Written by Bill Dance:
For those of you just learning to fish, the most important thing you can do is fish with somebody who knows what they’re doing. If I want to learn how to make a pie, I’m not going to ask Greg Hackney or Scott Martin. I’m going to ask my Grandma, and I’m going to watch her make that pie because she knows how to do it!
There was an old guy named Bill McKinley who lived on Horseshoe Lake in Arkansas. He was an extremely good fisherman on that lake. He caught huge bass all the time and I took a liking to Bill and he took a liking to me. He was old enough to be my daddy and kind of was in a lot of ways. He worked for American Airlines, a taxidermist on the side, and he gave me a part-time job working for him at night when I was young. I skinned ducks for him for $3 a duck. After a while, it got to the point where he’d start letting me fish with him. Bill was an absolute master at casting and throwing around cypress trees with a spinnerbait and those old-timey crankbaits like the Clark Water Scouts and Heddon River Runts.
He’s the one who got me hooked on fishing when I was young. I learned so much about shallow water fish, habitat, fish behavior, and how they related to cover. Man, it was amazing what I learned from him and it helped me tremendously with lure selection, presentation, fish habitat, and fish anatomy.
If I want to go learn how to fish, I’m going to try to go with the best person possible. I want to go with a knowledgeable fisherman and if they agree to take me, I’m going to observe everything they do and ask them as many questions as I can without driving them nuts.
The types of questions I’d ask are: “How’d you tie that bait on?” “What kind of knot did you tie?” “Why do you throw that bait like that?” “What kind of rod do you use?” “Why do you fish that bait?” “Why is that bait good?” “What are you looking for on your electronics?” Try to be observant and ask as many questions as you can. We learn from each other by asking questions.
Lastly, I would highly recommend joining a bass club and to go fishing with knowledgeable anglers. That’s a great way to get started and learn quickly. I think youngsters today can really help themselves if they go with knowledgeable people and ask a lot of questions. That’s how I learned! My granddaddy was a big, big help to me. He taught me a lot about fishing and I learned a lot from asking a bunch of questions. You can learn more by getting out there on the water than you can by reading. Don’t get me wrong, you can learn a lot by reading, but nothing can replace hands-on experience.
That’s why I always tell people to go with someone who is a whole lot smarter than you, observe, and ask a whole lot of questions, because I’m telling you that if everyone can go with someone like ol’ Bill McKinley, it’s amazing what you can learn.