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By far the most important skill I learned while serving in the US Navy was attention to detail. When steering a ship that is roughly two football fields in length through a place like the Suez Canal, little details make a big difference. Aim small, miss small.

I credit my success in the Navy to a combination of many little things I focused on, which all worked in concert to help me stand out. Details such as shiny boots, a sharp knife, and no frayed ends. Over the years I have found that this concept translates directly to fishing and is responsible for enticing many fish into my Hobie® kayak.

Knots and Hooks
An example of paying attention to detail that is near and dear to me is tying good knots. I tied lots of knots throughout my time on a ship and learned there is a great deal of mechanics that goes into a knot that works well.

Personally, I use the uni knot and the egg loop snell almost exclusively, but whichever knot you use, it is important to take a close look at each one you tie and ask yourself, “Would I trust this knot to bring in that monster?”

The answer is pretty simple. A well-tied knot doesn’t look sloppy. For example, if you notice that the turns of a knot don’t all line up together in a nice, neat row, the integrity of the knot is compromised. There are many examples across the web showing what a properly tied knot looks like.

I recommend practicing tying knots at home when you can take the time to compare your work to an example because the worst place to tie a knot for the first time is right before you throw out the lure it’s connected to.

Time can also reduce the effectiveness of a knot. When fishing line is wrapped around a hook, the small crevices that are formed provide a place for water to collect and dry, leaving deposits such as salts or other minerals. These deposits will cause the fishing line to break down, so retie your knots often.

Many people think that the hooks they buy off the shelf are sharp enough to catch fish straight out of the package. While that may be true nine times out of ten, knowing my luck it’s that one hook out of ten that will cause me to miss my chance at a monster takedown.

I always keep a hook file in my PFD pocket. It is one of those items whose absence causes me to feel woefully unprepared. I prefer to file a three sided pyramid point when I sharpen my hooks. This gives the hook point the ability to cut as it drives into the lip of a fish, which decreases the amount of force required to set the hook. Make sure to take the time to inspect your hook and knot after releasing your lure from a snag or after a prolonged battle with a fish.

Clean your Gear
The next time you pull a fishing lure of any kind out to rig up, ask yourself how the lure smells. Then ask yourself if the fish you’re trying to entice is going to care what the lure smells like.

We’ve all seen what a lure looks like when it has sat in a tackle box for too long, and it isn’t pretty. Lures adopt the scent of whatever environment they reside in. They also hang on to oils and scents that come from being handled. For this reason, I give my leaders and lures a good wash before the season and usually after every outing, especially when fishing for species like salmon. I also keep a small bottle of scentless soap with me in case I feel the need to clean something while on the water, such as sunscreen off of my hands.

Good Vibrations?
Vibrations have long been known to be a big factor in how fish hone in on their prey and in some circumstances vibration detection is the primary sense they rely upon. When I say vibrations, I’m also talking about sound waves. Fish perceive vibrations in the water through not just their ears, or otoliths, but through their lateral lines, and in some species, their air bladders.

Fish are built to sense vibrations through the length of their bodies. Exploiting this fact is worth the effort. Vibrations at your rod tip also tell you a lot about what’s going on at the business end of your line. Is that lure you have on supposed to be vibrating a certain way or not? For particular lures I use, if I don’t see the right action on the rod tip, I know I’m not fishing. Varying this action can pay dividends. I have seen days when only a fast vibration from a particular lure would catch fish. Slow down that same lure and the catch rate falls in synchrony. It’s the little things…

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