Using Lean Principles to Catch More Fish

Regardless of your species of choice, it’s really easy to get caught up in the hot lure, color or technique of the day. Fishing magazines, stores and catalogs are sure good at telling you what you need to have for the coming season. Decades of innovations have certainly revolutionized sport fishing, but has anyone ever actually documented success rates of new gear and tactics versus some of the traditional methods? I often wonder if we focus enough on the things that truly make a difference during a day on the water. By the way, do you have the new one with the red dot?

Brad’s Lucky Strike

Some new products may not necessarily result in more strikes, but they have definitely made fishing more efficient. Even back when Nick Creme invented the first plastic worm in 1949, he didn’t come up with the improvement because night crawlers stopped working. Instead, he stated that he was, ”tired of digging up worms.” The new technology meant time previously spent digging worms was now more time on the water. A synthetic worm also eliminated the need to constantly switch to a fresh worm (though I’m certain today’s anglers waste just as much time switching to new colors).

Spring Chinook near Portland, Ore.

I’m a big believer that keeping your line wet is more critical than constantly changing out lures. It makes me cringe when I watch a boat full of fisherman waste so much time messing with their gear. In my experience as salmon fisherman, many bites and even entire runs are fleeting. I can’t afford to waste any fishing time messing with my tackle. I try to make sure to have the next one (rod, bait, leader, plug, etc.) close by and ready to go. Throughout the year it all starts to add up to significantly more fishing time and more fish. Last year I landed my biggest spring Chinook after giving it five more minutes as I put the rest of my gear away. It was my only bite of the day.

I emphasize waste because from a lean perspective, a lure or bait out of the water is a waste in productivity. Using lean methodology, whether in an office or manufacturing facility, one must continuously examine and improve processes to eliminate non-value added activities. From a fishing perspective, reaching behind you for your pliers (wasted motion), adjusting the fluke that slid down the hook (a defect or rework) or chasing the bite (wasting resources) are non-value added activities, or waste.

A good afternoon after others gave up

To be clear, I am not suggesting that moving to a new location or switching colors always results in waste, but it needs to be a conscious decision, not a reflex. View it as a strategic investment in resources with an intended return (ROI). Imagine a company investing resources in a new logo to try something new in a desperate attempt to turn sales around. Contrast that with a competitor shutting down an office for a couple hours to install a better software system that is proven to increase sales. Can you make the connection to fishing?

Take a six-hour day on the water. How much of your day is spent motoring to greener pastures down river (and back)? How much time did you spend tying a lure or untangling your gear instead of quickly swapping it out? What about at the end of the day when you were packing up and stowing some of your gear? Did you reel in your line last?  How much waste is in your fishing day?

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  1. I agree 100%! I will take the fishing time over the run time any day! Can’t catch a fish if your not fishing.