Fishing is supposed to be fun, and while fun can be defined many ways, a big part of the definition for the vast majority of anglers involves catching. Fishing without catching ceases to be fun at some point, no matter who you are. Sure, given the right venue or company or mindset, not catching can be fun, but at some point you’re just going through the motions. After all, the human psyche equates success with fun, and in fishing, catching IS success.

Somewhere along the way, likely back in the pre-sport fishing caveman days, catching bigger fish became synonymous with success. Probably had something to do with caloric content back then, and over the eons, bigger became the standard goal. If a small fish is good, a bigger fish is better, right? Sure, and it’s probably more fun too. I get that…but there’s a problem with that equation in these modern times where food value is often disregarded in favor of sport and conservation.

Bigger fish are harder to catch.

That’s the problem. Bigger fish occupy a much smaller piece of the population bell curve so we have fewer specimens to pursue. They are also more educated, have a wider range of food sources to choose from, and are generally harder to trick, especially with artificial flies or lures. That more of them get away during the fight than ensues when you do finally trick one into biting just tops the concept off.

Those very characteristics and challenges makes catching a big fish all the more rewarding – fun even – for the true sporting angler. After all, we study the habits and habitat, load up on the best gear we can afford, and spend any available free time trying to accomplish the goal of having fun by successfully landing our biggun’…which we will then release back into the depths – hopefully – so we can do it all again the next time we have some free time. There in, I say, lies the opportunity to have more fun. Generate more free time! Duh…

Wait, you mean you can’t get more free time? Work in the way? Got minions at home, or generally a life outside of fishing, yet you still want to have more fun? No problem…drop the obsession with big fish!

Want to have more fun? Fish for the fat part of the population bell curve. Fish close to home, and fish for what’s biting.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m stricken with the mine’s-bigger’n-yorn complex as bad or worse than you are, and I’ve spent my entire life obsessing over how to catch bigger fish. But you know what I figured out? Catching average fish efficiently is a great way to learn to catch bigger fish…and more importantly than that, it’s fun in a way that makes you want to do it over and over again.

  Catching fish is great practice for catching fish, and practice makes perfect. Why not spend 15 free minutes at the pond down the street targeting smallish bass so that next time you get a chance to go on a sure-‘nuff fishin’ trip, your skills are honed. Accurate casting, timing, hook-setting, decision making, specific retrieves, lure nuances, and more can all be sharpened on little fish…and it’s fun. I call it opportunity fishing; fishing whenever you get a few free minutes, even if it’s only for neighborhood dinks…and it’s pure fun. No pressure, minimal time requirements, no financial strain, and no hollow feeling when you loose one…unless you’re like me and take pride in execution. I never like missing hooksets or loosing fish, but let’s not digress…

The only key is downsizing. Downsize your goals, downsize your expectations, and downsize your ego. Also, downsize your tackle across the board. Make your lures/line/rod match the size of your quarry. Sure you can catch 10” bass on medium powered rods and big ol’ plugs, but you’ll catch them more efficiently (read: more successfully, therefore having more fun) with a light powered rod and small soft plastic or tiny topwater. Save the grip-n-grin pics for more ambitious outings…for opportunity fishing, revel in the fact that, for one measly hour, you owned the neighborhood dinks like a boss. 

Fishing is supposed to be fun and after 40 years of practice, nearly 15 of which I’ve fished professionally, I still learn on every outing. One of the most important things I’ve learned is how to have fun with the fish immediately at hand. Sure, I’ll target my share of big ones in great fisheries and far away places whenever I can…but I’ll giggle at a whole bunch of average local fish that filled my precious time with fun and made me a better angler along the way.