Paying attention to your surroundings and existing weather conditions, having at least a limited understanding of the effect that tide movement and solunar tables have on the fish and fishing with the best equipment you can afford are all important elements when it comes to catching fish on a consistent basis. If, however, your next meal isn’t dependent on you catching a fish and you are not fishing for money…exhale and remember that fishing is supposed to be fun!

Aside from not paying enough attention to the small stuff, the single biggest mistake I see even very good fishermen make is “over analyzing” the task at hand. Understanding why a fish bit a certain lure at a specific depth is not that important at that moment. As they say in the big city, “It is what it is!”

`Only after the fish quit biting will I question things like my choice of lures, the depth I am fishing or speed of retrieve. I can’t count the number of times that I have had a co-angler change baits or retrieves while still catching fish because he thinks he has figured out what they really want to eat.

“I don’t leave fish that are biting to hunt more fish and I don’t experiment when the fish are biting what I have tied on!”

The only exception to that approach is when I am scouting and trying to put together multiple patterns in the event that one should fail while fishing with clients or the wind blows out Plan A. Even at that. I will usually start with a lure that has been working before looking for an alternative.

Few things are more rewarding than opening an e-mail or getting a phone call from someone that benefited from something that I wrote in a column or in a report on my web site. As genuinely appreciative as they always are, more often than not they help me as well by recounting their own experience. Anything they did differently, from time of day to wind direction, can help complete the puzzle on the toughest of days.

This past week I received an e-mail from a Houston angler that read a recent column online in which I talked a little about “scratching the wall.”The technique basically involves vertically pitching a jig tight to deep structure rather than casting. I also mentioned the fact that I have caught these same fish “strolling” which is nothing more than slowly trolling a lure behind the boat at trolling motor speed.

“I tried it on the Neches River last Friday,” he reported, “and I finally caught my first trout ever over 28-inches. I also lost a lot of lures just like you said I might do, but I’d sit in the boat and just throw them away for one fish like the one I caught!”

I think throwing Maniac Mullets away at $7 a pop might be a little over the top, but there was no doubt that he was pleased with his big trout. My hat is off to him as I know how hard it is to commit to a technique that is so different and stay with it until you succeed.

He also added that I failed to mention whether or not it was best to stroll against or with the tide so he tried both ways until the tide all but quit and that is when he caught his fish strolling with the weaker tide. He said that he added a split shot ahead of the lure to slow it down and caught three other nice fish before catching the big one.

As a rule, I have only strolled when the tide is so light that it will not keep my lure slowly bumping across the bottom. I will, however, start my strolling a little sooner next trip thanks to his e-mail!

Earlier I mentioned that the single biggest mistake many anglers make is not taking care of the small stuff that they have complete control over. It matters very little how deep the fish are holding or when the major feed starts if you fail to regularly re-tie your lure or, for that matter, even take the time to tie a good knot to start with.

How many times have you made that first cast only to discover that an insert is broken on a rod eye or that you forgot to rinse and oil your reel after that last trip? The line you were going to change now looks like a slinky lying on the surface in tight little coils and the bail on your spinning reel won’t trip back over for some reason.

If none of those things have ever happened to you then you have only fished one time in your life or prefer fishing with a cane pole. Remember…..take care of the small stuff before you ever leave the house and just enjoy the catching part when the fish decide to cooperate for no good reason. There will be plenty of time to analyze it to death at work Monday morning!