I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends by Clive Hodges

Many successful bass anglers are secretive about the marks that they fish. This might suggest that they share little information about how they go about catching their quarry but that is not always the case.

When I was younger I didn’t understand the concept that I needed to gain the trust of other anglers before they would share key information with me. There were anglers in the club that I fished with as a teenager who openly shared information that helped me to catch more fish. I was at the beginning of the learning curve and I treated all information as being of great value even if, with the benefit of hindsight, that information was very basic.

Quite accidentally at that stage I stumbled upon how to gain the trust of fellow anglers without even realising that I had. Because I have always had a strong passion for angling I was constantly trying new things and when something worked I would go back to those people kind enough to share information with me and tell them how I had applied their knowledge. The more I shared the more open they became and, through mutual trust the gems started to flow.

An 8lb bass from a friends boat

Many years after those early exchanges I had learnt to be cautious with my hard earned experience as some people over the years had abused the trust I had shown to them. An example was where a fellow boat owner was given a set of coordinates after he had helped me to source a particularly useful piece of equipment. Unfortunately he shared them with others and a ‘secret’ mark became well known. By chance I had not shared key information on how to fish the mark and interest quickly wained when results were not forthcoming for others but I did have to avoid the mark myself for a couple of years for fear of others learning more about how to fish it. The lives of big fish were at stake and I did not want to risk their demise.

I have learnt to take small risks when sharing information with new contacts. As the relationship builds I can then make the call whether or not to share more information. I know I am not unique in this approach but it has lead to a network of contacts with whom I am happy to share some of my key nuggets of hard earned knowledge and vice versa.

Before online social networking developed to its current level my approach often relied on being introduced to friends of friends. Personal recommendation was key. In the Facebook era I continue to check back to my trusted contacts when a new name pops up with a friend request. My number of personal fishing contacts is kept deliberately small in number and information is mainly shared through personal messages which are not available for general viewing.

When I rejoined BASS in my forties I was once again faced with the challenge of negotiating a new network of contacts. Initial progress was slow but the private members forum did allow contacts to be established. When I stepped up to the role of Treasurer things took a quantum step forwards. Faces were put to names and confidences were shared as friendships formed. The get together at the AGM is always fun and once I had stood in front of those present for the first time to share a financial update my face became known and even more new friendships developed.

For me it was refreshing to meet so many new people who shared a passion for not only catching bass but also for protecting the stock. The concept of returning the larger specimens to allow them to replenish the stocks was a common bond. I was relieved to find so many other members who shared my love of eating bass. There is a common view that the 3-5lb fish make the best eating and, at the lower end of this scale, have had the chance to breed at least once. BASS is by no means a catch and release only club.

I count myself lucky to have an established network of fishing friends with whom I can share tales of both my successes and my challenges in the fishing world. They have helped me in so many ways as I’ve diversified my approach to catching bass and I hope that I have given plenty back to help others are they encounter challenges of their own. There is nothing better than seeing a fellow angler holding up a picture of a big bass that they have caught (and released when they have been double figure fish) as a result of them trying something new that I may have suggested. I know that many of my big fish would not have been caught without a little help from my friends.

First published in Sea Angler in 2016

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