Every year anglers flood boat show seminars in search of the magic bit of information that will transform their success. They scour magazines and thrive on fishing dvd’s with hopes that the next utterance from their favorite pro reveals the secret insider information that only the most elite competitors have been bestowed. The not so sexy truth, however, is that they will never find it.

I used to fall into this category of fishermen. I whole-heartedly believed that professional bass anglers had a single set of distinctions that made all the difference in the world. In fact, many professionals and the companies that sponsor them encourage this thinking. It is the “one magic lure” concept; meaning if you use this lure or do this one thing it will solve all of your problems. I would drill speakers at the seminars. I cross-examined the best of the best: Kevin VanDam, Rick Clunn, Denny Brauer, and they seemed to enjoy it. Still, I never got the answer I was looking for. It was always little tips and tricks and seemingly trivial advice. But hey, my idols said to do it so I did.

I never left a seminar with ground breaking knowledge that transformed my abilities. But, I did pick up a trick or two that put a couple more fish in the boat. Year after year I devoured every publication, watched every TV show and DVD, and took notes at every pro appearance. The same thing would happen; nothing ground breaking, but a few tips that added a fish or two in the live well. Suddenly instead of finishing poorly in tournaments I was winning! How did this happen? What was the secret that I had somehow stumbled upon over the years that made the difference?

The secret was the power of compounding knowledge and experience. It was really no secret at all. I realized that it was all the “little things” I did that made the difference. It was taking those trivial tips and tricks and putting them to use on a consistent basis. The more tips and tricks I could implement into a season of fishing the more fish I could scratch out. The few minutes a day I spent practicing my casting created impeccable accuracy. The tackle organization ideas saved me a few minutes here and there eventually adding up to a tremendous amount of time over the course of a season. Thousands of little things turned in to one big thing; my skill as an angler. This is how anybody becomes a good angler. This is how a great angler becomes great; and this is how the elite anglers become elite.
This is not a novel concept. You hear this advice about investing, weight loss and relationships: “It’s the small things that count.” That is why I always hit the water with the mind set of improving one thing each time out. You are not going to change the world over night, but you might as well get started because the time is going to pass either way.

There is, however, one piece of advice that is consistent among every top pro; spend as much time on the water as possible. If you ask the speaker at the next fishing seminar you go to what one thing will make you a better fisherman, this is what he will tell you. I went to a master class held by world renown trumpet player Doc Severinson. His topic, “How to become a great trumpet player.” He came on to stage and said, “I hate these things. You all come here to get better at playing trumpet when you should really be in a practice room playing your horn.” Five minutes later he ducked off stage to go practice on his own trumpet. This is something that all the greats understand and do.

That is why they all recommend it to you, it is what worked for them. Psychologists will inform you that in order to become a master of anything, you must put in 10,000 hours doing whatever it is you strive to be great at. They say it is consistent across the board that the brain seems to need this amount of experience to create the connections needed in order to master an activity. So my advice for the next year, is instead of getting hung up in a magazine or the latest industry news, spend a few minutes fishing; even if it is just off the bank at the local pond. The sooner you get your 10,000 hours of practice in, the sooner you will start winning tournaments.