his eight year old Son Carson.  Carson is learning quick about how to be a good fishing buddy.  His Dad is a good teacher.
Be a good friend away from the water too.  I hate being used.  There's more to life than fishing, and being a friend is being there when I need you both on and off the water.  Likewise, as a friend, I'll be there for you.

Most of these things are common sense, about being courteous, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t understand this stuff. Also, everyone makes mistakes now and then. I understand that. It's the guys that make the same mistakes over and over that don't get invited back for another trip.

When I take someone that is new to fishing and boating, I'm a much more tolerant person than many people.  I'm very patient and I will speak my mind to educate you. But I expect you to remember what I've taught you and not make the same mistakes over and over.  If every trip results in me losing fishing time to baby sit you, then I'm wasting my fishing time and you won't be invited back.  Fishing time is like gold, remember?

Mike Schiffbauer, an experienced river angler, can't stand people dropping stuff in the boat and making a lot of noise.  He says that it drives him nuts, and I don't blame him.  I also prefer a stealthy approach.  As a boater, you are doing your best to put the boat in a position for both of you to catch fish.  The last thing that either of you need is to get there only to unnecessarily spook fish because of thoughtless behavior.

Rocky Droneburg, another excellent angler for all species, agreed with many of the things shared above, but added, "I hate being told how to run my boat."  He basically said, if you're catching bass from the back deck, don't sit there and complain that the trolling motor setting is to high.
Rocky Droneburg fishing with his buddy, Anthony Ashby.  These guys are on the same page when they hit the water, and team up to put big fish in the boat.
Almost everyone that I interviewed on this topic agreed that a new fishing partner must be personable, engage in lighthearted conversation, and keep things loose.  Nobody likes tension on a fishing trip.  Most of us are out for fun, so keep it fun.

Another fishing fanatic, Ed Lewandoski, shared his thoughts about this, and they really hit home with me.  "One nice thing at the end of the first time out with someone is if or when they invite you back.  That at least tells you something."

"On the other hand, when someone does complain or ends up being human in some other way, it's good of the boat partner to be understanding. We all might do something wrong, like maybe not a perfect net job, or accidentally dropping something in the boat, or overboard!"

That brings up a good point.  If you break something or lose something, offer to replace or pay for what you broke or lost.  Another professional angler related a story to me how one of his guests stepped on and broke one of his brand new St. Croix fishing rods.  Then, rather than offer to make restitution, he laughed because he felt that all his equipment was sent to him free of charge.  That wasn't the case at all.  If that was me, I'd be sick to my stomach about it and that angler would not be invited back.

I'd like to add to that by saying that forgiveness is a good thing.  If you're a close friend of mine, I can overlook a few of these things as long as I know that next time, you'll be more considerate and not make the same mistake again.  We're all human, we all make mistakes, and we all have the ability to forgive too.
Mark McWilliams took me out on his boat a couple years ago.  That trip snapped me out of a non-fishing funk (I know! Can you believe that?)  I'll never forget that.  I owe him a few trips from my new boat and will put him on some fish for sure.  Here he sports a nice fat bass caught  last spring.  
In summary, if you take the above advice, chances are that if you're invited to fish out of someone else's boat, you'll be invited again and again.

Also, let's try something different.  Feel free to participate.  Please use the comment function if you have anything related to this topic to add.  Thank you in advance!

As mentioned earlier in this post, this is a four part series.  Here are the titles to all four parts.  As each one is published, you'll be able to click on the text and take you to that document for easy reference:

Part I - What Makes a Good Fishing Buddy (from a boaters perspective in general)
Part II - What Makes a Good Shore Fishing Buddy 
Part III - What Makes a Good Fishing Buddy (from the perspective of a non-boater)
Part IV - What Makes a Good Ice Fishing Buddy (coming soon)

Bob Franko guides on the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.  If you're interested in booking a trip, his website is Blackjack Guide Service.


Anonymous said...

thanks for share.

Fat Boy said...

Thank you for the positive feedback, I really appreciate it!

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SilverKingLodge alaskanfishing said...

It's nice if you have a fishing buddy with you to help you out from catching big fish. Fishing is one of my best hobby.