The 80-20 Rule of Bass Fishing

If you are not familiar with the 80-20 rule, it goes something like this:  80% of the effects come from just 20% of the causes.  That’s a poor generalization.  Let’s try this again.  80% of the outcomes can be traced back to just 20% of our efforts.  Maybe slightly better.  At any rate, if you want to learn more, go here.   Does it apply to fishing?  Good question.  Does 80% of my successes when fishing come from only 20% of what I’m doing.  If so, what happens if I identify that 20%?  Could I spend more than 20% of my time/efforts on the things that really matter?


This is where things get good, or out of control, depending on your perspective.  What one person deems a “success” as it applies to fishing is not the same as somebody else’s.  So when each of us look at 80% of our success, that is going to be a much different looking picture for everyone of us.  That doesn’t diminish the principle however.  It still applies.  Just differently for each person.  Which only means that fishing, like a whole lot of everything else in this world, is a dynamic process – for every single person.  If you are not embracing this and you’ve come to a place where your fishing seems a little “stuck in a rut”, then you might have part of your explanation.  Your getting the same results because your spending the same amount of time doing what you do.  You haven’t identified your 80-20.

Some people say that tournaments define success for us.  But that’s a slippery slope that can lead to disillusionment.  A topic for another time.  Let’s stick to the premise:  80% of my successes are caused by 20% of what I actually do.

What’s your 20%?

So it seems the real trick is identifying the 20%.  Is it your ability to cast like nobody’s business?  Can you put a lure in a coffee cup from 30 yards away?  Maybe that’s it for you.  You are just that good at handling a rod and reel.  But if you are only utilizing those skills 20% of the time, can you improve on that?  Can you put yourself in situations where you are doing it 50% of the time?  How about even more than that.  Denny Brauer has had a long and successful career by any measure.  He has also made no bones about it. He looks to flip and pitch all day, everyday.  His 20% actually became his 80%.  He leveraged what he was best at and turned it into a career than any bass professional would gladly take.  Kevin VanDam knows that his 20% is based on “winding” as he would say.  Casting and retrieving – often very rapidly, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits.  He’s on the opposite side of the spectrum from Brauer when it comes to their preferred techniques.  But in the same way that Brauer doesn’t try to hide what he believes is the best approach for him, KVD doesn’t try to hide the fact that he believes he can cover more water and come across more bass that will actually bite than he would if he took Brauer’s approach.

Not just about what you are using

It would be really easy to simplify this into use this technique or use this lure more.  It’s more about looking at what you spend your time and energy on and are those things translating into success.  It’s pretty easy to spend hours looking at Tackle Warehouse, imagining all the big ones I’m gonna catch on this color or on this size of whatever.  But unless you can really apply the 80-20 rule to watermelon-red flake, you are just spinning your wheels and heading for a time when fishing has become the “same old same old”.

For me, when I really look at it, my “20%” is based on things like where, why and when.

Where is not just what spot am I fishing, but where is my boat positioned.  What angle is my cast as it relates to the target?  Where is the wind and the sun in relation to my position?

Why?  Why are the fish here?  Apply the rule and 80% of the fish are in 20% of the water. Why that 20%?

When?  More than just time of day.  When applies to how long and how often.  When is not just a time on the clock thing.  It relates to changing conditions on the water.  Current, wind, sun, traffic, etc.  Too much?  Well that’s my 20%.

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *